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Red Deer Advocate, November 10, 2004

FREE TRADE CALLED THREAT

by Tim Gardner

Canada will ultimately lose its political sovereignty if it doesn't get out of its free trade agreement with the United States, says a fair trade activist.

David Orchard, a leadership candidate for the former federal Progressive Conservative Party, says since Canada signed the free trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's actually gained less access to the lucrative American market.

Approximately 10,000 Canadian companies, such as logging giant MacMillan Bloedel Ltd., have also been taken over by American companies during the same time period.

Once a country loses its economic sovereignty, the loss of its political sovereignty won't be far behind. But Orchard says he believes the majority of Canadians don't favour political union with the United States. And one way that supporters of Canadian sovereignty can help prevent that is to lobby hard for proportional representation in the House of Commons.

That way, pro-American policies like the acceptance of a missile defence system for North America won't be accepted by a Liberal government influenced by the growth of American big business in the country, Orchard says.

Neither will such things as a potential NAFTA-Plus agreement, now being considered by a panel co-chaired by former federal Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.

The panel is looking into possible common immigration and security policies between Canada and the U.S. Orchard said its ultimate goal is to erase national borders in North America.

Orchard spoke to about 50 people at Red Deer College on Tuesday night.

Orchard, an organic farmer from Saskatchewan, said Canada is economically far worse off since it signed its free trade deal.

Prior to the deal, the United States had no tariff on Canadian softwood lumber, he said. It now has a very large tariff on softwood lumber, has tariffs on Canadian hogs and wheat and has closed the border completely to live Canadian cattle and to cuts of beef from animals over 30 months old.

Before it signed the free trade deal and NAFTA, Canada was protected by international trade regulations, now controlled by the World Trade Organization, Orchard said. Now, free trade regulations take priority.

Free trade has also benefitted American access to cheap Canadian goods while hampering trade in such goods inside Canada. That has hurt Canada economically.

Energy provisions within the free trade agreement and NAFTA also say Canada cannot restrict or cut back on the proportion of energy it exports to the United States, even when Canada faces a shortage. It now exports about 60 per cent of its oil and natural gas to the U.S.

"I'm not aware of any country anywhere in the world that's . . . given away its resources so completely to another nation," Orchard said.

Orchard said he'd like Canada to do away with the free trade agreement and NAFTA and to start to develop its own industries and economy, like Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

"We're one of the few countries in this world that has everything it needs for a modern industrial society," Orchard said.

Canada or the United States can get out of the free trade agreement or NAFTA by giving the other country six months' notice.


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