Despite the heavy snow fall, several groups gathered Saturday, Nov. 2 to protest the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) to be implemented by Harper’s government.
The Conservative Convention took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 at the the BMO Centre.
“Today in that convention hall, what’s happening is an attempt by the conservative government to import U.S. tea party style republican values, and impose them in a country that doesn’t want them,” says Gil McGowan of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
The Calgary Police Service allowed the protest to take place in an empty lot outside the Victoria Park/Stampede LRT station, since the BMO Centre on the Stampede grounds is private property.
Hundreds of local union workers and activist groups demonstrated peacefully with anti-FATCA signs, while many chanted, “Go! Go! Go solidarity!” and, “Stop Harper!”
There were several speakers who represent groups such as Idle No More and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
Free burgers and water were provided by M&M Meat Shops in a gesture to keep people hydrated and sustain the crowd’s appetite.
McGowan quoted Paul Krugman, who said, “The labor movement is the only institution able to stand up and provide a down turn balance to corporate power.”
Robyn Benson of PSAC spoke at the protest and recollected a conversation she had with the president of the treasury board.
“[Tony] Clement, you have an obligation to consult with our union before you change our working conditions. Every other government in the past has consulted with us,” said Benson.
“And he tells me he is government.”
According to the Isaac Brock Society, FATCA is an extra international U.S. law that, in short, will allow the U.S. government to demand annual banking and investment reports for the IRS from Canadians who are considered by the U.S. to be a U.S. person.
Some Canadian citizens, who are considered U.S. persons are, for example, those who were born in the U.S. and hold a joint bank account with a U.S. spouse, or have one or two parents who are U.S. citizens.
“Those people have their hands on the lever of power, so they have an opportunity to do what they want to do,” said McGowan.
“Run things down the throats of Canadians that they don’t want.”
Also according to the Isaac Brock Society, FATCA will affect other Canadians, since billions of dollars will be spent in compliance costs, which will result in higher fees for financial institutions.
The government and taxpayers will bear the cost of staff and info systems for FATCA.
Anti-discrimination laws will be downgraded, and there will be less privacy protection from the local government. This will in turn also negatively affect union regulations.
Other countries such as Germany and France have signed or already agreed to sign the act.
“One of my areas of concern is how do we sustain that momentum,” said Chelsea Taylor Slook, a member of the crowd who is against FATCA.
According to Slook, factors such as treaty and constitutional rights might be able to get in the way of FATCA.
“After Bill C-48 and 35, we have to recognize that after 40 years of environmental legislation that are flushed down the toilet, the only standing things that can get in the way are treaty and constitutional rights.”
If passed, FATCA will be effective as of July 1, 2014. But many activists and speakers who gathered in solidarity believe there is a fighting chance to overturn the act.
“This is a government that we need to get rid of,” said Benson.
“This is a government that doesn’t care about the working class.”