Monday, November 23, 2015

Open Letter To Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re: TPP

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Like many Canadians, I have been encouraged by the inclusive tone you've set as Prime Minister; the cabinet you put together comprised equally of highly qualified women and men; the call for a national inquiry for the 1200 + missing and murdered indigenous women; the accessibility you've reinstated to scientists as well as accessibility for us to your government in order that we may enjoy an open discourse as citizens of this country.

I've lost track of the amount of times I've applauded your inspirational sentiments since the election. I high-fived you from Vancouver when you held a press conference in the National Press Gallery Theatre, which hadn’t been used by the previous government since 2009. I was incredibly heartened that you insisted we would continue with the plan to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees in the face of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. I've burst into tears either from unmitigated joy or sheer relief that my country is finally back after having been lost to a strangely dark time in our recent history. I am filled with hope for this country, for my children and for the new direction we are at long last taking. Based on what you’ve communicated to Canadians, you have a regard for all this country’s citizens regardless of their level of financial wealth and, indeed, you seem to want to help make life better for everyone.

So I'm sitting here, Mr. Prime Minister, scratching my head as to why in the world you would agree to promote the TPP. Entrepreneurs, politicians and environmentalists alike say this is a very bad deal for Canada. They say it’s NAFTA on steroids. It reads as a manifesto for corporate control, allowing corporations the ability to sue us – by tribunal in secret – if we set policies that prevent them from making more money. The TPP holds us accountable to the standards of other countries, also represented in the deal, and will prevent us from enjoying and improving our quality of life here in Canada. If that quality of life interferes in any way with corporations’ ability to make top dollar, corporations will sue us to the point that we will stop trying to improve life in this country altogether.  It may destroy many of the things you said you wanted to achieve for Canadians during your campaign and since taking office.

Any goal you set at the end of this month in Paris to address climate change? Forget about it. If that goal prevents a corporation from making money, we'll be sued for trying to achieve it. Try to raise the minimum wage for low income earners or take any much needed action to strengthen this country's Universal Health Care system? Forget about it. We'll be sued for that too. (Under the terms of NAFTA, Canada is currently being sued by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly for $500 million because our courts invalidated two of their patents. If these are the kinds of lawsuits we can expect under NAFTA, I shudder to think what awaits us under the TPP.)

Mr. Prime Minister, don’t get me wrong. I appreciate corporations. There are some good ones out there and I get to decide which of them to support as a consumer. I just don’t believe any given corporation should be able to dictate to me every single aspect of my life, my children’s lives and the lives of future generations. 

As a parent to two little boys, my biggest concern is how the TPP will interfere with my children’s access to a quality education. There's been a huge push all over the world by big business to change the face of public education as we know it. It's happening right now in British Columbia, where I live. I have watched for years as the provincial government has starved the school system of necessary funding, slowly but surely paving the road to privatizing education. In 2014, as part of that process, Premier Christie Clark announced B.C. would reformat public education to encourage children from kindergarten to grade 12 to work in the liquefied natural gas industry.

You read that right, Mr. Prime Minister: The provincial government is changing the school system to get kids to work in the LNG. Can you believe that??

To me, public education isn’t about training children to become workers. It’s about educating students to become citizens. It’s also one of the last great equalizers we have left in the world.  As a former teacher (and a very good one from what I hear), I'm sure you can appreciate that, when properly funded, a quality education gives all of us an equal start in life, regardless of our socio economic backgrounds. But if you continue to promote the TPP as you told Japan you would, you will be opening the door even wider to corporate involvement in our school system. If we ever were to have a provincial government properly fund the school system, we’d be sued by corporations for doing so. Corporations will have a stronger influence on setting curriculum to suit their own interests and education will suffer as a result. If parents can't get a quality education for their children in public schools, they'll be forced to pay for it privately. And I assure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that is a cost most families simply can't afford.

Like all families, my husband and I want to give our kids every possible opportunity in life. We're trying to figure out how to put them through university in a province with a grotesquely underfunded public school system, in a city where it costs $2 million to buy an average house we’ll never be able to afford while also trying to set aside enough money for retirement. (This just in: I'll be working until I'm 80.) We've got a lot on our plates, Mr. Prime Minister. If you sign this trade agreement, you won't be helping the middle class or low-income earners. In fact, you'll be making it much more expensive for all of us who aren’t millionaires. You will be selling our children's education to the highest bidder in a deal that is designed to benefit big business at the expense of the human beings in this country who need you to advocate on their behalf, rather than on behalf of the TPP.

This deal sucks Mr. Prime Minister. Say no to it. I don't want big business to decide what my children are taught in school. I want educators to do that. I want my children to have all options available to them, not just the ones that benefit certain CEOs and shareholders in one particular industry.

I want my children to grow up to be as proud of Canada as I am. I don't want them to look back to this agreement as the moment they stopped living in a country and started living in a corporation.


Enid-Raye Adams

Mom, Actor, Concerned Citizen