24.04.2007Declaration by Citizens Against Atlantica
Atlantica, the International Northeast Economic Region (AINER), is charting a course towards breaking down barriers for big business in Atlantic Canada, Eastern Quebec, and the Northeast United States. While Atlantica acknowledges economic distressed regions of Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, it seeks to perpetuate local economic hardship in these regions by lowering minimum wage and concentrating economic wealth in a proposed Atlantica triangle. This proposed triangle includes Connecticut and spreads to the three points of Boston, Albany and New York. Proponents of Atlantica, Atlantic Canada's business elite and their policy research arms, blame 'too much government' as economic burdens in our region when in reality it is the cheap sell off of our public resources, privatization of our public services and other concessions for large corporations.
Barriers slated for dismantling by the proponents of Atlantica include our national sovereignty, our labour rights, our natural resources, our environment, and our health.
Large business interests and federal government congregating in closed meetings of various kinds are working towards harmonizing Canadian and American regulations. These business interests are also looking to harmonize standards that govern and protect our precious natural resources, energy, environment, and health. These meetings include strategic allies in the government but exclude unions, environmental groups, and other civil society groups. Atlantica is flying in under the public radar with the media virtually silent on the big business plan.
Atlantica threatens our national sovereignty. The "Smart Regulations", another shorthand jargon meant to deceive the public, was initiated by the Paul Martin government. "Smart Regulations" was a move to harmonize regulations between Canada and the U.S. to suit trade and development interests. Such regulation harmonization would hinder Canada from setting its own regulations around health, food safety, the environment, and several other jurisdictions. Besides harmonization of regulations, proponents for Atlantica want an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to include removing non-tariff trade barriers between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Removing non-tariff barriers to trade means removing any public institution, piece of legislation or government regulation that threatens a corporation's profit.
Atlantica threatens our workers. Proponents of Atlantica, Atlantic Canada's business elite, are calling for scrapping minimum wage, restricting access to employment insurance, restricting the ability of workers to organize, and decertifying unions. The largest sponsors of the "Reaching Atlantica" conference, including the Bank of Montreal and Irving Oil, want "labour market flexibility", which really means control to dictate hours, wages and working conditions of workers. As costs of living continue to rise, proponents of Atlantica deplore increasing wages saying that it would result in businesses relocating to more business friendly environments. Essentially, the Atlantica masterminds are suggesting the opening of sweatshops and the abandonment of living wages in our region. Also, Atlantica proponents hail the U.S. welfare-to-work program, which would provide a readily available pool of cheap labour for their businesses.
Atlantica threatens our natural resources. The current U.S. administration is relying on Canadian energy to fuel America's costly military forays and economic expansion. Invading Canada would be a harder sell than invading Middle Eastern countries for energy and natural resources. Instead, Atlantica proposes to solve that problem for the U.S. by creating a mutual benefiting continental energy and natural resources pact. Canada is also under pressure to sell its water to the U.S. through diversions and bulk water exports. Atlantica would sabotage policies that would protect our precious natural resources and water. Resource-based sectors like agriculture, forestry and fisheries that have been the economic backbone of many Atlantic Canadian communities. For many years, Atlantic Canada has already suffered major closures and economic setbacks due to unfair trade policies that favour large businesses. Atlantica would further threaten our natural resource sectors, leaving them even less economically and environmentally sustainable.
Atlantica threatens our environment. Atlantica proposes a transportation revamping of the area including building a highway from St. Stephen, N. B. to New England, to Cornwall Ontario, and finally to Montreal. Also proposed is the upgrading of the Halifax port to accommodate Post-Panamax-sized cargo ships. The environmental impacts will no doubt become afterthoughts and of little consideration when trade barriers such as effective environmental impact assessment and environmental protection regulations are reorganized into ineffectiveness under the "Smart Regulations".
Atlantica threatens our health, education and social programs. Atlantica would promote a privatized healthcare and education system, and thus a greater lack of access to healthcare and education as seen in the U.S. Health Canada's proposed changes espoused in the "Smart Regulations" would let companies off the hook for proving their new foods, drugs and technologies are safe. The public would be left with the burden to prove that a product is unsafe, which would most likely occur after harm had been done, possibly irreversible harm. Health Canada's role would change from harm prevention to damage control. Proposed regulation changes would also erase our right to sue the government for regulatory negligence. The proposed changes are a result of very powerful corporate lobbying while scientific experts warn that the precaution principle must be taken in regulating the industries providing biopharmaceuticals, genetically modified foods, animal to human transplants and cloning products and services. While the European Union is strengthening the precautionary approach in its regulations, Canada is following the U.S. in the opposite direction towards relaxing regulations that allow large corporations to get their new products on the market more rapidly. Atlantica proponents want to participate at the annual New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers Conference where they can lobby for the removal of social policies that interfere with corporate profit making including harmonizing Canadian and American health regulations and standards, increasing private sector involvement in Canada's public healthcare system, and privatizing our universities.
The clear winners of this Atlantica nightmare would surely be large corporations. The losers would be the public, left to console with unaffordable and inaccessible essential public services, the sell off of non-renewable natural resources, smaller wages, precarious working conditions, higher unemployment and poorer health. Instead of solving problems of economic distresses and poverty in Atlantic Canada, Atlantica would exacerbate such problems and further economically marginalize those most affected by unfair trade, contaminated and unhealthy environments, poor labour conditions, and meager social policies who tend to be women, youth, children, and senior citizens.
Considering the aforementioned items, we, the undersigned, condemn Atlantica because of the harm that this big business initiative would place on our economy, social programs, workers, environment and health. We also condemn the "Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Boundaries" conference by the proponents of the Atlantica Initiative held June 8-10 in Saint John, New Brunswick, which had the goal of realizing Atlantica. Instead, our vision for addressing the economic problems facing Atlantic Canada involves:
* A participatory democratic process where all sectors of society are able to give input and make decisions on future social and economic public policies. The interests of Atlantic Canadians must be placed first and foremost before the interests of economic elites in solving local economic problems.
Please join the fight @ http://www.stopatlantica.org/declaration
By: Max Pollack
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