Post free trade

Elling Lien gets lost in the mail.

You could almost hear Canada Post breathe a sigh of relief when a legal challenge against them by UPS was overturned by North American Free Trade Agreement arbitors a few weeks ago.

Long, long ago—seven years back—the American company filed a claim against the government of Canada for having what some might refer to as a good, cheap postal service. The legal challenge was made through the controversial Chapter 11 section of the NAFTA  agreement, which allows foreign companies to sue governments for not playing fair.

UPS claimed that it was unfair for Canada Post to take advantage of its mail delivery system to undercut UPS and other companies in the delivery business. It claimed that support from the government for service beyond simple mail-delivery wasn’t kosher.

So what’s the point of a crown corporation? Isn’t it to provide services to the public at low cost? Am I wrong here?

Crown corporations are government-owned companies that have no need or goal of satisfying shareholders—which means their main goal should be to benefit the general public, not business interests.

According to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, this ruling sets a precedent that will likely prevent foreign companies from suing, for example, water treatment facilities, garbage collectors, or public highways.

This seemingly no-brainer decision took seven years and over $950,000 in legal fees. I present this as evidence to the jury that international trade arrangements are typically very strange beasts.

Send a quick, 52 cent postcard [correction: 93 cents to send to the US] to Michael Eskew, chairman and CEO of UPS to offer your condolences: 55 Glenlake Parkway, NE, Atlanta, GA  30328, USA.

…which brings me to the meetings last week in Halifax about the proposed new trade zone for eastern Canada and the New England states. Atlantica, as it’s being called,  is likely to become a hot topic over the next few years.

I don’t want to tar every trade agreement with the same brush, but so far all meetings to discuss the concept have been closed to the public, unions, and civil society groups. Which really bugs me.

Anyway, one of the major beefs people have with the proposed plan is that it will turn Atlantic Canada into a gateway for goods from Asia.

“The Atlantica agenda could dramatically increase emissions from the transportation sector of the region because of a surge in truck traffic,” says Brendan Haley of the Ecology Action Centre in Nova Scotia. This, they say,  will be a real detriment to us as the world is required—willingly or unwillingly—to shift towards an economy focused on fighting the global climate crisis.

The Wikipedia article on Atlantica is short, but has a number of links where you can find more information. It’s at

Send a quick e-mail to your member in the provincial House of Assembly to let them know what you think. You can find their contact info online at

“We can’t legally do anything about it because it’s an occupancy issue… All we can try to do is bully—and that’s the word I’m using deliberately—the landlord into submission.”

—St. John’s Mayor Andy Wells talking about forcing the owners of a property on Mayor Avenue to do something about the parties that go on there.

One comment

Monroe Take Out

753-3450 84 Monroe Street

19 February 2010

  1. The Scope · February 19, 2010

    Landlord says ‘sorry’ over tenants’ noisy parties


    “The landlord of a St. John’s house that had been the focus of neighbours’ complaints over noisy parties is apologizing for his tenants’ behaviour….”

    “‘[The tenants] are just as shocked about it as I am. They’re upset that it had to come to this and they’re willing to do what it takes in the future to ensure that they can stay there,’ he said.

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