October 19, 2016
The Walloon refusal to assent to CETA is a disappointing development, but understandable. Although I am completely in favour of CETA and increased cooperation between the EU and Canada, what troubles me more is the arrogance Prime Minister Trudeau and his government has displayed towards our European friends.
It should surprise no-one that Wallonia, a socialist stronghold, opposes a free-trade agreement. That is entirely in keeping with the ideological line of that political ideology. While some may be dismayed by a single constituent member of a single member state holding up a process that, more-or-less, all of the remaining parts of the deal, I think it is an unfortunate outcome, but not an inappropriate one. Though Wallonia is not the only socialist government in Europe, it is likely the only one which is free to act independently of their national foreign policy. While other government like the French National government must make their decisions with considerations of power, the Walloons are free to make their pronouncement on CETA solely based on their ideology. While I do not subscribe to the ideas of making government policy, let alone national government policy, let alone transnational government policy on the basis of dogma and ideology, I would have to admit that under different conditions, I would want my representatives to do the same. By the same, I mean block legislation which I see harmful to my beliefs and well-being; were I in an alternate world, and aristocrats were pushing for the abolition of my constitution and bill of rights, I would very much support anyone blocking that move with any legal measure. I cannot begrudge the socialist minority in a liberal dominated union from behaving in a manner that lies within both the law and their conscience. If only all political representatives had such courage.
What is of greater concern to me is not the behaviour of ma chère Belgique, but rather the behaviour of my own government, who has approach this seven year process with arrogance, authoritarian tendencies and a lack of respect for the nature of European democracy. Having sat in government for less than a year, Trudeau the Junior has demonstrated little patience when it comes to not immediately getting his way. His government, whether he has directly participated in the decision making, has behaved disgracefully during the attempt to make CETA a reality. Trudeau has behaved with all of the grace of a child in mid-temper tantrum. Loudly, government representatives have told the public that they are willing to torpedo the process (that again, have been in the works for nearly a decade) because the process wasn’t going quickly enough. Clearly, Mr. Trudeau has little understanding at the speed at which European democracy works. Further, the Canadian government refused to let a sitting MEP (who happens to be opposed to CETA) enter the country on the grounds that he had committed a crime. The MEP in question, French Green José Bové, was allegedly in Canada to speak publicly against CETA and so, whether they intended to or not, it simply looks as if the Trudeau government acted to silence political opponents. Which arguably is in keeping with some of their other policy goals, such as their efforts to extend hate speech to the point which the terms become so impossibly vague, as would criminialise debate and academic inquiry into questions of gender under the new bill C-16.
One might see the tactics of the Walloon government as fighting dirty. However, the childishly impatient approach of the Prime Minister of Canada damages Canada. In the face of adversity, to retract courtesy to one’s opponents is beneath the dignity of our country. To stamp one’s feet and make threats is, likewise, not befitting of her Majesty’s first minister. For all of that I have a hard time cheering for the pro-EU/Canadian side of this debate.C. Shannon