Stephen Harper ready to sign TPP and throw Tory rural base under the bus

The Canadian Prime Minister said he'd only sign the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership if it had safeguards for Canada's farmers, but now that it's clear that he hasn't got a hope in hell of being re-elected, he's ready to sign TPP and damn the farmers.

TPP was negotiated in unprecedented secrecy. Members of Parliament and the US Congress were not allowed to see the treaty drafts as they progressed, and when the US Trade Rep finally deigned to let Congress have a peek, he threatened to put them in jail if they discussed the treaty's contents in public.

However, lobbyists for the world's largest multinationals were welcomed into the meetings, and even got to help draft it.

The Canadian Tories are foundering. Alberta, a Tory stronghold, just elected its first non-Tory government in 40+ years, voting in the socialist/social democratic NDP. Key members of the Tory frontbench have announced that they will not run in the next election, fearing life in opposition will not be so cushy as it was in government. And Stephen Harper is ready to establish his "legacy" by selling Canada's farmers out to multinational agribusiness, which will be able to sue Canada to repeal its labour, agriculture and environmental laws in order to ensure their maximum profitability.

But in Canada, TPP will be no easy sell. Although there will doubtless be a phase-in period, along with compensation for affected farmers, signing means the end of supply management, which for decades has protected the dairy and poultry industries.

Those farmers will be justifiably angry at the Conservatives. Mr. Harper promised he could get a TPP deal while still protecting supply management. In the end, he decided to sacrifice the interests of the farmers to the greater interest.

Rural seats in Southwestern and Eastern Ontario that were once considered safe will now be very much in play.

The Conservatives will fight hard to hold those seats regardless, stressing the crucial link between rural values and Conservative priorities. And Mr. Harper will trumpet the accord in places such as the Greater Toronto Area and B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

Harper poised to sign Pacific Rim trade deal, putting safe rural ridings in play [John Ibbitson/Globe and Mail]

(Image: Stephen Harper – Caricature, DonkeyHotey, CC-BY-SA)