Trade deal’s contents won’t change, Canadians unlikely to get vote, says Ottawa

OTTAWA – Federal ministers say the text of Canada’s free trade agreement with Europe will be available within the next few months, but Canadians may not be able to vote on it before it gets ratified.

The Harper government, billing the deal as a game changer for Canada, is launching a cross-country sales pitch with ministers, MPs and supportive stakeholders.

But Trade Minister Ed Fast and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggest the agreement will likely be approved by Parliament before voters go to the polls in 2015.

Fast and Baird say Canadians gave the Harper Conservatives a strong mandate to negotiate the deal in the last election, and insist the agreement will get a full debate in the House of Commons.

Both the free trade deal with the United States and NAFTA, which added Mexico, were key issues in federal election campaigns before being subsequently ratified by Parliament.

Fast says although a legal text may be a few months away, he says the parameters of the deal are set and won’t change.

The Council of Canadians, which opposes the pact, says the government’s plan is no substitute for a legitimate debate on the merits of the deal.

The group wants the government to launch public hearings that would give Canadians a chance to shape the contents of the agreement.

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