Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

What Does a Harper Minority Government Mean for Free Trade?

On October 14, 2008, the Conservative Party of Canada won 143 seats (subject to change upon a few recounts in tight ridings) and Prime Minister Harper won a stronger minority government.  A minority government can be defeated if all the MPs representing other parties defeat a bill (subject to a confidence motion) in the House of Commons.  However, most pundits predict that Prime Minister Harper's minority government has some breathing room and, therefore, may operate like a majority government.

What this means for free trade is that Canada will forge ahead negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) and foreign protection and promotion agreements (FIPAs). Canada will continue to negotiate strong cooperation agreements on labour and the environment.  Any such FTAs and FIPAs and cooperation agreements that were negotiated and signed in 2008 will be passed.  Any FTAs and FIPAs concluded and signed in the next year or two should be passed - this should incentivize Canada's negotiating partners to conclude their agreements with Canada, even if they are not able to extract all the concessions that they would seek in a perfect world.  This also means that should Canada start new FTA and FIPA negotations, they may be passed with little difficulty by the House of Commons - in other words, countries who wish to trade with Canada should approach Canada now while the opportunity for smooth passage is ripe.

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak is an adjunct professor at Case Wester nReserve Univeristy School of Law and teaches a course on NAFTA and bilateral trading arrangements.  Cyndee is Counsel at Lang Michener LLP and can be reached at 416-307-4168.

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