OTTAWA – The House of Commons has officially resumed for the first full legislative sitting of the minority Trudeau government, and the top priority is quick passage of the new NAFTA.
The Liberals kicked things off by putting forward a ways and means motion in the House to ratify the deal, and served notice for the main bill, which will be introduced on Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has written to federal party leaders, calling for a rigorous debate but quick passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, after some opposition parties said they would not rubber stamp it. She is calling on opposition parties to help quickly pass the legislation, saying it’s up to them now since it will only pass with opposition support.
“It is entirely now up to Canadians to decide. Are we ready to end the uncertainty and to move forward? I very much hope and believe the answer should be yes,” she said.
Both the Bloc Québécois and NDP have said they will not allow the government to fast track the trade pact, adding they want to see extensive studies.
However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has clarified his intent isn’t to slow down the process.
“We’re not going to, in any way, delay the bill. What we want to do is have a wholesome and full debate, and that’s up to the Liberals, to give it the priority that they believe it deserves,” he said, adding he wants a thorough investigation.
“Well, that includes debate in parliament, that includes committee and that committee stage involves analysis and folks coming forward and putting in their input,” Singh said.
Conservatives have concerns but stress the need for economic confidence with the passing of the deal.
Ahead of Parliament being back in session, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the new NAFTA needs to be approved resolutely and rapidly, and that millions of jobs are dependent on improving access to Canada’s largest trading partners.
“The predictability we have for businesses, for investors, and mostly for workers and families across the country is essential, particularly in a time where the world has gotten less predictable and more challenging in so many ways,” he said at a caucus meeting last week.
Meanwhile, chambers of commerce, provincial governments, and many of Canada’s mayors have called for swift ratification.
Both Mexico and the U.S. have given the USMCA the green light.
Other big issues for the spring sitting of Parliament will be gun control, pharmacare, and, of course, the Conservative leadership race.