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C orporate and government leaders across North America have been busy since the advent of NAFTA. Hardly satisfied with the current stranglehold of corporate globalization over this continent, big business leaders have pushed ahead the notion of a “deep integration” of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican economic, security, military, and social policy.
Since 9/11, the United States has championed the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), an initiative launched at George W. Bush’s ranch in Waco, Texas in 2005 by then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Mexican President Vin- cente Fox, and Bush. The SPP initiative, dubbed “NAFTA 2.0” by one Canadian journalist, looks poised to move free market fundamentalism into the era of national security paranoia.
In practice the secretive SPP initiative, due for further negotiations this summer, effectively transfers control of things like state oil and gas policy, industry regulation, and possibly even immigration policies to CEOs of the continent’s largest corporations.
Ron Covais, North American president of Lockheed Martin and member of the SPP-created North American Competitiveness Council, in describing the creation of the council, effectively confirmed this last fall by openly stating that “the guidance from the [government] ministers was, ‘Tell us what we need to do and we’ll make it happen.’” The North American Competitiveness Council is composed of CEOs of large corporations, including Bell Canada, Wal-Mart, and General Motors.
Needless to say, the corporate- led plans of “deep integration,” as set out in the SPP, have never been openly debated by an elected government in any of the NAFTA countries. A key component of the SPP strategy, called “Atlantica,” may serve as a regional prototype for further “integration” of the continent.
Atlantica as Gateway
A tlantica would link the Atlantic Canadian Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland with Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York. Proponents of Atlantica—largely business lob- bying groups—view this initiative as a plan to bring prosperity to “have-not” regions on both sides of the border. The Atlantica plan encompasses a harmonized energy grid between Atlantic Canada and New England, the development of an “energy hub” in New Brunswick, and harmonization of transportation, security, and military policy in key areas.
However, unlike other economic and security “gateways” on the West Coast, Atlantica’s proponents readily admit that the initiative has little to do with the exchange of goods and services produced between the U.S. and Canada. In a speech during a conference entitled “Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Borders” held in New Brunswick last June, Brian Lee Crowley, former director of the business think tank the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), explained that “within the global network, you must either be a destination in your own right (like Chicago, London, Hong Kong, or Tokyo) or you must be on the route to a destination.”
For Crowley, the key factor for the Atlantica “concept” is to ensure that Atlantic Canada and New England act primarily as a transit point for goods and services being trucked through the region. According to this vision, the Canadian coastal city of Halifax would serve as an east coast “gateway” for Asian goods traveling on cargo containers too large to cross the Panama Canal, while the rest of the region would amount to an asphalt gateway for goods traveling to Boston, Montreal, and New York. According to Sean Cooper, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce, At- lantica will simply “move wealth” and, as a result, will apparently “create wealth.”
Critics are less enthusiastic. In February the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), a social policy think tank, released a report entitled Atlantica: Myths and Reality . The report’s author, Scott Sinclair, questioned the notion that economic benefits will simply accrue as a result of this “gateway” strategy. “I think that there’s something wrong with an economic development strategy that’s based on turning the region into a conduit for goods that are produced outside the region in Asia and are intended to be consumed outside the region,” Sinclair argued.
The Atlantica proposal would require a harmonization of trucking legislation in both regions to allow “truck trains”—multi-trailer transport vehicles sometimes stretching up to 125 feet in length. The CCPA report argues that this would bring greater costs associated with upkeep of the region’s highways and would have negative environmental and public safety impacts. In addition, the report argues that the advantages of this “trade corridor” have been grossly overstated by Atlantica’s proponents. Most glaringly, the planned expansion of the Panama Canal, due for completion by 2015, would eliminate much of the strategic advantage of the Halifax port for the entry of Asian cargo containers.
T here are some aspects of Atlantica that appear to be already in place, such as infrastructure around the oil and natural gas resources in Atlantic Canada. Energy resources from such oilfields as Newfoundland’s Terra Nova oilfield and Nova Scotia’s Sable Island are currently Atlantic Canada’s biggest exports to the United States. The Atlantica initiative aims to accelerate such exports to the ravenous energy market of the United States on terms favorable to large oil and gas multinationals.
Such initiatives are not new for Canada. Currently, it stands as the biggest energy supplier to the United States, due largely to oil and gas resources from the Alberta tar sands. Yet, despite its enormous oil and gas resources, Atlantic Canada and Quebec rely on imports for 90 percent of the petroleum they consume. In addition, the main electric utilities in the region import and burn coal, one of the most environmentally damaging sources of energy on earth. Most of the natural gas reserves produced in Atlantic Canada are currently piped to markets in large urban centers such as Boston, which falls outside of the borders of the “Atlantica” region. By contrast, there is no current infrastructure linking natural gas terminals in New Brunswick with the rest of the Canadian Maritime region. NAFTA’s proportionality clause effectively locks Canada in place as an energy colony to the U.S., by requiring that the Canadian industry cater to U.S. energy “needs” before those of Canada.
