POLITICS
01/21/2020 11:47 EST | Updated 01/21/2020 16:51 EST

New NAFTA, Gun Control High On Liberals’ Agenda Ahead Of Parliament’s Return

The prime minister says he's looking for "common ground" in the minority Parliament.

Sean Kilpatrick/CP
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Jan. 17, 2020.

WINNIPEG — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the way Canadians have supported each other throughout the snowstorm in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as mourning the deaths of so many on board a downed passenger jet in Iran, will inform how his Liberal government approaches politics.

“Canadians at our best, in difficult times, are there for each other,” Trudeau said Tuesday in Winnipeg after wrapping up a three-day meeting of his federal cabinet.

“We lean on each other, we support on each other through challenges and that’s very much the approach that Canadians have shown us all over these past weeks,” he said. “And it is certainly the approach with which we will engage in the House of Commons, looking to find common ground with our colleagues in the House, looking to work together on bringing forward real measures to help Canadians.”

Earlier: Trudeau says feds won’t let provinces nix handgun ban

 

Ratifying the new North American Free Trade Agreement will be a top priority for the Trudeau government when Parliament resumes next week.

The government will 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.

Legislation to ban military-style assault rifles will also be high on the agenda for the first extended sitting of Parliament since the Oct. 21 election reduced Trudeau’s Liberals to a minority.

Every measure will require support from at least one major opposition party to pass; a defeat on matters of confidence, such as the coming budget, would topple the government.

The Liberals can probably rely on the support of the Conservatives to win ratification of the new NAFTA, despite the fact that the Tories have accused Trudeau of caving in to concessions demanded by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The NDP and the Bloc are likely to oppose NAFTA, but are expected to support efforts to strengthen gun control.

On Monday, government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said ratification of the new NAFTA is “an absolute priority” — a view echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was the lead minister throughout the tortuous negotiations to renew the continental trade pact and who remains responsible for seeing it across the finish line.

“The new NAFTA was ratified last week by the U.S. Senate, it was ratified before Christmas by Mexico. Now it’s Canada’s turn,” Freeland said.

“I think that is very important for certainty in the Canadian economy, very important for millions of Canadian workers, of Canadian businesses, of Canada families.”

Rodriguez called upon opposition parties to ratify the deal “as quickly as possible.”

“I think we should send a strong message that we are united in the ratification of this very, very important agreement,” he said.

The government did introduce a ratification bill last year, but did not forge ahead with it, preferring not to get ahead of the ratification process in the United States. The bill died when the election was called.

During the campaign, the Liberals promised a number of measures to stiffen gun control in Canada, including banning assault rifles and empowering municipalities to ban handguns if they so choose.

Bill Blair: ‘The prohibition of the assault-style rifles... is an important step’

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Monday that the government will be able to move on some measures faster than others.

“The prohibition of the assault-style rifles I think is an important step that perhaps could be accomplished in the near term,” he said.

“The arrangements on any potential buy-back (of assault rifles) ... will take a little bit more time because I think it’s really important that we get good value for the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars and, at the same time, I’m very mindful that we’re dealing with law-abiding Canadians and I want to make sure that they’re treated fairly and respectfully.”

Blair said part of the discussions about the coming budget will involve how much money is available for programs for communities and kids aimed at preventing gun violence.

He noted that many municipalities went through “a very difficult summer” last year with a spate of shootings, and indicated that he’s hopeful new investments will be made before next summer.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 21, 2020.