New North American trade deal bill coming next week: PM

The Liberal government will table legislation to implement the trilateral trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today.

Trudeau, speaking at a news conference after a three-day cabinet retreat in Winnipeg, said pushing forward with the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is the government’s most pressing priority, as millions of jobs depend on the new trade pact.

“On Monday, we will present a ways and means motion, and on Wednesday we will table legislation to ratify the deal,” he said.

With a minority government, the Liberals need support from another party to pass legislation in the House. Trudeau expressed the hope that all parties will negotiate and come together on ratification.

“On NAFTA, those discussions will of course engage and activate as we accelerate, as we move forward with the ratification process in the House,” he said.

“What we are doing is reminding everyone in the House and across the country of how important it is to secure the most important trading relationship for future generations.”

Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said that while her party is “the party of free trade … we expect the Liberals to provide for proper due diligence by allowing Parliament to study the impacts that the deal will have on important sectors of our economy, such as auto, agriculture and aluminum.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also said New Democrats want to see the fine print.

“How can Canadians trust the Liberals to get this right when they spent months saying they had the perfect deal and mocked us for saying it needed to be changed?” Singh said in a statement released by his office. “Now they’re trying to take credit for changes they said were impossible.

“[Canadians] can count on us to look carefully at this agreement. We’re going to discuss it in caucus and in the debate in the house and see if it actually delivers for Canadians.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said his caucus members won’t agree to swift passage of CUSMA unless they’re convinced it’s a good deal for Quebec.

“If Mr. Trudeau expects of us to go against what are obviously the best interests of the regions of Quebec, he will not be happy with my answer. It will be no,” he said. “There will be no fast-track, whatever it requires. It will not happen.”

During the meetings in Winnipeg, cabinet ministers heard from expert guest speakers on the state of the economy, the fight against climate change and pressing global affairs. Ministers also drilled down on individual files linked to the government’s top priorities.

Ratifying the so-called NAFTA 2.0 — the trade deal known domestically as CUSMA — tops that list.

“This is an absolute priority, not only for the government but for our workers, our industries, people from all provinces,” said Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez Monday.

“So I call upon the opposition to support us to make sure we ratify this as quickly as possible.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who led the NAFTA renegotiation talks and is in charge of pushing it past the finish line, noted that the agreement was ratified by the U.S. Senate last week and by Mexico before Christmas.

“Now it’s Canada’s turn,” she said, adding that debate and ratification of the agreement is crucial for ensuring stability in the Canadian economy.

Assisted death bill in February

New legislation on medical assistance in dying (MAID) is also at the top of the Liberal legislative agenda. Justice Minister David Lametti said this week he plans to table a bill in February.

While not offering details on when a bill might be on the way, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said new gun control measures are another key government goal for the session.

The government continues to consult with various stakeholder groups, municipalities and law enforcement agencies in order to keep a campaign commitment to allow communities to control or ban handguns, and to prohibit military-style assault weapons.

Blair said Monday that the legislation must be flexible enough to adapt to different needs across the country.

“We know that the environments in different parts of the country are varied, and it’s important, I think, to make sure that the laws that we bring forward are effective in every place in keeping communities safe,” he said.

As the ministers were holed up in closed-door meetings, they were also dealing with other pressing external issues.

Blizzard response

The government responded to a request from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball to assist in snow clearing operations after a massive blizzard. About 300 troops were deployed to the province.

Also hanging over the cabinet retreat were questions about Iran’s willingness to surrender the flight recorders recovered from the crash of Flight PS752 over Tehran, which killed 57 Canadians and 29 permanent residents of Canada. Iran initially said it would release the black boxes to Ukraine or France, but recent reports suggest that may no longer be the case.

Today, Trudeau said Canada continues to “pressure” Iran to turn over the black boxes to a third country, such as France.

“It is not simply a question of having the right experts in place to analyze the black boxes. There is the question of significant technological requirements that cannot be done in Iran,” he said.

“That is why we are calling upon Iran to release the black boxes to a reliable third country that has the technological capacity and personnel to properly analyze those boxes.”

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne held a call Monday with the International Co-ordination and Response Group (ICRG) made up of representatives from Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, the countries that lost citizens in the crash. In a readout after the call, Champagne said Iran had been co-operating with foreign experts in the investigation “to date.”

“Members of the ICRG call on Iran to move the black boxes to a facility with all the technology and expertise required to quickly and reliably download and analyze the data without delay,” the readout said.

Trudeau will end the week with more meetings with his Liberal caucus in Ottawa.


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