On January 9, the Superior Court ruled in favour of the French multinational Alstom, specialized in energy and rail transport infrastructures, which prosecuted the Société de transport de Montréal (STM). By this legal action, Alstom contested the Quebec government’s decision to grant the 1,2 billion-dollar contract for the replacement of the Montreal metro cars to Bombardier Transport, without calling for tenders.
Since it ratified the free trade agreements in 1996, Quebec is bound by the obligation to include in its domestic laws the principles contained in these agreements, including the obligation to call for tenders for contracts which exceed a certain amount: $100,000 in this case. Although Alstom has a place of business in Canada, the multinational does not necessarily have the facilities for the production of metro cars in Canada. It would probably need to outsource to foreign companies.
The Superior Court’s decision is a good illustration of the impact of trade agreements: the right of companies to compete, called “free trade”, now has precedence over the collective interests of citizens. In the past, the government could choose to grant a contract to a company on its territory in order that all may benefit from the economic spin-offs and the jobs created. This is no longer the case, for a multinational must not be deprived of the opportunity to obtain a 1.2 billion-dollar contract!
In order to counter those that believe that profit should dominate all other considerations, the Federation works to promote a society which recognizes the primacy of human rights over economic interests. This opposition to the neoliberal view of the world was also at the origin of the World Social Forum which first met in 2001. Citizens groups and organizations around the world have been meeting each year since then to develop strategies for social change. Their slogan: “Another world is possible.” In 2008, the annual meeting was replaced by a global day of action. Thus, on January 26, various actions were organized by organizations around the world that fight for social change. In Quebec, unions, community organizations, students’ and women’s groups reiterated their right to dream of another world with the slogan “La neige brûle.”
During this month of anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, who spoke the famous words “I have a dream…”, it is important to remember that dreams have often been the motor of social change. As a matter of fact, the January 26 global day of action in Montreal closed with the following words, drawn from the Call to solidarity by social movements: “It’s true, we are dreamers, because we believe that to dream is an essential duty, that people have to look past fiscal reasoning and the commercial mindset, that another world is possible, and that big ideas will always bring people together and push them to put their best foot forward.”