Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for a sunny Sunday.

- Paul Wells offers some theories as to why the Cons haven't yet launched attack ads against Thomas Mulcair. But I'd think the more important aberration is the fact that they did do so against Bob Rae before he ever became the Libs' permanent leader: the purpose of the Cons' attacks has otherwise always been fairly focused on softening up Lib leaders in advance of potentially imminent elections, and I'd fully expect the Cons to test out as many possibilities as they can through less expensive means before launching their usual saturated-airwave attacks against Mulcair in advance of 2015.

- Meanwhile, I find it striking that Susan Riley seems surprised that Mulcair has been effective as the NDP's leader, particularly on the environment where his leadership campaign focused largely on exactly the experience and principles we've seen in practice:
(A)s a former Liberal environment minister in Quebec, Mulcair “gets” the issue, he means it, and he has the intellectual acuity and debating skills to fend off inevitable accusations that he is anti-jobs, anti-Alberta. 
Although he must avoid needlessly inflaming western sensitivities, the environment is one issue where an “uncompromising” approach from a federal leader — politicians are charged with safeguarding the public interest, after all, not running interference for the oil industry — is long overdue.
- Dr. Dawg spots the latest example of the Cons breaking both promises and the law - this time in withholding publicly-funded polling numbers.

- Finally, Michael Geist explores the real reason the Cons are so determined to push the TPP and other corporate trade agreements:
The price of admission was very steep – Canada appears to have agreed to conditions that grant it second-tier status – and the economic benefits from improved access to TPP economies are likely to be relatively minor since we already have free-trade agreements with four of the ten participants.

Given those conditions, why aggressively pursue entry into the negotiations? The reason stems less from gaining barrier-free access to a handful of relatively small economies and far more about using the TPP as a backdoor mechanism to promote regulatory changes in Canada.

Given Canada’s late entry into the TPP process, the U.S. was able to extract two onerous conditions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper downplayed as the “accession process.” First, Canada will not be able to reopen any chapters where agreement has already been reached among the current nine TPP partners. This means Canada has already agreed to be bound by TPP terms without having had any input. Since the TPP remains secret, the government can’t even tell us what has been agreed upon.
With Canada already surrendering negotiation leverage and few important markets at stake, our participation is less about other TPP countries and much more about us. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Canada’s entry into the TPP, expressing the hope that it would force further changes to Canadian intellectual property laws less than 24 hours after Bill C-11 passed in the House of Commons.

For the Canadian government, the TPP offers cover for major reforms to supply management, the combination of tariffs, quotas and price supports that increase costs for dairy, eggs, chicken, turkey and broiler hatching eggs. The system has been politically untouchable for decades, but using a backdoor approach of mandating change through trade agreement might provide the mechanism to garner the necessary popular support.

While backers maintain that the TPP will open up new markets to Canadian companies, the reality is that the agreement’s biggest impact is likely to come from major domestic legislative reforms that would otherwise face considerable opposition and serious political risk.
 [Edit: added link.]

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