Atlantic-wha?

Mike Fleury on what it all means.

Does anyone really understand Atlantica? I mean, honestly. For all the window-breaking and paint-bombing over the past week, who among us has a clear picture of what Atlantica proposes? What did last weekend's conference actually accomplish?

John Jacobs has spent quite a bit of time struggling with such questions. Along with Scott Sinclair, Jacobs was the co-author of Atlantica: Myths and Realities, an independent critical assessment of Atlantica published last February by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

"It's still very difficult to figure out exactly how this will impact the region. It's quite disconcerting," he says. "If you don't tell people in a concrete sense what it is and what it's about, people will fill in the gaps with their own suspicions—rightly or wrongly.

"Our research has found that would make our region a conduit of traffic and trade originating from outside our region—we would primarily be a corridor through to the heartland of the US. It's not so much about trade between New England and Atlantic Canada, as they say it is," Jacobs explains. "That seemed to be confirmed at the conference. But, whether that's good for the region as a whole is the much more contentious point."

The biggest news from last week, according to Jacobs, is the federal government's pledge of $558,000 towards a new council to promote the proposed trade zone.

"It's worth noting the amount of money they received. Think of any organization having access to that kind of money—it gives them some influence to promote the lobby, basically."

As for Atlantica clarity, Jacobs, like most of us, is still searching for a clearer picture.

"In the past there's been much speculation about a broader policy agenda—turning our region into a conduit for energy export, attacks on minimum wages and unions. It's come up a lot in the past, and they didn't talk about it a lot during last week's panel discussion," he says. "But if that's really not what Atlantica is about, the organizers need to state it very clearly. And that hasn't happened."

Sweet Just-Us-tice

Speaking of fair trade, economics and sweet, nourishing caffeine (let it go; we need the segue), Just Us! Coffee Roasters would love to sell you a sweet, nourishing cup of fairly-traded joe from their new location at 5896 Spring Garden Road, in the old Unicef building.

But they can't. Because you can't sell coffee in a Victorian home without a permit. Just Us! shop owner Ned Zimmerman offers this explanation:

"The building is a registered heritage property, which puts some limits on what we can do," he says. "We've been operating under a development agreement that makes us a retail space." Even so, food-and-drink sales are prohibited. No drinks = no coffee, and no coffee = boooo!

"For the moment, we're giving out free samples and accepting donations to Amnesty International," explains Zimmerman. It's a temporary solution—Just Us! still plans to become a fully-functional café. Peninsula Community Council will have a hearing about the future of the property on July 9 at 7pm in city hall. The public is welcome to attend.

"There's a two-week appeal period after this goes to council, so we're looking at roughly July 23 as the opening date," says Zimmerman. If you're pro-joe, you can swing by the Spring Garden location (or visit the Just Us! Café on Barrington Street) and sign a petition of support.

Give me my morning jolt. Email: mikef@thecoast.ca.

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