10/21/2013 20:49 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 18:58 EST

Political Traction: CETA gains national attention

The Canada-EU trade deal gained national traction this past week, but Stephen Harper would have generated even more interest if he signed the deal on Canadian soil, according to Jaime Watt of Navigator Limited.

The Prime Minister flew to Brussels a day after the throne speech to sign the agreement in principle on Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.

"Canadians understand the more trade opportunities we have, the better we do," Watt said on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Monday.

But by signing the deal in Canada, Harper would have further reinforced the trade opportunities for Canadians, Watt said. 

Watt tracks media and other sources to determine which issues are gaining the most attention in Ottawa, and then compares that to the issues' traction with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

He said the Canada-EU trade agreement gained 46 per cent of the conversation across Canada last week, and 43 per cent in Ottawa.

By comparison, the throne speech itself grabbed only 24 per cent of the conversation in Canada, but garnered 47 per cent traction in Ottawa. Native anti-fracking protests in New Brunswick that led to clashes with police was the third-most talked about issue last week, at 30 per cent traction across Canada versus 10 per cent in Ottawa.

In commentary on the trade deal, Ottawa pundits focused on the conflict between the government and groups unsatisfied with the deal, such as Canadian dairy farmers, Watt said. 

It's estimated that the agreement would allow about 29,000 tonnes of European cheese to be sold in Canadian supermarkets, more than double the current allowance.

Canadians, on the other hand, were concerned about the impact on jobs and consumer products, according to Watt.