Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Star criticizes the Harper Cons' selective interest in international cooperation - with war and oil interests apparently ranking as the only areas where the Cons can be bothered to work with other countries. And Catherine Porter reports that the Cons have demonstrated their actual attitude toward global cooperation and development by making huge cuts to foreign aid.

- Geoff Dembicki interviews Corinne Lepage about France's rightful resistance to oil lobbyists. But while it's well and good for individual countries to register their willingness to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, that doesn't much help when multilateral agreements limit a country's authority to act on its values. And on that front, Brent Patterson laments the impact of CETA on oil and gas regulation, while Murray Dobbin writes that the CETA looks like a prime example of a step taken solely for the benefit of the oil industry and other corporate interests:
While there has been attention paid to some key provisions of CETA -- such as its investor state rules, its impact on Canadian drug pricing and its curbs on governments' ability to buy local -- there has been almost nothing in the media about CETA's chapter on domestic regulation. But a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report on CETA suggests there should be, because the articles of that chapter seem designed to kill efforts to regulate the resource industry. In other words just as governments need to get deadly serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels they are tying their own hands through new restrictions on their right to regulate.

CETA's domestic regulation chapter would be more aptly called "Gifts for the Oil and Gas Industry." These CETA provisions are so biased in favour of corporations it is easy to picture industry execs sitting at the elbows of CETA's negotiators, guiding their pens as they draft the agreement. Short of an international treaty banning all government regulations outright, CETA gives the oil and gas industry virtually everything it has been asking for, for decades. Of course these anti-regulation gifts are also available to other sectors, including the mining industry, but given the special place in Harper's universe reserved for Alberta's oil patch it's not hard to see where the impetus came from.
CETA places an absolute value on the ease with which corporations can get approval of their projects. It demands that parties ensure "that licensing and qualification procedures are as simple as possible and do not unduly complicate or delay the supply of a service or the pursuit of any other economic activity." (Art. 2, Sec. 7) Requiring that oil and gas companies do environmental assessments, archaeological studies or get approvals from different levels of government is clearly a process that could be made simpler by doing away with these requirements altogether. Obligations to consult with the public and First Nations certainly complicate the regulatory process and cause delays.

Whether or not governments have simplified their licensing processes to the absolute maximum extent possible and are not causing "undue" delays or complications would be up to a panel of trade lawyers to decide in the event of a dispute. They could look at examples from the most deregulated jurisdictions to determine what is "as simple as possible." China, for example, allows corporations to ignore requirements for environmental impact assessments (EIA) and just pay a small fine after the fact.
- Katherine Scott writes about the challenge of identifying and measuring poverty, but rightly concludes that we should be seeking to eradicate it in any form. And Carol Goar discusses how the Cons' war on science has resulted in the destruction of extremely important work on the spread of poverty in Canada.

- Meanwhile, Mike De Souza highlights the Environment Commissioner's findings about the Cons' gutting of federal environmental review processes. 

- Finally, Gerald Caplan observes that the Cons' hype of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is in stark contrast to their contempt for the real thing.

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