The Politics of Wallonia’s Resistance to Canada Trade Deal

French president François Hollande and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talk at the G7 summit in Shima, Japan, May 26
French president François Hollande and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau talk at the G7 summit in Shima, Japan, May 26 (Flickr/Justin Trudeau)

Regional legislators in the south of Belgium are persisting in their opposition to a European free trade accord with Canada.

I reported here earlier this year that a majority of lawmakers in French-speaking Wallonia are against the treaty, which proposes to eliminate tariffs on almost all goods and services traded between Canada and Europe. The pact is projected to raise transatlantic trade by more than €25 billion per year.

The Walloons worry that European countries will be pressured into weakening their environmental standards and labor laws as a result of the treaty. (Fears that are overblown.)

But there is also a political dimension to their resistance. Read more “The Politics of Wallonia’s Resistance to Canada Trade Deal”

Gabriel’s Bet Pays Off: Party Approves Canada Trade Deal

German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Members of the German Social Democratic Party voted in favor of a European Union trade agreement with Canada this week, handing their leader, Sigmar Gabriel, a much-needed victory.

The far left and youth wing of the party had risen in opposition to the pact, which was seen as a template for a similar trade deal with the United States.

Gabriel, who also serves as Germany’s economy minister, disputed that and said trade talks with the United States have “de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.” Read more “Gabriel’s Bet Pays Off: Party Approves Canada Trade Deal”

Gabriel Sacrifices TTIP to Save Trade Deal with Canada

Sigmar Gabriel Angela Merkel
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference at Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin, May 24 (Bundesregierung)

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel set off alarm bells this weekend when he said European trade talks with the United States have “de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it.”

The European Commission, which is negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on behalf of the European Union’s 28 member states, rejected Gabriel’s assertion. A spokesperson said, “The ball is rolling right now and the commission is making steady progress in the ongoing TTIP negotiations.”

But other trade ministers shared the German’s skepticism. Read more “Gabriel Sacrifices TTIP to Save Trade Deal with Canada”

Walloons Could Block Canada Trade Pact

Brussels Belgium
View of Brussels, Belgium from the Mont des Arts, May 20, 2010 (William Murphy)

44 legislators in the French-speaking south of Belgium may have just derailed an entire EU trade agreement with Canada.

A majority voted in the Walloon parliament on Thursday to call on the government not to sign the proposed trade pact.

That need not immediately scuttle the treaty. Other European Union nations can still join.

But if everybody else signs the agreement at the EU level, it would still need to be ratified by national legislatures. If the Walloons persist in their resistance at that point, there is no template for what happens next. No regional parliament has ever held up a European treaty. Read more “Walloons Could Block Canada Trade Pact”

Europe’s Social Democrats Can Learn from Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada is interviewed in New York, March 17
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada is interviewed in New York, March 17 (PMO)

The failure of Spain’s Socialist Party to form a government with support from both the far left and social liberals in the political center reflects a broader trend. Across Europe, social democratic parties are struggling.

After the elections in Spain in December left neither the Socialists nor the conservative People’s Party with an absolute majority, the Atlantic Sentinel cautioned the former against entering into a grand coalition. Likeminded parties in Germany and the Netherlands, we pointed out, made just such pacts with the center-right and ended up pleasing no one.

Most disappointed were their voters on the far left, who, polls suggest, have defected to purists, like the Greens in Germany and the Socialist Party in the Netherlands.

But the alternative — social democrat-led alliances with the far left — would have appalled centrists.

Spain’s Socialists wisely decided against a coalition with the anti-establishment movement Podemos. The Social Democrats in Germany have only started cooperating with the formerly-communist Die Linke at the local and state level in the last few years. A federal coalition between the two is still unlikely.

