North Island-Powell River candidates discuss North American trade deal

The Peak asked each candidate running for election in the North Island-Powell River riding to submit a maximum 200-word statement outlining their views on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which parliament is scheduled to vote on later this fall (after the federal election on October 21).

After two years of negotiations between the participant countries, the new deal would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, and primarily affects auto exports, steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as the dairy, egg and poultry markets.

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However, the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico must all formally ratify the agreement before it takes effect.

In alphabetical order, here’s what each candidate wrote:

Rachel Blaney, NDP

When Justin Trudeau signed on to the USMCA in November, my first call was to dairy farmers in our riding, because I knew the deal was yet another betrayal of those families and their industry. Worse yet, the deal didn’t include an end to [Donald] Trump’s steel tariffs, which weren’t dropped until six months later.

Too often in our international trade negotiations, Canadian working people are left behind or used as pawns. That must end.

International trade is important, and trade agreements are where we establish the rules and our priorities. Those need to include strong environmental provisions and strong labour conditions, and those are lacking here.

USMCA also contains troubling details around privacy protection, intellectual property and could increase the cost of prescription drugs in Canada at a time when we’re calling for a universal pharmacare program for all Canadians.

The NDP supports fair trade that defends Canadian workers, protects supply management and stands up against unfair tariffs. USMCA fails on all of those and we would not and do not support it in its current form.


Mark de Bruijn, Green Party

The “new NAFTA,” or Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), is a vast improvement over the old one, primarily for two reasons:

• It would finally get rid of the investor-state provisions in chapter 11, freeing Canada to pass environmental or other laws without the threat of being sued by US corporations for potential loss of profit.

• It gets rid of the energy proportionality clause in the old NAFTA, which really tied Canada’s hands on energy security.

Both of these issues were a serious threat to Canada’s sovereignty and its ability to pass laws as it sees fit for the betterment and protection of our land and our society.

However, there are still some major flaws in the new agreement, which makes it a difficult one to support.

• There is no provision for preventing banned bovine growth hormone from entering Canada in US dairy products, which is a threat to Canadians’ health.

• The extended patent protection given to big pharma is almost certain to drive up drug costs for Canadians.

• There is no mention of climate change.

Before voting to ratify, Greens would need to study the details of this bill carefully, and strive to remedy these remaining deficiencies.


Shelley Downey, Conservative Party

Two and a half years ago, when Justin Trudeau volunteered to renegotiate NAFTA, he promised Canadians he would secure a better deal. The prime minister promised NAFTA 2.0. Canada got NAFTA 0.5.

As a result of the new deal, automakers are limited in how many cars they can export to the United States and Canadians have reduced access to essential medicines and pay higher prices for prescription drugs. The United States measured their success on NAFTA by what it gained. The prime minister measured his on what he didn’t give up.

Conservatives will reluctantly support the deal, because no trade deal with the United States is worse than a bad trade deal. However, after October 21, our new government will work to mitigate the damage this deal has caused.

We will negotiate a softwood lumber deal to help foresters in BC. We will work with the US from a position of strength, by emphasizing security and defence cooperation and by imposing safeguards to protect North American steel from Chinese dumping. And we will lower taxes and reduce regulatory burden on business so that Canada is attractive to investors and so Canadian businesses can compete and win on the world stage.”


Carla Neal, Marxist-Leninist Party 

A self-reliant economy should be a fundamental principle of any trade internationally. Trade must be mutually beneficial. Free trade can only exist between free people and free nations where neither is economically dominant. 

The new NAFTA reduces protection for our supply management system which CETA and TPP have already given up; it reduces standards for dairy production, increases private big pharma control, restricts trade with other countries, subjects “non-market entities,” including crown corporations like Canada Post to restrictions on public interest investments.

CUSMA, the new NAFTA, does nothing to advance the interests of the people of Canada, Mexico and the United States. We are not allowed to discuss real solutions for real economic problems, solutions that could lead to a self-reliant economy for Canada. Instead, we are only allowed to be for or against the CUSMA.

It intensifies the imperialist globalization, leading to less control over our own economy. Our future is now in the hands of the American oligarchs and their war on terror leading to invasions of other nations and the installation of their puppets.

Trade wars lead to real wars and trade wars continue under CUSMA.


Brian Rundle, People’s Party

We would like to reopen the trade agreement with the US and Mexico to offer a more open market for dairy, poultry and eggs controlled by our supply management cartel system.

We wish to dismantle the supply management system here in Canada that creates a monopoly for a select group of farmers to the exclusion of the majority of farms in Canada and closes our market to foreign imports with very high duties.

We want our industries to be able to compete fairly in North American markets.

The supply management costs each family in Canada $500 per year and hinders foreign trade, including selling our forestry products internationally.


Peter Schwarzhoff, Liberal Party

Canada negotiated hard and held out for a good deal. We got a good deal.

The new NAFTA will create good new jobs, strengthen our middle class, grow our economy and expand Canada’s trade in North America.

After a year of negotiations, the three countries reached understandings in key areas, including automotive manufacturing, agriculture, labour, intellectual property rights, culture and dispute settlement.

The Liberal government has successfully preserved key elements of the original NAFTA, while building on the agreement to expand opportunity and improve protections for workers across North America.

The new NAFTA safeguards more than $2 billion a day in cross-border trade and tariff-free access for more than 70 per cent of Canadian exports. It is good for Canadian workers, including those in the Canadian auto sector and cultural industries.

With CETA, the CPTPP and the USMCA, Canada now has tariff-free access to 1.5 billion consumers around the world. We are the only G7 country to have a free trade agreement with every other G7 country.

This agreement was made possible by the tireless work of many people, from all walks of life and all political stripes. Its success is the direct result of a true Team Canada approach.


Glen Staples, Independent

Allowing international competition can improve price and quality. Trade between nations can also help prevent war.

However, the recent trade agreements have mostly been about protecting capital. Wealth now flows freely around the world. 

The purpose of the government of Canada should be to look after the interests of all present and future Canadians, not just the wealthy; difficult when money loves power and power, money.

Now businesses shop for countries with poor environmental regulations and low labour costs for manufacturing, then tax havens for the accumulated wealth.

Carbon taxes are the best way to reduce CO2 levels. But if Canada imposes a significant carbon tax, this will encourage Canadian companies to move to a lower tax country. Also, raising the taxes on the rich tends to move them offshore with their wealth. Countervailing duties are one way to deal with those issues.

At present, I would vote against the USMCA. Perhaps we should thank Donald Trump for getting us out of NAFTA.

As an independent, I promise to vote not as directed by a party leader or lobbyist, but according to my conscience and my constituents.


An all-candidates forum hosted by Powell River Chamber of Commerce takes place from 7 to 9 pm on Wednesday, October 9, in Evergreen Theatre at Powell River Recreation Complex.

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