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Conservatives may back bill to ratify CUSMA but continue push for more details: Strahl

What’s on the agenda as MPs return to the House of Commons?
WATCH ABOVE: MPs Mark Holland, Mark Strahl and Laurel Collins join Mercedes Stephenson to discuss Canada’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, what impact the Conservative leadership race is having on the party and Parliament, and whether CUSMA has the support of the opposition.

Conservatives aren’t looking at the ratification of the new NAFTA trade deal as a chance to bring down the government, says chief opposition whip Mark Strahl.

But he says they want more information about the sectors that will be impacted by the deal, and they want to see the government take those requests seriously.

“What we have said is we are the party of free trade,” said Strahl in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson.

“We’re not holding up this potential threat to bring down the government over NAFTA.

“That said, we have asked for specific analyses to be provided to us on sectors that are negatively affected —forestry, agriculture, aluminum, steel — and that information hasn’t been forthcoming.”

READ MORE: Liberals will introduce bill to ratify new NAFTA next week: Trudeau

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Strahl said the opposition has been asking for those details but the Liberals have not provided them.

And he said the refusal suggests the Liberals have not fully grasped that they are no longer in a majority government.

“We’re calling on the government to give us the data, give us the information that we have been asking for so we can make an informed decision about what the impacts will be,” he said.

“We continue to kind of see this majority Liberal attitude where they don’t think that they have to engage with us in that way. We’re in a minority Parliament, we’ve asked for certain things that we think are extremely reasonable.”

New NAFTA tops agenda when Parliament resumes
New NAFTA tops agenda when Parliament resumes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was reduced from a majority to minority government in the fall election.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: What we know about the Liberal plan for Parliament after the cabinet retreat

While the government signed the renegotiated NAFTA deal with the U.S. and Mexico in 2018, it has not yet ratified the agreement.

The Liberals did table a bill to do so last year before the House of Commons rose for summer break but it died without being passed when the election was called.

In order to ratify the deal — as the U.S. and Mexico have now done — the government must table a new piece of legislation.

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Trudeau said last week that a ways and means motion — a necessary first step before tabling fiscal bills — will come on Monday.

The legislation needed to actually ratify the deal will be introduced on Wednesday.

From there, it’s not clear how quickly the government will be able to move to get that bill through both chambers of Parliament.

READ MORE: Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says party plans to slow down CUSMA ratification

Along with the loss of their majority in the House of Commons, the Liberals also lost their majorities on some committees and could face efforts by opposition MPs from all parties to put the trade deal under closer scrutiny than might have been possible when the Liberals could block opposition proposals.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has so far refused to say whether his party will support the deal.

Laurel Collins, NDP MP for Victoria, also would not say.

“We haven’t seen the enabling legislation. We’ve seen the trade deal but we’re going to be waiting — we’re going to make sure that we’re standing up for Canada, for Canadian workers,” she said.

When pressed on whether that could mean they would vote against ratification, Collins said the party will wait and see.

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“We’re going to wait to look at the enabling legislation and we’re going to make a decision based on what our interests and the Canadian interests are.”