Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Activists to protest Atlantica

This article gives a little more detail on the conference and the objections of protestors. It is from a Halifax newspaper.
Activists prepare to protest against Atlantica concept


After gearing up for a year, protesters are ready to descend upon Halifax next week to voice their displeasure with a controversial conference on regional trade.

From June 14 to 16, roughly 500 business, labour and community representatives will gather at the World Trade and Convention Centre to discuss the Atlantica concept, defined as a united economic trade zone encompassing the Atlantic provinces, parts of Quebec and the northeastern United States.

Atlantica has drawn criticism from Canadian unions and activist groups because it promotes the interests of big businesses and deeper ties with the U.S. Last June, hundreds of protesters crashed the inaugural Atlantica conference in Saint John, N.B., and several people were arrested.

This year, protest organizers are expecting as many as "a few thousand" people to rally against the conference and promote the message that Atlantica will only hurt Eastern Canada.

"It’s an extension of this neo-liberal trade agenda that was set way back with (the North American Free Trade Agreement)," said John Price, a spokesman for the Halifax-based Anti-Capitalist Collective, which is helping to organize the protest.

"It’s the neo-liberal alphabet soup of deregulating services that working people have fought and struggled for for a long time. Things like minimum wage. Atlantica plans on lowering minimum wage."

Anti-Atlantica activities kick off this Friday when a petition signed by those unhappy with the conference will be given to conference organizers. Mr. Price said it’s expected this petition will be rejected and that a "spicier" petition will be put forth.

He was unable to say what the second petition will entail.

Mr. Price said there will also be protest-related events across metro between June 14 and 16 including a family-friendly picnic, a fair-trade coffee sack race, similar to a potato sack race, as well as a bike ride.

The protest will climax with a march outside the convention centre on June 15.

Proponents for the Atlantica concept say it will act as a portal for international trade that will only help boost local economies. Trade barriers will come down and regulations between Canada and the U.S. will be harmonized.

It’s expected Premier Rodney MacDonald will use this year’s conference to promote the Atlantic Gateway concept as a regional priority, while the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce will announce the creation of a business leaders council to focus on potential business benefits.

But Mr. Price said he questions whether conference delegates really have the people of Atlantic Canada in mind, especially since the Halifax conference is being held behind closed doors with a $600 entry fee.

"There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability," he said.




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