Ontario mayors rebel against TPP agreement to protect auto-sector

Published: October 29, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The province of Ontario is rebelling against one of soon to be former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s last economic deals. Mayors across Canada’s largest province are urging Justin Trudeau’s incoming Liberal government to solve the TPP problem, which could be easier said than done.

The TPP agreement could have far reaching consequences on the Canadian automobile industry, causing problems in the economy and a loss of jobs. The agreement was locked in on October 5 and was struck between Canada and another 11 countries that sit on the Pacific Rim. The deal effectively lifts regulations and tariffs on Japanese automobiles in Canada, and is being described as the biggest trade deal in Canadian history.

The agreement, opponents say, will take jobs away from Canadian vehicle parts manufacturing plants as the work is shipped off shore to low wage Asian workers. Mayors representing 20 of Ontario’s cities that have a large number of auto industry jobs are calling on incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to review the TPP agreement and ensure it does not have ramifications for the 115,000 people employed in the auto-sector.

Really, it is an issue that has been dumped on Trudeau’s shoulders by Harper, but it is unclear how the liberal leader will deal with the TPP agreement, or whether he even agrees with it. He said at the time of the agreement that he was open to free trade and on the surface welcomed the TPP deal, but was cautious over Harper’s secretive path to securing the agreement. In his election campaign he said his government would "hold a full and open public debate in Parliament".

University of Iowa law professor Michael Geist has been critical of the TPP agreement, writing on his website:

“The TPP also establishes restrictions on the ability to limit data flows across borders, with the Canadian government characterizing the provision as "protecting the free flow of information across borders." While stopping Internet content blocking would an admirable goal, the TPP actually features provisions that might expand the ability of Internet providers to block content.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, chair of the Ontario Auto Mayors told the Globe and Mail that he was not given side letters for the agreement when he requested them from the outgoing conservative government.

“If I can’t read it, there must be something wrong with it,” he said. “I saw a poll where 19 per cent of people said it was good for the country and I was like, ‘How do they know?’”