The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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Time for a Citizens' Agenda in Parliament


With the Throne Speech to be delivered today, the Council of Canadians is calling on Prime Minister Harper to address five key concerns of Canadians. Stephen Harper has indicated the throne speech and his strategy in Parliament will focus primarily on the global economic crisis. However, the minority Conservative government is taking steps that could worsen the economic crisis in Canada, including pursuit of more free trade.

"The Harper government has consistently chosen corporate profits over standing up for the key priorities of Canadians," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "He can outline a new path forward in the Throne Speech and the weeks to come in Parliament that respects the will of the overwhelming majority of Canadians. And the Council of Canadians is strongly urging him to do so."

Water: 88% of Canadians think water is a human right and want to ban bulk water exports (Environics, April 2008). Instead, the Harper Conservatives have suppressed government reports on the freshwater crisis facing Canada, while supporting schemes that will open the floodgates of water privatization, diversions, and bulk exports. It is time for a National Water Policy in Canada that bans bulk water exports, ensures that water is protected as a commons and a public trust, and recognizes the human right to water.

Energy: 89% of Canadians want an energy policy that protects supplies and the environment (Environics, April 2008). Instead the Harper Conservatives have pushed forward the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which would increase tar sands production by a factor of 5, and abandoned international climate treaty obligations. It is time for a Canadian Energy Strategy that ensures energy security and transition to more sustainable energy production and consumption.

Trade: 61% of Canadians agree with President-Elect Obama on the need to renegotiate NAFTA to include enforceable labour and environmental standards (Environics, September 2008). The finding follows those of earlier polls and demonstrates a steady growth in Canadians' support for renegotiating NAFTA - from 45% in March to 52% in July (Angus Reid). Instead, the Harper government is pushing forward with a NAFTA-style trade deal with Europe that threatens Canada's public services. It is time for a fair trade approach for Canada that protects Canadian jobs, public services and resources.

Healthcare: A recent national report prepared by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) revealed there are 130 private, for-profit clinics operating in Canada. According to research done by the OHC, 89 of these clinics appear to be openly violating the Canada Health Act. While the Harper government may want health care delivery to be handled by the provinces, it is a federal responsibility to ensure public health care is available to all Canadians without financial barriers. It is time for a strengthened and enhanced public health care system and strict enforcement of the Canada Health Act.

Proportional Representation: The Council of Canadians believes that proportional representation is more democratic than our current electoral system. It ensures a fairer representation of votes cast, and prevents a governing party from holding total power after earning only a small percentage of the popular vote, which is the case now with the first-past-the-post system. It is time for an electoral system that allows for a better representation of parties and reflects the will of Canadian voters.

Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada's leading social action organization, mobilizing a network of 60 chapters across the country.

Office: (613) 233-4487, ext. 249