The Liberals will kick start the process of ratifying the new NAFTA trade deal when the House of Commons returns next week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke in a press conference from Winnipeg, Man., where the Liberal cabinet has been meeting over recent days.
He said a ways and means motion — a needed first-step for fiscal bills — will be introduced on Monday while the bill to ratify the deal will come on Wednesday.
“Passing the new NAFTA is our priority,” said Trudeau.
“There are too many businesses relying on access to the U.S. market … it’s extremely important that we move forward with ratification and it’s our intention to move forward with this.”
After U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to rip up NAFTA in 2016, the three member countries to the free trade deal began talks to renegotiate it in August 2017. A little more than one year later, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. reached a new deal in September 2018.
Although that renegotiated deal was signed later that year, ratifying it has been a lengthy process.
Mexico was the first country to ratify the deal last summer and while the Trudeau government had tabled legislation to ratify the deal before the House of Commons rose for the summer, it did not end up using that and the bill died on the order paper when the fall election was called.
Since then, the U.S. has also ratified the deal — though it took several tweaks and months of negotiations between the majority Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Republicans that backed the deal negotiated by Trump’s administration.
And while the Trudeau government could have easily fast-tracked ratification if it had done so prior to the election, they may no longer have the ease they enjoyed in getting legislation passed over the last four years.
That’s because the Liberals were reduced from a majority to a minority mandate in the election.
They will now need to work with the other parties in the House of Commons to get any legislation passed given they do not have enough seats to do so alone.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP have raised criticisms of the deal and neither have committed to supporting its ratification.
The Conservatives issued a statement last month saying they did not feel they had received enough clarification from the government during briefings on the content of the new deal in order to guarantee their support.
“The Liberals do not yet seem to recognize the realities of the new minority parliament and are mistaken if they believe that we will simply rubber-stamp the deal,” said a statement issued from their foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole and international trade critic Randy Hoback.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also refused to say last month whether his party would back the deal.
That could leave the Bloc Quebecois holding the fate of the deal if both the other parties vote against it.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault last month implored Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet to help the Liberals ratify the deal.
Blanchet though has said he does not believe the deal does enough to protect Quebec aluminum workers.