Red Deer city council will send a strong message to the provincial and federal governments over an economic trade deal that they say has many unanswered questions over municipal rights.
Council decided on Monday to demand more answers on the European Union-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). This decision is similar to what a number of other municipalities have done across Canada.
Specifically, the City of Red Deer will request four points.
It asks the provincial government to show the scope and content of trade negotiations with the European Union. It also asks the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide sector-by-sector analysis of the potential impacts on municipal functions and powers of the procurement regime that the European Union is seeking.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities will also be asked to lobby Ottawa not to provide the European Union with access to sub-national government procurement. Plus, it will ask the province to negotiate a clear, permanent exemption for local governments from CETA.
Procurement involves acquiring goods and services for the best possible cost and at the best possible time.
Coun. Chris Stephan was the sole one to vote against council’s resolution.
“Trade, if it’s done right, is good for communities,” Stephan said. “The more people involved in trade, the better off our communities will be.”
Stephan added he understands the city has concerns, but he felt the city’s position was too premature.
“A lot of it sounds like we’re scared of the Conservative bogeyman . . . because they’re up to something,” he said. “And I’m not going to be a part of that because I think that’s what this is. Let’s see what develops and then let’s take a position.”
“That’s our problem, we won’t get asked (our position),” replied Mayor Morris Flewwelling. “We’re a creature of the provincial government . . . I don’t think we’re taking a hard line, we’re taking an inquiring mind.”
Opponents say this far-reaching deal would for the first time bind municipalities to controversial international rules affecting how local governments spend public money.
But Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada reports the agreement would not prevent Canada’s municipalities from sourcing goods and services locally.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes remarked how this deal may have an impact on wastewater, water, the environment as well as provincial matters like health care and the environment.
“Our role and responsibility as council is to protect public services,” Wyntjes said.
“There are some 50 municipalities who have concerns, and other organizations. They have asked their provincial governments to negotiate exemptions for municipal and local decision-making from CETA.”
Council was told on Monday that the Alberta government will sign the agreement on behalf of local governments.
“We seem to be shut out of this discussion and not able to access the information, so I think it’s important that we work with the provincial government and federal groups on what the discussions are all about and the potential impacts,” said Coun. Cindy Jefferies.
Coun. Paul Harris said as a businessman, he likes to know what is exactly in a contract, and this one doesn’t tell municipalities.
Harris figures the province will go ahead and sign anyway, but it’s sending a strong message.
“I’m a little anti not-knowing,” said Buchanan, who like Harris said he’s not anti trade.