The Globe and Mail reports, “In a downtown Ottawa speech Thursday morning, International Trade Minister Ed Fast launched a fresh partisan attack on the new Official Opposition… Mr. Fast called Jack Layton’s party ‘reflexively and ideologically anti-trade’, accusing it of acting contrary to the interests of ‘hard-working Canadians’.”
The trade minister stated, “While we are working on behalf of hardworking Canadians to continue to create jobs and economic growth, the NDP – supported by groups and organizations that don’t have the real priorities of hardworking Canadians at heart – can be counted on to advocate outdated policies that if ever implemented would stall growth, kill jobs and set Canadian families back.”
The news report notes, “The Tories can use their majority powers – 166 seats – to limit and curb debate on any bill they want passed. Mr. Fast nevertheless warned a business and government audience that the NDP presents an obstacle to the Harper government’s intent to ‘intensify’ signing of free trade deals. ‘We must realize that we also face real challenges here at home, domestically,’ Mr. Fast said. ‘The new Official Opposition in this 41st Parliament – the NDP – is planning to vigorously oppose our plan for jobs and growth through trade,’ the Trade Minister said. ‘They have opposed every single free trade deal Prime Minister Harper has made and pursued since 2006 and – in their new role as Official Opposition – can be counted on to aggressively oppose and try to block every single step we try to take to advance our pro-trade plan.’ The Conservatives have about a dozen trade deals on their to-do list including a major agreement being negotiated with the 27-member European Union and another FTA with India.”
Trade Minister Fast’s comments are in keeping with Prime Minister Harper’s past comments. On April 28, in the last days of the federal election, CBC reported, “Canada needs a strong Conservative majority to protect trade relations with the U.S., Stephen Harper said… The Conservative leader also used his pro-trade message to again distance his party from the NDP, saying its opposition to foreign trade deals is ‘ideological’… ‘The NDP has opposed every trade deal we have signed,’ Harper said.”
The federal NDP trade critic is now Robert Chisholm (MP for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia), replacing Peter Julian who goes to the Industry critic portfolio. Chisholm is a former Atlantic Regional Director for the Canadian Union of Public Employees and a former leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic party.
The Liberals – who have been supportive of the Canada-EU free trade agreement, the Canada-Colombia FTA, and NAFTA – have appointed Wayne Easter (MP for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island) as their trade critic. The Journal Pioneer reports this week Easter saying, “It’ll be an interesting area to work in. There’s several trade agreements being negotiated with Colombia, the Canada-European trade agreement, and other trade opportunities with China…so it’s a field that’s so very important to our economy and, at the same time, for ensuring we have a balance of being able to trade economically but also not jeopardizing our own sovereign rights.”
The Council of Canadians – in our role as an extra-parliamentary opposition group – will be working with the parliamentary opposition to defeat the Conservative government’s destructive trade agenda.