I couldn't believe it when I heard it on the radio this morning. On the first day of the debate regarding the Reply to the Speech from the Throne, Stephen Harper doesn't face off against Tom Mulcair -- by tradition it's the Opposition Leader that starts the debate. Nope. Harper hightails it to Brussels to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.
Sure it's taken long enough to finalize the treaty, which came down to of all things dairy and meat products. There is a big concern that with the reduction of tariffs there could be a huge hit for dairy farmers, although beef producers stand to gain big. (Although I think paying 30% more for pizzas and nearly triple for cheese as Americans do is ridiculous.) And I do think that despite its shortcomings it will have a major net benefit for Canada, especially with labour mobility provisions.
But why the rush to sign it now? Could not have Harper waited twenty four hours to discuss in more detail how he intends to implement the current round of policy planks before going to Europe? Is it really necessary to sign an agreement on Friday? Oh right, it will be mid-morning their time, about three hours before the markets open here. The Canadian dollar needs to go back up to par after all -- after the debt cliff in the States this past week.
This action, picking Europe over Canada, is contempt of Parliament of the kind that is worse than touching the Mace. If you can't defend you own policies at the start of a legislative session, then how much longer can we trust the Prime Minister on anything? I wonder if Harper knows what patriotism means -- and I'm not talking about continuing to commemorate the War of 1812 which did not produce a "winner".
If Harper's going to be this disregardful, then at least CETA should be put up to a free vote in both chambers. This is something where the people's representatives need to decide without the crack of a whip which Harper has had a firm grip of far more than any other Prime Minister in our history.
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