CWA Canada is moving aggressively to open up a second front in North America in an all-out battle to stop the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership from being adopted in this country.

The union has hired former CBC foreign correspondent Bill Gillespie to help co-ordinate a campaign that will see the Trade Justice Network — a coalition of progressive groups concerned about fair trade — to combat the TPP, the largest economic treaty in history.

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon said the whole process surrounding the TPP negotiation is “deeply disturbing.”

“Most Canadians have no idea that this deal is being negotiated in secret under the guidance of multinational corporations with no input from labour leaders, environmental experts or even MPs,” O’Hanlon said.

“It’s frightening that this can happen in a democracy.”

One of the most troubling things about the TPP, O’Hanlon said, is the fact that multinational corporations would have the power to override Canadian sovereignty by suing governments under secret tribunals and nullify labour, environmental and other laws.

He also noted that the deal will result in the loss of thousands of Canadian jobs as manufacturers and others move work to low-wage countries like Vietnam.

“The issue here isn’t free trade,” O’Hanlon said. “We support free trade. But it must be a level playing field. How can you have a fair trade deal with countries like Vietnam that pay workers 65 cents an hour and have no real health, safety, labour or environmental regulations?”

“That should be common sense, even for conservatives.”

CWA Canada is being supported in the campaign by its international partner, the 500,000-strong Communications Workers of America, which has been spearheading opposition to the TPP in the United States. (See

The mainstream media has been paying scant attention to the TPP, which has been likened to “NAFTA on steroids,” said Gillespie.

As the largest media union in North America, he said, “our objective is to help journalists cover the story. Newsrooms are understaffed and overworked” so we need to supply basic information and contacts. WikiLeaks has been the only source of information so far.

“As professional journalists, we are concerned that the TPP is virtually unknown to the public” even though Canada joined the talks in 2012, said Gillespie. “No one knows anything about it. (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper has said zero about it.

“No politician will actually say what’s in it. Details won’t be known until it comes up for a vote” and even when that might happen is uncertain.

Gillespie said materials have already been produced for the anti-TPP campaign, which will roll out in a few weeks. Everything from social media to face-to-face meetings with journalists will be used to educate the public in advance of this fall’s federal election.

This will be a second major campaign for Gillespie, who produced a documentary about so-called right-to-work laws for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in 2013. Made in the USA: Tim Hudak’s Plan to Cut Your Wages contributed to the downfall of the leader of the Ontario Conservatives.

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