By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
A fresh wave of concern has come to bear over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal signed in the final weeks of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
The TPP, signed on Oct. 5, still needs to be ratified in Parliament, a responsibility that now falls to the Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The deal, the largest Canada has ever negotiated, has been slammed by critics who say it could eliminate as many as 24,000 jobs across the country, 1,500 of those from Oshawa’s auto sector.
Jennifer French, the MPP for Oshawa, went on the offensive in Queen’s Park, calling the TPP endorsement by Premier Kathleen Wynne “short-sighted.”
“From where we sit, it appears that the premier really is rushing headlong into an endorsement and as you know, and we know, and they know this is a deal that we don’t know the details of,” French tells The Oshawa Express. “Knowing what little we do, we’re disappointed that the premier has come out in support of this deal without knowing the details.”
Negotiated behind closed doors, the final terms of the deal are still unclear, but the possible reduction of regional composition rates, which will allow vehicles to be imported tax-free with less Canadian-made parts, could be a strike to the country’s auto sector, which employs roughly 115,000.
However, supporters of the TPP have pointed out the deal puts Canada in a unique position, opening up markets along the Pacific Rim and a possible 800 million new customers.
According to Oshawa MP Colin Carrie, the deal, if ratified through parliament would mean Canada has access to approximately 60 percent of the world’s economy.
“It’s really important, locally, for us to understand that with this agreement, if it does go through, Canada will be the only country in the world that has access not only to North America through NAFTA, but the European Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.”
French acknowledged that the large deal could have benefits for the country as a whole, but said that could come at the cost of jobs in one sector while another sees large gains.
“This is a huge deal and it’s going to have a whole bunch of moving parts. The disappointing piece is that the premier sort of rushed out and supported it,” French said. “There may be pieces that benefit certain industries and certain communities and others that don’t have to be trade-offs to that growth.”
In response to French’s comments during question period, Brad Duguid, the province’s minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure, pointed out that the provincial government has repeatedly shown its support for the auto industry in Ontario.
“We’re standing up for the auto industry in this province and we’ve stood up repeatedly on this particular issue,” he said.
He also took the opportunity to turn the issue around, pointing out the NDP’s policy to increase the corporate tax rate.
“That’s going to kill jobs in Oshawa, thats going to kill jobs across this province,” he said.
Carrie says that any talk of lost jobs is “fear mongering” and should stop.
“Our auto parts manufacturers are some of the best in the world,” he says. “For Canada’s small and medium-sized companies we will benefit from exporting our products to this area of the world.”
Also last week, the Ontario Auto Mayors, which consists of mayors representing 20 Ontario cities with a significant number of jobs in the auto sector, including Oshawa, called on Trudeau to ensure protection for the industry under the TPP.