01/22/2020 16:09 EST | Updated 01/22/2020 16:14 EST

Jagmeet Singh Wants ‘Exhaustive Debate,’ Study Before Ratifying New NAFTA

The NDP leader says he wants to take a "thoughtful approach" to the trade pact.

Justin Tang/CP
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands in front of his caucus as he speaks to reporters after the weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa on Dec. 4, 2019.

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he wants to take a “thoughtful approach” to ratifying Canada’s new North American trade deal, 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 says 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.

Watch: Jagmeet Singh in no hurry to see new NAFTA ratified


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 says 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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2020.