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500 protesters expected in Whistler

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Antiglobalization activists vow to disrupt PNWER meeting

Although the Pacific North West Economic Region is not as big or as influential as the World Trade Organization or the G8, and has no power to create any kind of regional legislation, up to 500 anti globalization activists believe it’s still worthy of a protest.

That’s how many people are expected to make the trip to Whistler for a "day of mass protests" on Saturday, July 28, to protest the PNWER. The goal is to disrupt the conference and show "resistance to global capitalism."

Garth Mullins, one of the key organizers of the Whistler protest told CBC Radio that "any time business leaders and politicians meet, the public has a right to know what is being discussed and to take part." Mullins says the protest will call the public’s attention to the PNWER, which he believes has a free trade agenda. He also hopes to persuade the PNWER to include the public at future meetings.

Activists on an anti-PNWER Web site at www.resistpnwer.org claim that PNWER is a regional trade alliance whose policies and activities reflect the World Trade Organization (WTO), Free Trade Area of the Amercas (FTAA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rulings and regulations.

"PNWER is in support of reducing barriers to trade in the pacific northwest and to ‘link the pacific northwest to the new global economy.’"

Anti-globalization forces believe free trade agreements give multinational companies too much power, making the rich richer and the poor poorer at the expense of culture and the environment.

However, according to PNWER executive director Matt Morrison, "PNWER has no ability to enter into any agreements, nor implement any legislation, for any of its members."

Furthermore, "PNWER has never had any relation or communication with the WTO… PNWER is very concerned with sustainability, and with promoting the sharing of best practices between elected state and provincial legislators. Our goal is to enhance the quality of life for all citizens of the Pacific Northwest."

Membership in the PNWER is not limited to governments, corporations and trade association, but open to non-profit non-government organizations and private individuals. The member governments include B.C., Alberta, Alaska, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and California.

More than 700 delegates are expected to take part in the joint PNWER and Council of State Governments-WEST (CSG-WEST) conference at the Whistler Conference Centre, including Premier Gordon Campbell who delivered the keynote speech at the opening of the conference on Thursday morning.

Governor Dick Kempthorne of Idaho, Governor Jim Geringer of Wyoming, and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci will also speak at the conference.

Sessions at the conference include energy reliability, international exchanges in higher education, a comparison of U.S. and Canadian health care, legislating in a parliamentary system, natural resource management, dispute resolution, agriculture, trade and transportation, tourism, state budgeting practices, telecommunications and U.S. election law reform.

Although Mullins said organizers were planning a peaceful protest, some of the participants are veterans of the APEC protests in Vancouver and the WTO protests in Vancouver, and that the protesters are preparing for the worst if confrontations with the police ensue.

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