OTTAWA — Tom Mulcair says Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is going along with what the NDP leader calls Stephen Harper's job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, telling voters he's the only one who can ensure a better agreement for Canadian workers.
Campaigning Sunday in British Columbia, Mulcair accused the prime minister of desperately signing on to a secret trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim partners simply to have something to announce on the election trail.
"They all saw him coming,'' Mulcair said. "So guess what, we didn't get a good deal for Canadian families.''
With just over a week to go in the federal campaign, the middle day of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend was relatively quiet. Trudeau and Green party Leader Elizabeth May had no public campaign events; Harper kept a low profile in Ontario, visiting a pumpkin patch in Markham and attending a fall fair in Woodbridge.
During their stop in Markham, Harper and family had just embarked on a ride around the farm — they were well out of earshot — when another group of families arrived. Spotting the media and realizing who they'd just missed, they started a mocking chant: "Trudeau, Trudeau.''
A great many voters had more than Thanksgiving turkey on their minds this weekend. Elections Canada estimated that some 780,000 people voted Saturday, the second day of advance polls. That brought the total for the first two days of advance polls to 1,642,000 — a 34 per cent increase over the first two days of advance voting in the 2011 ballot.
Harper has hailed the Trans-Pacific deal — the text of which has yet to be released — as a means of ensuring Canadian access to a market of nearly 800 million people.
Critics have raised concerns about what the agreement will mean for Canada's dairy and auto sectors, the price of medicine, copyright protection and the ability to ensure sensitive data does not cross borders.
Trudeau — unlike the NDP — would back the Conservatives on a pact that threatens tens of thousands of jobs and promises to drive wages down, Mulcair said during a Nanaimo rally. "New Democrats will not be bound by Stephen Harper's secret deal.''
Trudeau has said the Liberals support free trade and will carefully examine the Trans-Pacific deal, touted as the largest trade agreement in history.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CTV's Question Period, Trudeau hinted he'd like to see an even more global approach to commerce, saying it's "important for economies throughout the world to be engaged in trade deals like this.''
"This is what we're going to look at, and of course we will work with all of our trading partners as a country to ensure that things move forward in the right way.''
Mulcair says the New Democrats back free trade, too, but want to forge a better deal for Canada with the Trans-Pacific partners. He insists that's a realistic expectation — pointing to U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's reservations about the deal.
The NDP also rolled out a new ad urging voters to "stop Harper and his TPP.''
The Liberals took a swipe at the Mulcair, saying he is condemning the trade agreement only to recover from his misguided decision to promise a balanced budget and eliminate the deficit at any cost.
"It means he can't invest in the middle class or the economy,'' Liberal candidate John McCallum said in a statement. "While the NDP focuses on Harper-style negative attack ads, Justin Trudeau is focused on his positive, hopeful campaign for real change after 10 years of Conservatives.''
Although Trudeau was not campaigning Sunday he did go to a Salvation Army kitchen in Ottawa to help prepare Thanksgiving dinners.
— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter.
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