- Geoff Donald
2021 Canadian Federal Election and International Trade
Now, I realize that foreign policy rarely impacts on the outcome of Canadian elections and even less so for international trade issues but with less than two weeks to go in the Canadian federal election, I wanted to look at the various Canadian political parties and their positions on international trade.
While only the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party have ever formed government at a national level in Canada it is unlikely that either of them will win a majority government meaning that they will need the support of other parties to pass any legislation. So, I will also look at the other parties that may win seats to the Canadian Parliament. These other parties include the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois, the People's Party, and the Green Party.
This review was done by reviewing each party’s election platform and their sections on trade, international trade, or foreign policy.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, Conservative Party of Canada Leader Erin O'Toole, centre left, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, centre, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. (Andrej Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images, Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, Patrick Doyle/Reuters, Patrick Doyle/Reuters, Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
People Party of Canada
The People Party had zero seats in the House of Commons at the time that the election was called.
The People’s Party mentions international trade in their election platform where they call for “Liberalizing trade with as many countries as possible, while ensuring our security and protecting our economy from the threat of potentially hostile foreign investors.” No other details are provided about how trade liberalization would be accomplished but based on a review of the rest of their platform it can be inferred that trade liberalization would not be done a multilateral basis or through the WTO but instead on a bilateral basis.
Green Party of Canada
When the election was called, the Green Party had 3 seats in the House of Commons.
The Green Party of Canada has not yet released a platform for this election nor does their main party website include a section on issues or positions. A review of their media statements shows that their last comment on the issue of international trade was in 2019 when they called for fair and equitable trade and trade agreements that enshrine human rights, labour rights, consumer standards, health and safety standards and environmental protections.
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party (NDP) had 24 seats in the House of Commons when the election was called.
The NDP have a specific section regarding international trade in their platform titled “Fair trade that grows our economy and benefits more people”. According to this section, “New Democrats support fair trade that broadens opportunity in all areas of the country, while protecting our industries and upholding labour standards, environmental protections, and human rights around the world.”
The NDP platform calls for greater transparency around trade negotiations, opposes investor-state dispute settlement measures, wants to ensure that all trade agreements are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and supports a border carbon adjustment on imports from areas without a carbon price. In addition, their platform also states they will modernize Canada’s trade remedy system and make sure that trade unions have full standing in trade cases and the ability to initiate trade disputes.
When the election was called, the Bloc Quebecois held 32 seats and was the third largest party in the House of Commons.
After conduction a review of the Bloc Quebecois 2021 election platform I could not find a single mention regarding trade or international trade. I looked at the Bloc’s previous stance on international trade agreements to gain a sense of their potential position. While they appear not to oppose free trade agreements outright, they, like other parties, have called for greater inclusion of human rights, labour rights, consumer standards, health and safety standards and environmental protections into trade agreements as well as calling for slower adoption of free trade agreements such as NAFTA and greater support for those producers who may be negatively affected by trade agreements.
Editor Note – The Bloc Quebecois platform is entirely in French, and despite all my time as a French Immersion student, it is possible that I have missed a section in their platform due to translation or comprehension issues.
Conservative Party of Canada
The Conservative Party of Canada was the second largest party in the House of Commons with 119 seats when the election was called.
The Conservative Party has multiple sections in their platform that touch on the issue of trade and trade agreements. In their words, “Canada’s Conservatives believe in the importance of trade agreements to open export markets and create jobs, but we also believe that trade agreements must also respect the interests of Canadian workers and our country’s commitment to human rights, the rule of law, protection of the environment, and respect for Indigenous Peoples.”
In addition to the above statement, the Conservates state that they will adopt trade and investment policies that give democracies priority in the Canadian trade strategy, negotiate trade agreements with free nations, while rebalancing Canada’s trade priorities away from countries like China and towards the Indo-Pacific and Africa.
For trade agreements, the Conservative platform mentions that they will:
Pursue a Canada-Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom (“CANZUK”) agreement that could include free trade and flow of capital investment and reciprocal freedom to study, live and work for citizens.
Continue to pursue free trade with India while concurrently pursuing an investment treaty with that country.
Seek to enlarge the CPTPP deal and pursue setting rules for digital trade through the CPTPP.
Pursue a partnership with Africa’s Continental Free Trade in infrastructure, energy, and technology.
Animate the full potential of the Canada-UK trade deal, encouraging complementary strengths for international joint ventures, employing more Canadians, advancing Canadian products and services, and pursuing robust economic growth.
The Conservative platform also commits to helping Canadian exporters leverage existing agreements and expand their sales abroad, create a strategy to repatriate and diversify supply chains to move them away from China, protect Canadian intellectual property with a strengthened Investment Canada Act, withdraw from the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, advocate for the speedy conclusion of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), work with the US-Japan-Australia “Blue Dot Network” to advance Canadian economic and infrastructure partnerships for the region’s development, and promote the development of rules of free and open digital trade.
Liberal Party of Canada
The Liberal Party was the governing party with 155 seats at time of Parliament’s dissolution for the election. While they were the governing party, they did not have a majority in Parliament and thus were reliant on other parties to pass their legislative agenda. They did not enter in a formal agreement with any other parties and all issues were dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
The Liberal Party platform has a specific section titled “Trade the Works for Everyone”. In that section, they note that Canada’s prosperity depends on preserving open, rules-based trade and that trade is an important part of the Canada’s economic recovery. The platforms notes that under the Liberals they would:
In the Asia Pacific Region, the Liberals would negotiate new bilateral trade agreements, expanding FIPAs, and building stronger economic linkages.
Continue trade negotiations with the Pacific Alliance and pursuing bilateral trade agreements with key partners in the Western hemisphere.
Develop a strategy for economic cooperation across Africa, including support for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, facilitation of increased infrastructure investment, and expanding partnerships in research and innovation.
Other issues relating to international trade in the Liberal platform include a federal hub to help Canadian businesses use existing free trade agreements that Canada has already signed, legislation to eradicate forced labour from Canadian supply chains and ensure Canadian businesses that operate abroad are not contributing to human rights abuses.
The Liberal Party also promises to enhance and expand Canada’s Responsible Business Conduct strategy and ensure Canadian companies and crown corporations are upholding the highest environmental and social standards of corporate governance.