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LETTER: Islanders need to be heard

Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor

A letter to the editor from Edith Perry

It is a concern that Kal Whitnall, Senior Director for Economic Research and Trade Negotiations for P.E.I., feels because “economic integration (with the U.S.) is very deep and the business environment is working” Canada/P.E.I. should not, in his words, “go backwards.” Apparently Mr. Whitnall held consultations with the Island business community and representatives from the agricultural sector so in his estimation this is adequate consulting.

But there are many other Island voices needing to be heard.

If Mr. Whitnall truly believes he is representing Islanders' concerns about NAFTA negotiations, that he is hoping for a deal that is “inclusive,” he needs to hear from Islanders outside the business community.

We, the NDP P.E.I. Vision team on Poverty, are not seeing a truly inclusive public consultation by him. As far as we know low income Islanders which includes many seniors, students, people with ability challenges, small businesses, small size farm operators, seasonal and part time workers, and anyone else living on low and fixed incomes have not been consulted.

Our concerns are: [1] Increased drug prices. The U.S. is demanding increased patent protection for pharmaceuticals.

[2] Impacts on local government efforts to provide public services in Health, Education, Public Water services and Transportation. NAFTA's Investor State Dispute Settlement process will impact negatively on those services which low income Islanders rely on the most. We cannot let deals like the I.S.D.S. whittle away public funded services. We simply cannot afford higher prices that result from private businesses taking over public services because governments are intimidated by lawsuit threats allowed by the I.S.D.S. It is already happening.

[3] Supply management is on the table with the U.S demanding Canada dismantle this proven to work system by which dairy and egg farmers can make a decent living and allows for reasonable prices to consumers. In particular low income Islanders cannot afford any further increases in good food products.

[4] Regulatory co-operation usually means lowering of standards in food safety, use of chemicals and so on. Low income Islanders are especially vulnerable when standards are lowered making us unable to protect ourselves from unsafe food, water, air and other things that we need to keep alive. This means that we will be sicker and need more health care services and if that becomes privatized because of the push for Investor State Dispute Settlement resulting in more privatizing of health care services we are indeed in jeopardy.

It is on how low income Islanders will be negatively impacted that we believe our voices need to be heard.

Edith Perry,

P.E.I. NDP Vision Team on Poverty

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