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.)
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.”
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”
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.
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?”
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”