Scheer demands 'emergency' summer session of Parliament to pass TPP trade deal

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding MPs return to Ottawa to hold an emergency session of Parliament to pass legislation that will ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade deal.

Request comes a day after Trudeau shakes up Ministry of International Trade

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is requesting an emergency session of Parliament to pass legislation that would ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is demanding MPs return to Ottawa to hold an emergency session of Parliament to debate and pass legislation that will ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade deal — a request quickly shot down by the governing Liberals Thursday.

"With the North American Free Trade Agreement in jeopardy, and a series of failures on other major trade files, Canada needs to diversify its export markets now. There is no time to wait," Scheer said in a statement.

"The Trudeau Liberals have left this important trade agreement stalled in the House of Commons, delaying its introduction and failing to take steps to advance it."

The leader said the recent imposition of U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports has only "underlined the importance of expanding Canada's trade relationships with the rest of the world."

The deal, which will liberalize trading relations between Canada and 10 others countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, was signed in March and legislation to ratify the deal was introduced in the House of Commons in June.

Shortly after the government introduced the bill, C-79, Conservative MP Ed Fast sought unanimous consent to pass it through all legislative stages in the House of Commons but was blocked by the NDP. The New Democrats are wary of the trade deal, which will reduce or eliminate tariffs on products across a bloc whose trade totalled $356.3 billion last year.

Even if MPs were to return to Ottawa, senators would still have to follow the legislative process of the upper house. Scheer's statement does not mention recalling the Red Chamber.

Scheer's move came a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled key members of his cabinet, putting a renewed focus on international trade and export promotion as trading relations with the U.S. sour in the age of Trump.

Trudeau moved Jim Carr, the Winnipeg-area minister, to the newly renamed Ministry of International Trade Diversification Wednesday.

"This is an opportunity for you and your new minister of international trade to demonstrate to Canadians that you are serious about improving Canada's trade prospects," Scheer said of his request to reconvene Parliament.

'The pedal is pressed firmly on the gas'

The CPTPP will come into effect 60 days after six countries ratify the agreement. So far, only Japan and Mexico have done so.

"We absolutely plan on being among the first six to ratify and are very much on track for that," Joseph Pickerill, a spokesperson for Carr, said in a statement to CBC News. "It was [Carr's] first inquiry and the pedal is pressed firmly on the gas to make it happen.

"We are on the cusp of an unparalleled chapter in Canadian history: we will become the most connected economy in the world. Meanwhile, the Conservatives choose to play games while the NDP choose to put their heads in the sand. Unanimous consent requires a Team Canada approach," Pickerill said.

The U.S., which, under former president Barack Obama, had signed an earlier version of the deal, pulled out after the election of protectionist-minded U.S. President Donald Trump.

Some observers thought the deal — Canada first entered negotiations under the former Conservative government — had been left for dead.

The move forced countries back to the negotiating table. Trudeau was accused of stymying the agreement during a meeting of signatories in Vietnam last November.

Trudeau refused to attend a signing ceremony with national leaders until Canada could force some concessions from the other countries on labour standards, the cultural sector and autos — saying Canada would not be rushed into a deal just because of pressure from its partners. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who previously served as international trade minister, secured a trade agreement with Europe in 2016.

Like the original TPP, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed by the former Harper government, but the deal ran into trouble after some countries raised concerns about the pact's investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

Ninety-five per cent of the deal is in force, but more than a dozen countries in Europe still haven't ratified CETA meaning some aspects of the agreement have yet to take effect.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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