Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bananas: George Smitherman’s High Principle

‘I don’t want Canada to become a banana republic.”
Yesterday evening, former MPP George Smitherman appeared as a witness supporting Windstream in its $475 million NAFTA suit against the Canadian government. Over the course of about 2 hours, Mr. Smitherman delivered what appeared to me to be a broadside against the Canadian taxpayer with little push back from Canada’s lawyers.

Mr. Smitherman was asked to introduce himself to the Tribunal. He served three terms as an MPP, held portfolios of Health & Long Term Care and Energy & Infrastructure, and served as Deputy Premier. He explained that in the McGuinty government, a handful of top officials spoke with the authority of the Premier on issues of policy and that all major policy initiatives or changes in direction had to be cleared by “The Centre”, meaning the Premier’s Office.

After a very brief examination-in-chief, he was cross-examined by lawyer Shane Spelliscy, who like many on the legal team for Canada, was one of the litigators in the Mesa case (pending a decision since that hearing ended in 2014).

Initial questioning established that Mr. Smitherman was active in the green energy sector in the year after leaving government but his primary activity in this period was to run for mayor of Toronto. Over the course of his testimony, he made several witty remarks about his unsuccessful foray into municipal politics.  (more...)

He did not appear to mean that he does not want Canada to become a place where
a few favoured elites benefit when foreign commercial interest intervene to strip
local resources in a way that terribly disadvantages poor people, as was the case
during much of the 20th century in, for example, Guatemala and Honduras.

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