Protest brewing-update

Our Baker Street Boys reported that about 85 people [including panelists and other organiser types] attended the discussion monologue on the Columbia – Canada Free Trade issue the other night. Scott Brison, who many hoped to see there, was a no show. The why of that is the story.

It seems Scott was invited but belatedly- hardly more than 48 hours before – according to our source. Still he put himself out to hop on a plane and hustle his himself to Wolfville [at taxpayers expense? And think of the Co2 emissions!]. He expected to be included as a participant, only to find out that he would be given “a maximum” of 10 minutes to speak and only from his chair in the peanut gallery.  While the NDP Trade Critic sat at the table. Imagine! That would have been something to see and a challenge for Mr. Mangle to moderate after all. [Mr. Brison has a look that could turn Rumblebuffin to stone.] But this drama was not to be since, given those conditions, Scott declined to attend. He cleverly arranged instead to answer questions from all and sundry in a room in the BAC at 12:30 pm today – the very hour 50 or so protesters  were massing outside his office with puppets effigies of Columbian President Uribe and Stephen Harper the Grim Reaper!

That’s turning the tables.

Brison  is seething disappointed . He expected better of the ponytail set.

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It seems some local activists are opposed to Scott Brison’s  position on free trade with Columbia. He, and the Liberal Party, support it.

In Brison’s words:

…this debate should not be about ideology, it should be about people: the people of Colombia whose lives have been ripped apart and turned upside down by civil war and narcopolitics. …

If we refuse to engage a country like Colombia that is making progress, where civil society leaders, unions and government and victims of both paramilitary and FARC gorilla violence are all trying to move forward, and if we isolate Colombia in the Andean region and leave Colombia exposed and vulnerable to the unilateral and ideological attacks of Chavez’s Venezuela, we will be allowing evil to flourish. …

The question we must ask ourselves as Canadians is how a new free trade agreement, with the most robust labour and environmental provisions of any trade agreement that Canada has ever signed, can do anything but strengthen our capacity to positively influence human rights and labour rights in Columbia.

In late August the member for Toronto Centre and I completed a four-day visit to Colombia.

On balance, most individuals and groups, including human rights NGOs, believe in the ratification of the free trade agreement with Canada. They do not believe this agreement would have a negative impact on economic or human rights conditions in Colombia. Many believe the agreement could in fact improve Canada’s monitoring of labour and indigenous rights through its rules-based framework and the two side agreements on labour and the environment.

The opponents have framed the issue in these terms: ” Corporate Profit or Democratic Rights – which should Canada Champion in Columbia” As if these couldn’t be combined, like  asking “coffee or tea” [ or perhaps like “Just Us Coffee or a nice glass of arsenic?”]

They have organised a Panel Discussion tomorrow evening [7pm -9 pm] at the BAC [rm 142 -opens at 6:30 pm] at which you will be able to have fair trade coffee and hear:

We are not sure why David Mangle’s position as councillor is mentioned. Surely Council is not taking a position on this issue and he is moderating in a personal capacity not as a Town representative ?

The poster says:

Join a discussion on the proposed Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Colombia, including a detailed account of how two decades of liberalized economic policies have devastated rural and urban workers.

Brison is noticeably absent from the panel. Is Prof. Brittain speaking on the pro side ? Or perhaps the discussion we are asked to ” join” is intended to be one sided. [Can you have a one sided discussion? Attendees may have to drum up the pro side for themselves so that David Mangle will have something to “moderate.”]

The panel “discussion” isn’t all, however. The free trade opponents are planning a protest rally at Brison’s office Friday, Dec. 4th at noon asking you to:

Join with others in voicing your concerns with Scott Brison’s support for the Canada – Columbia Free Trade Agreement

They are presuming you have concerns. Presumptuous and personal. Why target Scott by name rather than the Liberal Party or Ignatieff ?

On the bottom of the poster are the logos of several organizations sponsoring this effort and presumably funding it -The CAW,  the Council of Canadians, The Public Service Alliance of Canada and Just Us Coffee.

Just Us? We have been speculating that Just Us just doesn’t want competition via free trade in Columbian coffee but they would probably be shocked that we even contemplate so crass a motive. They could have a new slogan “Fair trade, not free trade.”

This may just be a tempest in a teapot but will be fascinating to see played out.

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