More fundamentally, the center-left’s dilemma stems from the fact that what Andrew Sullivan, a British blogger, has called Europe’s red-blue culture war over modernity is playing out inside these traditional workers’ parties. Read more “Europe’s Social Democrats Can Learn from Canada”

Politics, Not Environment, Informed Keystone Decision

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama talks with advisors at the White House in Washington DC, September, 18 (White House/Pete Souza

American president Barack Obama has decided not to approve the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, The Washington Post reports.

The $7 billion project would have linked up the oilfields of Alberta, Canada with refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and transferred the equivalent of 800,000 barrels of oil per day.

It took Obama, who is due to step down next year, virtually all his presidency to reject Keystone. Read more “Politics, Not Environment, Informed Keystone Decision”

Liberals Oust Canada’s Harper After Decade of Tory Rule

Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau wave at supporters at the University of Toronto, February 15
Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau wave at supporters at the University of Toronto, February 15 (William Pitcher)

Canada’s Liberals are due to return to power after almost a decade in opposition. In parliamentary elections on Monday, the party, led by Justin Trudeau, got almost 40 percent support, enough for a majority. Read more “Liberals Oust Canada’s Harper After Decade of Tory Rule”

Could Canada’s Harper Be On the Way Out?

The last time Canada voted, in 2011, the result was an election of first-in-a-whiles:

  • The first Conservative Party to win a majority government since 1988;
  • The first party in general to win a majority government since 2000;
  • The first time since 1962 that a Conservative Party won three consecutive federal elections;
  • The first time in Canadian history that the Liberal Party won less than forty seats (it got just 34, down from 77 seats in 2008 and 100-plus seats in every other election since 1988);
  • The first time the Liberals were not one of the top two seat-winners in Canada’s largest province of Ontario;
  • The first time the Bloc Quebecois won less than half of Quebec’s parliamentary seats (it won just 5 percent, down from 65 percent in 2008 and an all-time high of 72 percent in 2004 and 1993);
  • The first time the Bloc Quebecois won less than 38 percent of Quebec’s popular vote (it got 23 percent, down from an all-time high of 49 percent in 2004 and 1993);
  • The first time that the New Democratic Party won more than 43 seats nationally (they won 103, 59 of which came from Quebec);
  • The first time that the modern Conservative Party fared decently well with nonwhite voters;
  • The first time that the Green Party won any seats at all (though it only got a single one and received a lower share of the popular vote, 3.9 percent, than any other election since 2000); and finally
  • The first time since 1984, 1958 and the World War elections of 1940 and 1917 that a single political party won either the popular vote or most parliamentary seats in each of the eight Canadian provinces outside of Francophone Quebec and tiny, remote, late-to-Confederation Newfoundland (the Conservatives won the popular vote and most seats in all eight, in spite of winning just 39.6 percent of the popular vote and 54 percent of seats nationally). Read more “Could Canada’s Harper Be On the Way Out?”

Canada’s Downturn Could See Harper Lose Power

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper called parliamentary elections for October on Sunday that could see his Conservative Party lose power after a decade in office.

Polls have the Conservatives neck and neck with the left-wing New Democratic Party, which has surpassed the Liberal Party as Canada’s second largest.

After years of growth, with a quick recovery from the 2009 global downturn, low oil prices threaten to push Canada into recession this year or next, calling into question Harper’s stewardship of the economy. Read more “Canada’s Downturn Could See Harper Lose Power”

Gunman Killed in Attack on Canada’s Parliament

A soldier guarding Canada’s National War Memorial was killed in Ottawa on Wednesday before a gunfight broke out in the nation’s parliament. Presumably the same gunman was shot dead by security in the exchange of fire while parliamentarians were minutes away from concluding their weekly caucus meetings in the same building.

Witnesses said they heard dozens of gunshots in the Center Block building where Canada’s House of Commons and Senate meet. A video recorded by a reporter for The Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading liberal newspaper, showed heavy fire in the building’s central Hall of Honor where a law enforcement official was shot in the leg. Lawmakers and cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were only meters removed from the scene, meeting with their parties behind closed doors. Read more “Gunman Killed in Attack on Canada’s Parliament”