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Guard resources, Ottawa urged
Apr 15, 2008 04:30 AM
Canadians overwhelmingly sent a message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ease up on integration with U.S. policy and protect the country's water, energy and public regulations, according to the results of a recent poll.
The poll comes as Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon prepare for next week's leaders' summit in New Orleans on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America.
To be released today by the Council of Canadians, the poll was conducted April 7 to 10 by Environics and obtained by the Toronto Star.
The council opposes the secrecy surrounding the high-level talks.
In fact, probably the best way for Canadians to learn about what's on the table in negotiations – which cover everything from greater energy integration to harmonization of health and product regulations – is to research U.S. government websites. "It's been four years since the launch of the SPP and while corporations have been given a seat at the negotiating table, the Canadian government has never asked the public how they feel about it," said council chair Maude Barlow.
Support for more nationalist policies was high almost across the board, according to the poll:
• 89 per cent want an energy policy guaranteeing Canadian supply and protecting the environment, "even if this means placing restrictions on exports and foreign ownership of Canadian supplies."
Support was highest in Harper's home province of Alberta, with 92 per cent in favour of such an energy policy.
Barlow argues SPP talks already are taking Canada toward greater energy integration with the U.S. and points out agreements have been signed and working groups set up with, among other aims, to increase Alberta tar sands production.
However, there have been arguments any restriction on energy exports would contravene the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which binds Canada to continue energy exports to the U.S. even in times of crisis.
As well, while Canada produced one billion barrels of oil in 2008 – 40 per cent above domestic consumption – it is an oil-importing nation.
• 88 per cent of Canadians want a comprehensive national water policy that bans bulk exports of fresh water and recognizes water as a basic human right. There are concerns water is not protected by trade agreements.
The Center for Strategic Studies and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank, revealed SPP talks have targeted "water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water" from Canada. As well, Canadian diplomats recently blocked efforts by the United Nations to recognize water as a basic human right.
• 87 per cent agree Canada should set its own independent environmental, health and safety standards, "even if it might reduce cross-border trade opportunities with the United States." Council researcher Stuart Trew said the product-safety legislation introduced last week by the Harper government includes SPP goals for harmonization by allowing greater corporate oversight of products.
• 86 per cent agree the SPP should be debated in the House of Commons and submitted to a parliamentary vote.
In its analysis of the results, the Council of Canadians criticized Harper and his counterparts for allowing a select group of corporate leaders in the North American Competitiveness Council to have "VIP access to annual trilateral summits like the one taking place April 21-22 in New Orleans."For the poll, Environics interviewed 1,007 people, resulting in a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.