Breaking: NAFTA

We just got some shocking news. The Washington Examiner is reporting that Canada “will oppose any effort to change the investor-state dispute resolution system (ISDS) in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)”.[1]

ISDS are toxic rules woven into trade agreements that give multinational corporations special rights to sue entire countries in secret tribunals if they don’t like our laws or policies. Under NAFTA, Canada is the most sued developed country in the world — with corporations mainly challenging our environmental regulations, claiming they interfere with their profits.[2-3]


These special rules put profits over people and undermine Canada’s democratic right to govern in the public’s interest. They’re the most toxic part of NAFTA and represent the Leadnow community’s top concern with the deal.[4]


When Trudeau’s team unveiled its NAFTA priorities a couple weeks back, they laid out a pretty progressive-sounding agenda: tougher labour protections, integrated environmental standards, and a chapter protecting Indigenous peoples rights.[5]


The question is: is this good enough — or should we double down on the campaign against toxic ISDS rules that sources are saying Canada will fight to keep?


Here’s the thing, it’s been hard to campaign around NAFTA. It hasn’t scored high on previous community surveys, and energy around the campaign hasn’t been super strong.[6] It’s also a mammoth issue that requires lots of strategic planning, time, and resources. With lots of opportunities on different issues coming up in the fall, we need to understand what your priorities are.


If you want to campaign to remove toxic ISDS rules from NAFTA and have the impact you’re used to, I need to go all-in and know that you’re with me — but I can’t make this decision on my own. As a member-driven community, I need your direction. So, do you think we should dedicate more of our energy and resources into fighting ISDS, or are the Liberals on the right track?


YES - campaign to pull the plug on ISDS

NO - I don't think this campaign is a priority 


Why now? While NAFTA has been in the news a lot, there hasn’t been a tonne of coverage on ISDS, or many opportunities to strike with our people-power — until now. Negotiations are underway, and officials want the deal finalized by year’s end, which means this fall is when everything’s really going to ramp up. Canada’s also hosting the third round of NAFTA negotiations in September.


The latest intel about Trudeau’s team opposing any reforms to ISDS means that without a big people-powered push, ISDS is likely here to stay — and that should worry us. ISDS is the most striking example of how corporations are entrenching their power at the expense of our democracies, and the public’s right to shape our collective future. Getting ISDS out of NAFTA would not only work to protect our good health and environmental laws, but would also be a major blow to the global corporate power structure.


Why not? The two biggest barriers to winning this campaign are: the corporate lobby with their huge financial resources to lobby negotiators to keep ISDS rules locked in, and the Trudeau Liberals’ message control around NAFTA is strong and broadly appealing in the face of Trump. You might also think the priorities Trudeau’s team have laid out are good enough, and the energy to shift the public narrative, go up against the corporate lobby, and push Trudeau’s team on ISDS isn’t there.


We know that big business has Trudeau’s ear. The head of the Business Council of Canada recently said he’s had “extensive opportunities” to meet with Canada’s top negotiators are are “adamant” about keeping ISDS. The news that Canada is digging in its heels to keep this toxic system in NAFTA means that Trudeau’s team is simply caving into this pressure.[6]


A major show of people-power from the Leadnow community and allies across the country can force them to change their position.


So, do you think we should dedicate more of our energy and resources into the campaign to remove ISDS from NAFTA?



The Leadnow community has a history of coming together to reclaim the power that the corporate and business elite have tried to hijack from our communities. The Canada-China FIPA and the TPP are two of the biggest examples — and both were longer-term efforts. This is another chance to champion this fight, but there are trade-offs we need you to help us make. Does this campaign excite you? Should we run with it?





We’ll be in touch soon with the results.

Thanks for participating,


Brittany and Logan, on behalf of the entire Leadnow team



[1]Canada says 'hard no' on changing NAFTA dispute resolution

[2] NAFTA's Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

[3] NAFTA's Chapter 11 Makes Canada Most-Sued Country Under Free Trade Tribunals

[4] Leadnow community June 2017 survey

[5]Canada's goals for 'progressive' NAFTA include labour and environmental standards, gender equality

[6] Leadnow January 2017 community survey, Leadnow community June 2017 survey

[7]Canadian businesses outline NAFTA priorities in meetings with top negotiators [paywalled]



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