After discussion during three sessions of the regular meeting of council, on Jan. 26 the council resolved to opt out of the Canada-European Union: Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and other trade agreements that were entered into by the provincial and federal governments without appropriate consultation, and respect of local government jurisdiction.
The current unratified text of CETA states: “Each party shall ensure that all necessary measures are taken in order to give effect to the provisions of this agreement, including their observance at all levels of government.” As such, there are no opt out provisions for sub-central levels of government.
Similar text exists in other trade agreements. So how seriously will such a resolution (and, by association, the Grand Forks City Council) be considered by the B.C. and federal governments, which are quite aware of the inclusive nature of trade agreements?
The resolution identifies the absence of appropriate consultation as a key reason for opting out. The CETA consultation process included town-hall meetings across Canada, participation by provincial government representatives at negotiation sessions, and involvement of sectoral advisory groups.
Was this sufficient? At what point does the law of diminishing returns apply?
It depends on whom one asks. Even within our city council, as was evidenced at the first council meeting during discussion of the five-year strategic plan, the means and extent of consultation to be undertaken when addressing significant issues resulted in differing and sometimes conflicting opinions.
Trade agreements are intended to provide a net benefit to the signatory parties. While some sectors will benefit, others will maintain status quo, yet others may see a detrimental effect.
In its resolution to opt out of CETA, does city council speak for all sectors in Grand Forks that might be affected by CETA, if it is ratified? Was appropriate consultation with stakeholders undertaken? As stated by Danielle Klooster in the Nov. 5, 2014 issue of the Grand Forks Gazette, “[Council members] are ALWAYS a representative of the municipality.”
As the new city council grows into its role, this and other concerns, which will be tabled during the next four years, should be considered from the perspective of their relative importance to the conduct of city business.
Grand Forks is facing pressing issues—e.g., declining population with consequential reduced tax base; declining property values; loss of key retail facilities; failing infrastructure—issues whose resolution falls primarily under local government jurisdiction. Should these issues not take precedence over those for which the local government has considerably less jurisdiction?
Chris Palmer, Grand Forks