TORONTO — Prime Minister Stephen Harper was played "like a chump" in talks that led to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Thursday as he ramped up attacks against both the Conservatives and Liberals over the trade agreement.
At a town hall meeting in Toronto, Mulcair latched onto opposition by Hillary Clinton, saying the U.S. democratic presidential hopeful has joined a growing list of "progressives" across North America who see the 12-country deal as bad for jobs and the families those jobs support.
Mulcair said the Conservatives were duped into accepting a bum deal and it needs to be rejected in Canada, too.
"Hillary Clinton finds that the bar hasn't been set high enough in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement for Americans, and yet we know that the auto deal that the Americans got in the TPP is better than what Stephen Harper was able to get," Mulcair said in front of a room full of supporters in downtown Toronto.
"And you know why? Stephen Harper went into those negotiations two weeks away from a federal general election in an incredibly feeble position," said Mulcair.
"Everyone around that table knew it, and they played him like a chump."
Mulcair launched into a vigorous attack against Harper and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that appeared more personal than any previous comments he's made about his opponents thus far in the campaign.
One day before he is set to unveil his party's full platform in Montreal, the NDP leader accused the Liberals of walking in tandem with Harper's Conservatives, first by voting in favour of much-criticized anti-terrorism legislation, and now by refusing to denounce the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With recent polls suggesting the Liberals may be solidifying their support under Trudeau, but not quite enough to win a majority, Mulcair gave no assurances that his New Democrats would work with a minority Liberal government in the House of Commons.
In fact, Mulcair appeared to push his party further away from his opponents, saying he has become less inclined since the campaign began Aug. 2 to be collegial.
"I've had a chance to know both of my adversaries, Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau, in the House and I can tell you that I try always to have respect for my adversaries," Mulcair said.
"That respect, frankly, is under a great deal of strain these days," he added, accusing Trudeau of being too afraid to oppose the Conservatives on major policies and saying he was "appalled" at how Harper has run his campaign by "playing the politics of race."
The Liberals launched an attack of their own against the NDP, sending party operatives to the NDP town hall to hand out leaflets, which quoted an Ontario New Democrat candidate questioning her own party's fiscal promises.
The NDP has pledged to balance the federal budget, even with new spending proposals on a range of expensive measures from aboriginal education to the party's $15 dollar-a-day child care plan.
Susan Erskine-Fournier, running for the NDP in St. Catharines, Ont., told a local debate Tuesday that the promise to balance the budget "is very risky."
Mulcair has insisted all this week that his fiscal plan is sound, saying the budget can be balanced by eliminating Conservative initiatives, such as tax breaks for large corporations.
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