24 November 2014
Not all of it, of course, definitely not the part that benefits the corporate sector, just the environmental part. Side agreements were attached to NAFTA to protect workers and the environment, something of an afterthought as a gesture to those who thought trade agreements should serve more than just business interests. The environmental agreement never had much in the way of muscle. It established the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a trinational monitoring body designed to ensure that international trade wouldn't undermine enforcement of environmental protection. It has a meager budget and limited power to make recommendations which, in any case, aren't binding.
Even this isn't weak enough for our federal government. Mexico has 38 members on its advisory committee to the CEC and the U.S. 12. Our government no longer even bothers to appoint members to a committee.
Earlier this year, the CEC secretariat recommended a factual record on Canada's lack of enforcement of the Fisheries Act be prepared. This was in response to a petition by several groups who claimed the government was violating Section 36 of the Act, which reads "no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish," by permitting over 100 industrial salmon feedlots on the B.C. coast. The government has stated it will simply ignore the decision of the CEC. Furthermore, it intends to remove Section 36 from the Act.
In 2010, environmentalists petitioned the CEC regarding tar sands tailing ponds, claiming the ponds are leaking billions of gallons of toxic waste water and the federal government is failing to enforce its own laws and regulations. The CEC agreed there was sufficient evidence to justify an investigation. The CEC Council, make up of the environmental ministers of the three countries, must now decide whether or not to proceed. Our government is not only refusing to co-operate, it is fighting to prevent the investigation from happening.
The government's recalcitrance is curious considering that it claims tar sands tailings are being responsibly handled. And even more curious when you consider that any recommendations the CEC might make following an investigation are unenforceable anyway. When it comes to defending corporate interests, most particularly tar sands interests, it seems that in the eyes of the government even NAFTA can be violated.
Posted by Bill Longstaff at 6:09 pm