Thursday, March 25, 2010

Conservatives, Liberals, and the Colombian Free Trade Deal

(Maclean’s – John Geddes)

The government’s decision yesterday [March 24] to accept a Liberal amendment to its free trade agreement with Colombia is being touted by the main architect of the side deal as a case study in how a minority Parliament should work.

Liberal MP Scott Brison, his party’s international trade critic, proposed the amendment to that would see Colombia produce an annual report, with Canadian input, on how the free trade agreement affects human rights. Trade Minister Peter Van Loan accepted Brison’s proposal, and no wonder, since it guarantees that the Conservative minority in the House will now be backed by Liberal votes on this issue, enough to get legislation enacting the trade pact passed.

“The Prime Minister and the government have been receptive,” Brison said in a telephone interview yesterday. “It’s an example where minority parliaments can work productively. There’s a lot of dysfunctionality in this minority, but there are examples every now and then about how it can work.”

That’s an upbeat way of looking at the outcome, and generous toward the Tories for accepting a proposal from across the aisle. But the background to this highly unusual case of an opposition party shaping an international treaty – even negotiating with a foreign government – is interesting as more than a rare success story in bipartisan cooperation. Read more here.