TPP townhall by @CommerceCanada

TPP townhall by @CommerceCanada


Democracy in Action: Reflecting on the Toronto TPP Town Hall

Yesterday I had the pleasure of appearing as a panelist at the government’s town hall meeting in Toronto on the Trans Pacific Partnership. The town hall, held in a packed auditorium at the University of Toronto, featured International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (in listening mode) along with three panelists (myself, C. D. Howe’s Daniel Schwanen, and Unifor’s Jerry Dias) and moderator Dan Breznitz of the Munk School.

It is easy to become cynical about the government’s emphasis on public consultations. They are happening everywhere – innovation, digital CanCon, TPP, and soon copyright to name a few. But to attend yesterday’s TPP town hall was to witness the remarkable passion and enthusiasm for public engagement on critical public policy issues. The event ran nearly 2 1/2 hours with dozens of speakers from an incredible range of ages, backgrounds, and interests. There were librarians and archivists focused on copyright term extension and digital locks; several doctors spoke to the impact of the TPP on public health and access to medicines, food experts highlighted the dangers associated with food security, environmental activists focused on the TPP and climate change, and speakers of all ages (including a 92 year old woman) expressed concern with the investor-state dispute resolution provisions. Some speakers quoted from Freeland’s book on plutocrats to note the inconsistency between the TPP and the Minister’s prior writing. An aboriginal student nearly broke down speaking about the need to consult first nations, bringing the room to its feet.

While there has been a tendency to dismiss critics of the TPP, there is an informed public anxious to make their views on the agreement known to the government. The audience was knowledgeable, citing specific issues and their potential impact. Conservative MPs have been urging the government to simply get on with TPP ratification, falsely claiming that they engaged in widespread consultation. The audience made it very clear that no one in the prior government had ever asked for their opinion as the negotiations unfolded.

Freeland emphasized that there is no rush to ratify the TPP as no country has done so and everyone has until at least 2018 before the agreement can take effect. The government seems content to listen, study the deal, and adopt a neutral approach to the question of ratification. In fact, the deadline for submissions to the Standing Committee on International Trade has been extended once again, with October 31st now the last date for submissions. That suggests that there will still be ample opportunities to speak out and if the Toronto TPP town hall is any indication, a willingness of the government to listen.


  1. Devil's Advocate says:

    Yeah, gives you warm and fuzzies.
    it’s nice that they’re so willing to listen, before they go and sell us out anyway.

    • Tainted Witness says:

      Listening to someone and doing as they say isn’t necessarily synonymous. I’m not even sure they actually ‘hear’ us up there, strictly speaking.
      Expecting them to obey the people might be asking too much, remember they’re expecting us to believe they’re still “studying” this thing. The neutral approach is their ludicrous attempt at keeping up the democratic illusion going for the sheeple and their financial overlords, you know, the sponsors of the tyrannical profit pact, while it snails along its way. It just might work too.

      This agreement is toxic to the planet and its people, it’s obvious, and for a myriad of already enumerated reasons. The total planet privatization agenda is an epic ode to corruption and greed, as it has been from its very inception. Now the so called elected representatives, supposedly working in our best interests, claim neutrality, and can do no better to defend their people from industries and private capital groups whose already established track records, even and especially when it comes down to such things like basic human rights, have already proven them wholly unfit actors in determining the future of social policy, not to mention the under statement that this even less so when it comes to deciding which direction our civilization should progress in, if at all! That today’s societies finds it acceptable to have thoroughly psychotic parasites actively dictate the terms of international law and national foreign policy, has to be in for contention as one of the top most stupidly idiotic absurdities of all time.

      No, it’s the best she can do to just passively sit there, listen to us whine about our worries and air our grievances, while at the same time pretending to give a fuck, until it’s too late for us to start throwing paper balls in her face. It’s her job in this plutocratic process, there’s nothing nice about it.

  2. Great article.Especially the depth in which it discuses the legal aspects.

  3. Alain Brunet says:

    The public consultation at U of T yesterday was incredible and I qas happy to experience this event in person.

  4. I had the pleasure of attending the event in person, though I had to leave before it ended (it was scheduled to be 90 minutes, but an hour and forty-five minutes there were still at least fifteen people lined up at the microphone).

    What I found most astonishing is that for the entire evening, the *sole* voice in favour of the TPP was Daniel Schwanen – one of the panelists – whose endorsement of the TPP was lukewarm. The unanimity of the audience in opposition was quite remarkable. It is clear that support for the TPP does not come from the public in downtown Toronto (though those voices in favour likely have venues to bend politicians’ ears that render public consultations extraneous).

  5. OneEyedPirate says:

    There is absolutely nothing democratic about this process except for the illusion of democracy.

    It will be those slimy MP’s voting to ratify. The CONS obviously support the TPP (they happily negotiated it in secrecy), the LIBS obviously support the TTP (they happily signed it without any public consultation), and the NDP leadership probably supports it too, although they will say anything at this point to get public support.

    There will be a vote in Parliament, and a few token MPs on all sides will vote against to make it look like they are thoughtfully independent, while in reality they all agree.


    For me, a public consultation must have at least the following components:

    (a) sufficient advance notice, well and widely publicised

    (b) a venue large enough to hold all who wish to attend

    (c) scheduled at times that enable more people to participate,
    for example, some sessions during the daytime,
    some during the evening, and others on the weekend.

    (d) appropriate access via public transportation
    with plentiful available parking for those
    who come by car

    (e) ample time for ALL members of the public
    who have input and/or wish to express
    their concerns to do just that.

    (f) media coverage

    (g) broadcast via television, radio, and internet streaming
    so that interested residents of Canada can
    participate in bringing democracy back to Canada.

    (h) post event, sessions need to be available online
    for persons who could not view the live event

    (i) since the consultations are deemed “PUBLIC”
    any documents presented ought to be
    made available online post event.


    the people’s government is failing to notify the public
    about its so-called “public consultations”.

    in a city like Toronto, public consultations need to be at least
    a week long in an easy to reach venue that holds more than
    500 people so that the public can be consulted.

    Apparently presentations were limited to 5 minutes;
    given the original announcement of a 90 minute session,
    90/5 is only 18 presentations if there is zero delay
    between each presentation. The extra hour reported
    by Michael above allows only for a dozen additional
    back to back 5 minute presentations.

    Wednesday i called the CBC Toronto local news room (416) 205-5808
    however my impression even though i did
    my best to educate the person on that desk
    AFAIK the CBC DID not be bother to show up.

    i also informed CTV, Global, and CHCH … again,
    AFAIK NONE of them could be bothered to show up.

    The people of Canada are being sold down the river
    to the world’s corporations.

  7. Alex Green says:

    The US administration is planning to ratify TPP right after the US election and before the next administration takes over. That is how unpopular TPP is that they would resort to these dirty tricks to ratify it and ignore the popular opposition to it. After the US ratifies it the Liberals will do the same, that is the plan. The consultations are a delaying tactic till the US ratifies TPP.

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