Leaked documents suggest Canada is seeking to carve out telecommunications and agriculture from any new trade agreement with the European Union.
But there is no exemption for water services, a sore point with critics of the negotiations with the world's richest market.
Trade Minister Ed Fast has called a European trade, services and investment pact one of the Conservative government's top priorities, arguing it will spur about $12 billion in additional economic activity.
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday. Cameron emphasized the need for free trade deals between the European Union and countries like Canada and the U.S. British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday. Cameron emphasized the need for free trade deals between the European Union and countries like Canada and the U.S. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)
The government has said it wants to reach a deal this year with the 27 nations of the EU, and negotiations are set to resume again later this month.
But little is known about what has gone on behind closed doors since talks began in 2009.
The documents released Wednesday by RQIC, a network of Quebec civil society groups and unions, are the first public glimpse of the list of exemptions Ottawa and the provinces have proposed for protection under any new deal.
They represent the starting position submitted to the EU in October, however, and some may be dropped in future sessions. It is not known what is on the EU exclusion list.
A spokesman for RQIC said the group is still analysing more than 200 pages of exempted items, but the lack of a set-aside for municipal water systems sticks out like a sore thumb.
"This opens open up any public procurement on water, any public contract will need to be opened up to multinationals," said Pierre-Yves Serinet of RQIC.
"Water is under municipal (control) but we know infrastructure is very old and needs big investments in the near future, so the control of drinking water and also waste water is a big concern."
The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, in a release to be issued Thursday, argue the deal would mark the first time Canada has allowed drinking water to become part of a trade agreement. And it could open up municipalities to lawsuits from European water operators.
"If CETA were signed today ... municipalities who choose a public-private partnership for a water or wastewater facility become vulnerable to corporate lawsuits demanding compensation for lost profits under the investor-state dispute mechanism," the release states.
Overall, the leaked documents show Canada and the provinces are putting most things on the table, Council trade expert Stuart Trew said in an interview.
"It looks like a long list (of exemptions), but it's not that long. It's the most ambitious offer that Canada has ever made in a trade agreement," he explained. "On its own, it would go beyond what we've offered other countries."
He added that exemptions proposed by the provinces, with the exception of Ontario and Quebec, are a short list.
A spokesman for Fast said the minister would not comment on the leaked documents, but added he would "strongly caution" against taking the list at face value. "Negotiations are ongoing and we will only sign an agreement in the best interests of all Canadians," Adam Taylor said in an email response.
On the protected list of sectors is agriculture, which suggests a Harper government that recently legislated an end to the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board wants to maintain Canada's controversial supply management system in eggs, dairy and poultry.
As well, although the Conservatives have signalled intentions to loosen foreign investment rules in the Canadian telecommunications sector, Canada's initial position seeks to keep the current restrictions in place.
"Canada reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure ... limiting foreign investment in facilities-based telecommunications service suppliers," the document states. It also restricts Canada from making the current rules more stringent, however.
The province of Ontario is seeking to exclude procurement for renewable energy projects, and Quebec wants a set-aside for cultural industries.
The leaked lists cover only services and investment. Canadian negotiators presented their exemption lists for the sensitive area of government procurement in July, but they remain secret.

So point # 1.  The federal government yaps always to the ordinary citizen about how open it is and heck I would love to believe this except I haven`t heard peep about CETA until I went to the Council of Canadians website to find out about the robocalls fraud mess and found the CETA mess. I already knew about the FIPA mess thanks to Leadnow.ca and so the chatter on the Council of Canadians site was a repeat with reference to FIPA. 

So if I don`t know about CETA ---could it be because most papers such as the Edmonton Journal aren`t yapping about CETA either?
This article from CBC indicates that these negotiations have been going on since 2009 and so I think the media would be publishing information about this trade agreement but nope--nothing. I do know I live in a nun`s room under the rock of ten million books but I do read the Edmonton Journal since my parents still believe in the nonsense published by newspapers and yet somehow I heard nothing about CETA in the last four years and yet I heard zillions of bits of information on how well the Tories are doing with the province of Alberta (not).

But little is known about what has gone on behind closed doors since talks began in 2009.

I go to another source to see what the federal government is not telling the citizens of Canada:


In this document,Claude Vaillancourt of RQIC (which is some sort of group of folks in Quebec in the public sector and that seems to be partnered with social groups) indicates that this trade agreement is full of problems.

He says that it reduces the powers of municipal and provincial governments and gives these powers to corporations outside our borders. In other words this is the expansion of the role of the powerful corporate entities that Harper and crew consider to be their electorate base rather than the citizens that vote them into power.

Citizens are not given information about the contents of these pacts that will alter our lives and mortgage our children`s future but we are expected to pay for any lawsuits and damages that result from the inept creation of these pacts.

Point # 2 relates to point # 1. We are given no information unless ordinary citizens go search for it and reveal it to the rest of us and one of the most important issues of them all is the water issue.  How the heck can the Harper crew think that we would have water management as part of the deal with Europe is beyond me. These folks are utterly willing to sell their own children to get our country in business with the world for cash.

Water will not be protected under this CETA agreement and yet it is the most important resource that Canada owns and really will be the dominant resource since I don`t believe any of us will be able to live without water.

Environmental protections are also under threat by these sorts of agreements and having experienced the NAFTA type lawsuits that result when a province tries to alter the course of its policy at the expense of a private investor base offshore --well it just means that we---the ordinary taxpayer are doing the work of insuring the corporations can do business without risk.

Heck I thought business understood the risks of doing business with government in Canada as citizens are fully cognizant of these risks and yet the government makes a safety parachute and a landing pad for business that is made entirely out of the public sector services and our taxpayer dollars.

These sorts of trade agreements are indeed a threat to our ability to function as an independent nation --especially since we have the spineless and corporate leaning crew we have in government at all levels selling all our assets so that we will have nothing left in the bank for a rainy day.  Haven`t these nitwits any brains at all? I think that investing all we have in the bank only means one thing--that our children and grandchildren will be broke (if they are not already).

I have no confidence in the Republicans we have hired to do the right thing by citizens because it is only the citizen family that is on the mat being held down and overcome by the bully boys in power.

Trojan horses everywhere folks and in places we never thought to look for them.

They are now in the very laws we live under, in the very trade agreements that determine how every level of government functions, and in the ordinary drugs we take to make ourselves functional enough to live under the yoke and whip.

What can we do about this anti-democratic government and its odd behaviors? I`d say we have no choice but to lobby as the corporatations are lobbying and pay our lobby groups (the Council of Canadians for eg.) to remind our government---over and over again--that they are on a short time frame of operation here --and they will be out of power soon enough.