OSHAWA, Ont. — Stark policy differences and personal bad blood with Justin Trudeau makes potential co-operation between either a Liberal — or NDP — minority government difficult, Tom Mulcair said Tuesday.
The NDP leader also dismissed appeals to stop vote-splitting in the run-up to Monday's election, saying only his party has the strength and credibility to defeat the governing Tories.
Mulcair bobbed and weaved around renewed questions over the breadth and depth of possible co-operation between the Liberal and NDP leaders, who've both made it clear in no uncertain terms that they would defeat a Conservative minority at the first opportunity.
Last weekend, Mulcair vehemently ruled out propping up a Stephen Harper-led minority government under any circumstances. He said Tuesday that he would vote against a Conservative throne speech, even if it meant triggering another election.
Trudeau, also on the campaign trail, took a similar tough stand, saying there would be no way he would allow Harper to continue to be prime minister.
The fixation on getting rid of Harper is so strong that little attention is being paid to the kind of awkward and perhaps clumsy dance partners Mulcair and Trudeau would make should Canadians elect anything short of a majority government.
Mulcair was quick to note Tuesday that New Democrats have a "tendency" to work with other parties in the House of Commons, but seemed genuinely put out that previous NDP overtures to the Liberals had been rebuffed.
"It's Mr. Trudeau who takes it upon himself to slam that door shut," said Mulcair, who noted that it was the Liberals who walked away from the 2008 coalition of opposition parties that had been formed to unseat the Conservatives.
And in a sign Mulcair doesn't forget a slight, he harkened back to comments Trudeau made last spring where the Liberal leader said he might be open to a coalition with the NDP, just not one with Mulcair in charge of the party.
"There are no problems in terms of personality," Trudeau told The Canadian Press in an interview on April 14. "Mr. Mulcair is a veteran politician who has proven himself. His style is anchored in the old way of practising politics. Politics needs to be about rallying. And we have very different perspectives on how politics should be practised."
The dig clearly still smarts.
"It's very personal when he says he could work with the NDP, but he could never work with me," Mulcair said later Tuesday. "I'll let him tell you what his priority is. I know what my priority is. My priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper, defeat him and replace him with a progressive NDP government."
Trudeau has spent the campaign attacking him, as opposed to Harper, Mulcair added.
The Liberals fired back in a statement late Tuesday, saying Mulcair is being disingenuous and pointed to new attack ads the NDP has launched against Trudeau.
In terms of policy, the NDP have staked out positions on trade, security and the environment that would make co-operation with the Liberals a rocky affair.
Mulcair repeated his pledge Tuesday to never let the Trans-Pacific Partnership reach the floor of the House of Commons, a potential vote-getting stand in this auto-making city, east of Toronto. The NDP leader pointed to recent suggestions by the autoworkers union that the deal could cost as many as 1,250 jobs in Oshawa.
The NDP want specific targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while the Liberals won't commit to any numbers.
Mulcair said he would repeal the Harper government's controversial C-51 surveillance bill, but Trudeau said he would only strike out the offending provisions.
During a lull in the campaign, Mulcair took time out to meet Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who was recently released from an Egyptian prison after being pardoned on terror-related convictions. He personally thanked the NDP leader, but made it clear his gratitude was not meant to be a political endorsement.
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