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Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer speaks to reporters during an end of session media availability on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer is accusing the Liberal government of wanting to "appease" China as it aims to negotiate a free-trade agreement, a deal that he says would hurt Canadian workers and businesses.

The opposition leader said controversial Chinese investments – including the acquisition by Hytera Communications of Vancouver satellite-maker Norsat International Inc. – point to a troubling pattern in which Ottawa appears to be overly eager to win Beijing's favour.

"What I'm worried about is that these are steps that the Liberals are doing to appease the Chinese government before free-trade negotiations even start," he told CTV's Question Period in a session that aired Sunday.

Read more: China agrees to stop conducting state-sponsored cyberattacks targeting Canadian private sector

The Liberal government is in exploratory talks with Beijing over whether two sides can negotiate a broad trade deal.

Mr. Scheer – who became Conservative Leader last month – said Canada has a deep trading relationship with China that should continue and even expand.

But he said Canada stands to be the big loser if it gives the kind of preferential access to the Canadian market that a trade agreement would entail. He noted the Chinese economy is dominated by state-owned companies and does not have the kind of securities, environmental and labour standards that exist in Canada.

"To put Canadian manufacturers and workers at a disadvantage to Chinese competition that don't have to play by the same playing rules, that's not in Canada's best interests," he said.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he is worried an alcohol tax in the budget bill would make Canadian producers less competitive globally. The bill would automatically hike excise tax on alcohol by the rate of inflation.

The Canadian Press