Jagmeet Singh says NDP caucus will discuss whether to support new NAFTA

New Democrat MPs will gather in Ottawa today for a two-day planning session to prepare the reopening of the House of Commons next week.

NDP holding 2-day planning session to prepare the reopening of the House of Commons next week

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands in front of his caucus as he speaks to reporters after the weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa in December. New Democrat MPs are gathering in Ottawa for a planning session to prepare ahead of the reopening of the House of Commons. (Justin tang/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he wants to take a "thoughtful approach" to ratifying Canada's new North American trade deal and is calling for an exhaustive review of the agreement before deciding whether the NDP will support it — a move that could slow down the Liberals' plan to get it passed quickly.

Singh was in Ottawa Wednesday to begin a two-day planning session with his caucus before the House of Commons resumes sitting next week.

He told reporters the Trudeau government won't get an easy pass from his party on the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Singh said Canadians were told in the past that Canada got the best deal possible in the initial agreement negotiated with the U.S. and Mexico, but later saw Democrats in Congress make revisions to labour rights and steel and aluminum provisions.

A full debate in the House of Commons and a study at committee will ensure Canadians are getting the best deal possible, Singh said.

"There's still some ongoing concerns about the changes that were made to help protect workers and the environment," he said.

"I'm concerned about the enforceability, and I want to make sure we do an exhaustive debate, a study in committee, to make sure this is a good deal for Canadians."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he wants Canada to move swiftly to formally approve North America's new, long-delayed free trade pact.

His government plans to introduce a motion to apply some of its elements Jan. 27 when Parliament resumes, and will table legislation to ratify the deal two days later.

Getting the deal passed in Parliament will be a priority, Trudeau said.

But NDP MPs are not alone in saying they're in no hurry to ratify.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, whose party holds third-place status in the House of Commons, said his MPs will also push for a full debate and committee hearings on the new deal.

That leaves the ball in the Conservatives' court, as the Liberals need support from least one opposition party to pass any legislation in the current minority Parliament.

Singh said the deal was negotiated in a "behind closed doors, take-it-or-leave-it way" and that Canadians have a right to fully understand all the implications of the trade pact before it's finalized.

He remained on the fence about whether the NDP would ultimately support it.

"If it turns out that this is something that is going to be in the benefit of Canadians, then we'll proceed in the right manner," he said Wednesday.

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