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Conservatives trumpet EU trade deal to draw attention from Senate

Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, October 25, 2013.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Harper government is trying to redirect public attention to its recently-clinched Canada-European Union trade agreement now that a heated battle over suspending three ex-Conservative senators has stolen the spotlight.

To great fanfare, the Tories are going to table a summary of the Canada-EU trade deal on Tuesday in the Commons. They're invited business leaders to watch it take place and eat hors d'oeuvres afterwards.

The Canadian government can't actually present the full trade agreement to Members of Parliament yet because it's not finished. Canada and the EU have struck an agreement in principle but the gritty details of the accord must still be worked out.

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Conservative strategists are also trying to beat back a challenge from opposition party critics who say that Canadians can't be asked to support the deal until the full legal text is available.

"The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, is pleased to invite you to view the tabling of the Canada – Europe Free Trade Agreement-in-Principle in the House of Commons, Parliament Hill at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013," the invitation to dignitaries reads.

"A reception with the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs will follow at 3:15pm."

The Tories are currently mounting a massive PR effort to sell the deal to Canadians, including publishing a 44-page summary of the benefits of the accord with the 28-member EU.

Friday alone, more than a dozen federal cabinet ministers have fanned out from Halifax to Vancouver to speak in favour of the deal:

  • Mr. Fast and Industry Minister James Moore are speaking in Vancouver and Employment Minister Jason Kenney is pitching the accord to a Calgary audience.
  • Health Minister Rona Ambrose is talking up the deal in Edmonton and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is speaking in favour of the agreement in Lloydminster, which straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • Canadian Heritage Minister Shelly Glover and Minister of State for Social Development Candice Bergen are backing the deal at the Winnipeg airport.
  • Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is making an appearance in Ottawa to publicize the agreement and Public Works Minister Diane Finley is touting its benefits in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
  • Rob Moore, Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is holding an event at a Fredericton airport and Justice Minister Peter MacKay is pitching a Halifax audience on the accord’s benefits.
  • Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay is speaking in support of the deal at a Toronto business roundtable and Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal will tout the agreement’s achievements at a Brampton, Ont., board of trade event.
  • Finally, Kevin Sorenson, Minister of State for Finance is publicizing the deal in Calgary.
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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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