Liberals are accusing Thomas Mulcair of flip-flopping on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in part because the NDP leader said at the start of the campaign that his party was "enthusiastically in favour" of a deal.
However, a short video released by the Liberals Monday, accusing the NDP of "transparent politics," only tells part of the story.
Thomas Mulcair Flip-Flop on TPP, it's just transparent politics: https://t.co/RqkJ4Rh4Na— Liberal Party (@liberal_party) October 5, 2015
Mulcair did tell reporters on Aug. 4 that the NDP supported a trade deal with Canada's Pacific partners, but he also expressed reservations about the fact that negotiations would be happening during a campaign.
"What is going to be on the table with Mr. Harper negotiating that right in the middle of an election campaign?" Mulcair said. "He's weak, he's vulnerable, he was never a very good negotiator to begin with, but we're concerned about very important subjects."
The NDP leader brought up concern at the time about Canada's supply management system that controls domestic production of eggs, dairy, and poultry, and protects against foreign producers with high import tariffs.
"Supply management is something that has allowed Canadian farming families to hold on to their farms despite the ups and downs," he said.
Mulcair announced last weekend that the NDP would not be bound by the trade pact if they form government in two weeks — or any agreements signed by Tories during the federal election.
The move was seen by some as a change of strategy and tack away from a centrist campaign.
At an event in Toronto Monday, Mulcair was asked about his earlier "enthusiasm" for a TPP deal. The NDP leader said that trade deals forged on an "even playing field" among countries with similar labour and environmental laws can produce good things.
But you have to make sure that the deal isn't going to negatively affect Canada, he added.
Mulcair noted that Canadian auto workers' union Unifor is already predicting 20,000 auto industry jobs could be lost because the TPP deal will allow for tariff-free movement of vehicles with as little as 45 per cent domestic content.
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, an auto part needed to have 60 per cent North American content to remain duty free.
"Every one of those 20,000 jobs is a Canadian family that loses their livelihood and the NDP will stand up for those families," he said, raising his voice.
A reporter asked Mulcair if the potential impacts to the auto sector were enough for him to say Canada should not be part of the agreement.
"If elected, Canada will not be part of an agreement that removes 20,000 Canadian jobs. Period," he said.
Mulcair later said he would leave it to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to convince voters that losing 20,000 jobs is a good thing.
The NDP leader faced so many questions about the TPP Monday that some of his supporters started to heckle reporters.
Liberal candidate: 'Thomas Mulcair will say whatever is convenient'
Incumbent Liberal John McCallum, running again in the Ontario riding of Markham-Thornhill, sent a media release with a link to the video. He accused Mulcair of saying whatever is "convenient."
"He pretends to oppose TPP today, but he was 'enthusiastically in favour' of it at the beginning of this campaign," McCallum said. "It's just transparent politics."
Trudeau was asked Monday in Waterloo, Ont. what he thought of the deal. The Liberal leader said his party has always been "resolutely pro-trade" and lauded the fact that the deal includes three of Canada's largest trading partners.
However, Trudeau said he has "deplored from the very beginning" Harper's "secrecy" concerning negotiations.
"The quick answer: we are a pro-trade party," Trudeau said. "We will take the responsible time to look at the provisions, to hear from Canadians on the impact of this deal and we will make the right decision for Canada."
On Sunday, Mulcair toured six different ridings in Southwestern Ontario that his party hopes to turn from Tory blue to orange. At each stop, Mulcair said his was the only party with the backbone to walk away from the TPP if it does not protect supply management, manufacturing, and the right of Canadians to buy prescription drugs at a decent price.
NDP press secretary Kiavash Najafi suggested on Twitter Monday that if TPP is the battle for the remaining weeks of the campaign, then Southwestern Ontario represents the battleground.
With files from The Canadian Press
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