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Geist: Canadian Government Amends “Caretaker Rules” To Give Itself Power to Continue Negotiating TPP

The next few weeks could play a determining role in the fate of the TPP. And Canada is changing longstanding rules regarding making major decisions during elections that tie the hands of future governments and give the government power to continue negotiating the TPP.  Speak out now at StoptheSecrecy.net Article by Michael Geist This past weekend was a busy one politically as Canada was launched into a lengthy election campaign just as countries negotiating the latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations in Hawaii failed to conclude a deal. With reports that there may be a follow-up ministerial meeting within weeks, Canadian officials have been quick to claim that the election campaign will not interfere with the TPP trade talks.

To support the claim that the government is permitted to continue negotiating even when it is a “caretaker” government, the Privy Council Office yesterday released a document titled Guidelines on the Conduct of Ministers, Ministers of State, Exempt Staff and Public Servants During an Election. In previous elections, this document was not publicly released, leading Liberal MP Ted Hsu to table a motion in 2011 calling for its availability and to recent op-eds raising the same concern.

Why the sudden change of heart? Perhaps it has something to do with the desire to release this paragraph:

For greater clarity, there may be compelling reasons for continued participation by Ministers and/or officials in specific activities such as treaty negotiations. For example, when negotiations are at a critical juncture with timelines beyond Canada’s control, the failure to participate in ongoing negotiations during the caretaker period could negatively impact Canada’s interests. Under such conditions, a compelling case may be made for ongoing efforts to protect Canada’s interests. Irreversible steps such as ratification should be avoided during this caretaker period.

That paragraph sounds suspiciously tailor-made for the government’s claim that it can continue to negotiate the TPP, reading more like an argument than a guideline. In fact, it is the only section in the document that purports to expand upon the guidelines by offering “greater clarity.” More notably, the paragraph was not included in earlier versions of the guideline.  James Bowden obtained a copy of the 2008 guidelines under the Access to Information Act. Those guidelines, which were also issued under a Conservative government, are very similar to the 2015 version with the exception of the paragraph discussing on treaty negotiations.

- Read more at MichaelGeist.com


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