However, Charles Cirtwell, president of AIMS, argues that the current policy of shipping natural gas southward from Atlantic Canada is contributing to environmental sustainability. He believes that the supply of Canadian natural gas to New England has allowed the region to use liquid natural gas as an energy “transition” while New England utilities adjust to using more sustainable energy sources. He argues that without U.S. investment in natural gas projects in New Brunswick, the resources would still be untapped and New England consumers “would be burning oil.”
“From a green perspective,” says Cirtwell, “this kind of symbiotic relationship has worked out quite nicely for everybody.”
But not everybody agrees that this energy strategy is environmentally sound. According to Matt Schlobohm, a coordinator with the Maine Fair Trade Campaign, “There’s very little recognition” among the proponents of the Atlan- tica energy corridor of “the ecological crisis we’re in.” Schlobohm argues that Atlantica fails to address the immediate need for a move to “a different energy paradigm that’s based on much more sustainable energy production, local energy production.” He sees little hope for the recognition of this immediacy without more of a public role in determining the energy policy on both sides of the border.
“What we’ve seen in Atlantica is a process that’s been entirely sha- ped by the largest corporations in the region,” Schlobohm argues. “It’s been a very exclusive process that hasn’t included labor unions, community organizations, environmental groups, [or] indigenous organizations.”
T he key sponsors of the first “Reaching Atlantica: Business Without Borders” conference in June 2006 were largely Canadian corporations such as JD Irving limited and the Bank of Montreal. Atlantica’s critics outside the conference far outnumbered its proponents. A coalition of environmental, labor, and community organizations held a counter-summit and a demonstration of 400 people in the small harbor town of St. John drew key leaders, as well as rank-and-file workers, from large unions such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Canadian Labour Congress. Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, spoke at the opening event of the counter-summit to a packed audience. Atlantica, which had previously maintained a low media profile, became news headlines in Canada after a group of 35 protestors attempted to interrupt a speech by conference keynote speaker J.D. Irving.
Aside from the elite nature of the decision-making behind the Atlantica process, much of the controversy around the initiative has focused on the free-market zeal expressed by Atlantica’s backers. The Atlantica website lists “minimum wage legislation,” “union density,” “government employment as percentage of total state/province employment,” and “size of government” as “public policy distress factors.” Such displays of unabashed dislike for progressive social policy have served as a stark reminder to many people of the dismal effects that the NAFTA agreement has had on New England and Atlantic Canada. While the state of Maine lost close to 20,000 manufacturing jobs between 1995 and 2003, Canadian workers have experienced stagnating real wages, a decline in union protection, and an increase in the gap between rich and poor since 1994. In Atlantic Canada and New England, small family farms, once a staple of the local economy of the region, are facing a crisis point.
When asked whether the political program of Atlantica included a lowering of minimum wages, Cirtwell responded that such talk was a “red herring” designed to be a “scare tactic” of Atlantica’s opponents. However, when I spoke to Cirtwell’s predecessor, former AIMS Director Brian Lee Crowley last May, his response was somewhat less definite. Crowley, who has since been appointed a key economic advisor in Canada’s Department of Finance, argued for the need to “ask the questions” about social policies such as union density and minimum wage legislation, noting that “all of these things involve trade-offs.”
The “trade-offs” for workers in North America as a result of globalization in Atlantic Canada and New England reveal a cruel irony. The advent of globalization in these two regions has seen the migration of manufacturing and textile jobs to third world “export processing zones” where workers are paid a tiny fraction of the wages in North America. Under Altantica, goods produced in these sweatshops, particularly in China and Vietnam, are now to be shipped back across the Atlantic, only to bypass the entire New England-Atlantic Canadian region via large highway “corridors” en route to the U.S. “heartland.”
For Sean Donahue of the Bangor-based Peace through Inter- American Community Action, a grassroots community economic justice organization, this logic reflects a continuation of the destructive process of corporate globalization. For Donahue, this vision “undermines the idea of building from local regional economies and makes us just another piece of infrastructure in a global machine for moving goods from countries where production can be done cheaply to consumers in the wealthiest parts of the world.”
Recognition of such trade-offs perhaps explains why opposition to the Atlantica proposal has served as a focal point for coalition building and coordination between environmental organizations, labor unions, NGOs, and community organizations on Canada’s east coast. Such coalition building has not been seen in this region since the run-up to the anti-Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) mobilizations in Quebec City in 2001. National organizations such as the Canadian Labour Congress, Canada’s biggest trade union federation, and the Council of Canadians, a 100,000- member citizen’s advocacy coalition, have both weighed in against Atlantica and are also involved in the planning for a large mobilization against an upcoming confer- ence on Atlantica in Halifax in mid-June of this year.
Although Atlantica has yet to galvanize the same degree of public opposition in the New England states, such organizing efforts are a clear indication that the Atlantica “gateway” is far from a done deal.
Stuart Neatby is a community activist and independent journalist based in Halifax. (For more on Atlantica mobilizations see www.stopatlantica.org.)
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.