Imagining a government that works for Canadians

Trudeau talks UK trade deal, but still shares no analysis about past ones

Trying to fend off an end-run by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal PM Justin Trudeau has said he plans to start negotiating a trade deal with Boris Johnson’s United Kingdom – if that country every does, in fact, exit the European Union.

Harper has publicly offered his assistance to liaise with the UK’s new PM, who is known for his Trump-like xenophobic rhetoric and big business affinities.

That Conservative-Liberal alliance reprises the two parties’ unity pact during the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Deal, when the Liberals brought former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on board as part of their “Trump whisperer” strategy.

That was clearly a strategic failure – for the Canadian people, anyway. With the new NAFTA, Canadians took concessions in areas including auto, agriculture and drug monopolies.

Meanwhile, Trump got to continue the carve-out of softwood lumber, Buy American laws and provisions – and was never called out on his tariff-based bargaining strategy that so clearly violated international trade law.

But how much pain Canadians will feel in the new NAFTA – and who exactly will feel it – is a highly guarded government secret. The Liberals have never released any report of the expected economic impact of the new Trump-Trudeau deal – how many jobs will be imperiled, in which sectors, and how much will be knocked off Canadian GDP because of Trudeau’s concessions.

And that secrecy is nothing new, unfortunately. When negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Harper and Trudeau never told Canadians their objectives or expected economic impacts.

Meanwhile, economic modeling of the TPP deal done by private economists from Tufts University showed significant negative impact on Canadians jobs and a very tiny GDP increase – all of which was burned up by Canada’s public-paid compensation packages for affected industries.

Naturally, a lack of hard evidence hasn’t stopped Justin Trudeau’s Liberals from declaring victory and indulging themselves in a gratuitous round of self-congratulations – for either TPP or NAFTA.

Perhaps the worry about accountability and transparency is that economic analyses show costs and benefits aren’t distributed equally. Even deals that add to Canadian GDP might not be economically healthy. If that GDP growth mostly flows to billionaire Canadians, it’s not likely to help the Canadian people.

Given who’s in the room during these trade talks, it’d be no surprise if economic analyses showed that benefits flow up to corporations while costs get heaped onto the Canadian people. Corporate lobbyists have unbridled access in Ottawa, under Liberals and Conservatives alike. The recent SNC scandal, big pharma lobbying, the Bronfmans and Irvings are ample evidence of that.

Trade is vitally important to Canadian jobs – and deserve a whole lot better than what Liberals and Conservative have given us.

Before Trudeau starts engaging the latest British Conservative PM in negotiations, he owes it to Canadians to tell us his goals – and to give Canadians the straight goods on the losses and gains, the winners and losers.

If Trudeau won’t be transparent and accountable with Canadians, he doesn’t have a mandate from the Canadian people to move ahead.