Vancouver Island North MP touts free trade and balanced budget

Conservatives sign a tentative free trade agreement with the European Union

North Island MP John Duncan wanted to talk about the Throne Speech and the Conservative Party’s commitment to a balanced budget in 2015, but bigger news overshadowed the day.

“This is an extraordinary agreement. This is really important for Canada,” Duncan said during a phone interview Friday from Ottawa.

Friday was defining moment for the Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper who signed a tentative free trade agreement with the European Union.

“A lot of pundits said we would never get this deal done…and now there’s some nitpicking over the agreement,” said Duncan.

“But this gets rid of all tariffs and opens up a market of 500 million people to our cheese makers.”

Some Canadian cheese makers, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, are alarmed at the higher volume of European cheese that will be allowed into Canada.

However, Duncan pointed out that Courtenay’s award-winning Natural Pastures cheese makers already sell their products internationally and when the agreement is presumably ratified, they will have better access and no tariffs.

“They’ll have no restrictions,” he said.

It will take a couple years before the deal is ratified by the European Union – the deal needs to be translated into 24 languages – as well as Canada’s provincial and territorial governments.

And it could take several more years before all the tariffs and restrictions come down.

In the end, said Duncan, it should mean better access to products and goods for both sides.

As for the Throne Speech, Duncan said the government is committed to balancing the budget by 2015 with the overall goal of creating jobs, lowering taxes and improving finances for Canadian families.

And as the North Island MP continued to talk, the distinct sound of shouting voices was easily heard in the background.

“It’s another protest on the front lawn. There’s a different protest every day,” he said. “I’m not sure who it is today.”