Trans-Pacific Partnership text won't be available before election

Canadians won't be able to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before they vote. Just last weekend, Trade Minister Ed Fast said the agreement would be available "certainly before the election."

Government officials say haggling by lawyers from 12 countries delaying release of trade agreement

Trade deal details

8 years ago
Duration 2:54
Trade Minister Ed Fast discusses when text of TPP trade deal will be made public. Candidates Peter Julian and Jody Wilson-Raybould weigh in.

Canadians won't be able to see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before they vote.

Government officials told CBC News on Wednesday that the exact wording of the full agreement in principle announced Oct. 5 won't be finalized until next week. 

The federal election is next Monday, Oct. 19.

Twelve countries have signed on to the Pacific Rim free trade deal in principle, although it will require a separate ratification process in each country before it takes effect.

In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Canada's trade minister said the government was pressing the other 11 countries to release "any form" of the text.

"What I did say is that we're working with our 11 other partners to secure at least a provisional text," Conservative Ed Fast told CBC's Rosemary Barton on Wednesday.

"What I'm saying," Fast said, "I don't have full control over it but I can tell you we've been very, very assertive with our partners explaining to them that Canadians — in the middle of an election — have a right to know what's in the text."

"We have released a summary of all the outcomes that provides Canadians with a glimpse into what this would entail," Fast said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has made the successful conclusion of the TPP talks last week in Atlanta a centrepiece of his campaign for re-election, pointing to it as an example of the Conservatives' sound strategy for economic growth.

He has also committed to putting the TPP agreement to a vote in Parliament. 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said New Democrats won't be bound to the terms agreed to by the Harper government. Justin Trudeau's Liberals say they are broadly pro-trade, but want to see the full text of the deal.

Both Harper and Fast had suggested last week that Canadians wouldn't have to wait long to read the agreement.

"As soon as we possibly can, certainly before the election, we're going to release a provisional text," Fast said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House last weekend.

"I can't give you an exact date, because we want to make sure we get this right, that when Canadians get this information, they see the text, they can be confident that's the agreement that Canada has signed on to," Fast said.

A source attributed the delay to all the countries' various lawyers haggling over wording. Canada continues to request a rapid conclusion to this process, but that now appears unlikely. 

The original timeline for releasing the text was this week, the source maintained.

Government officials noted that in the meantime Canada has released its own background briefing information and summaries of the deal.

Critics and the media have found these materials to be incomplete and departmental officials slow to provide details in response to specific questions.