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Bob Rae thinks he's figured out the Conservative's strategy about a proposed North American perimeter arrangement with the United States: Play it down until it's all signed, sealed and delivered and then spring it on Canadians.

"The Cons don't want anyone talking about this until the deal is done," the Liberal foreign affairs critic told The Globe this weekend. "There would appear to be a draft agreement, and a roll-out plan."

Indeed, the Conservative's strategy seems to have gone slightly awry. A draft proposal of the deal leaked to the press last week; it spells out a border security arrangement, which would attempt to deal with terrorism and the economy.

"We intend to pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at and away from the borders of our two countries in a way that supports economic competitiveness, job creation and prosperity, and in a partnership to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people and goods between our two countries," says part of the draft proposal obtained by The Globe and Mail's Steven Chase.

Despite this and a follow-up report on the communications strategy the Conservative government hopes will ward off criticism of the pact, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon was reluctant to say much - if anything - about the proposed arrangement Sunday on CTV's Question Period.

"You know, our preoccupation is making sure that we get Canadians back in the workplace, we open our borders, we work with the United States, our largest trading partner," Mr. Cannon said. "But, you know, in terms of what this impact is going to have, et cetera, I think this is pure speculation. Until such time as a document is produced, and I don't want to talk about when that document is going to be produced, I think that we should all just breathe a lot more easily and continue to worry about the economy."

In other words, relax and be happy.

Mr. Cannon is meeting Monday with his North American counterparts, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa in Wakefield, Que. Border issues are expected to come up, especially the dangers and problems of the drug trade in Mexico, but it is not clear if the ministers will be able to devote much time to the perimeter issue. (Technically, the file falls under the purview of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.)

Mr. Rae believes the Tories will try to rag the puck on this one, hoping any discussions or debate about it - from Canadians concerned about what it means for sovereignty and the extent of information sharing - calms down.

"They figure they've only got three more Question Periods [the House is to rise Friday for the Christmas break but MPs could leave as early as Wednesday]before they leave for six weeks … so there will be more of these bromides for the next three days," the Liberal MP told The Globe.