OTTAWA — Fearing political trickery, the Liberals and the NDP summarily rejected Thursday's offer by the federal Conservative government of a line-by-line briefing on the text of the newly minted Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The offer — refused almost as quickly as it was made public — made clear that the text of the deal, first promised last week within a matter of days by Trade Minister Ed Fast, wouldn't be out before Monday's federal election.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the text is still being crafted by Canada and its 11 Pacific Rim partner countries and will be released as soon as it is available. But he offered no other details.
"The 12 countries continue to work on that," Harper said. "We have released detailed summaries, detailed chapter summaries. We will release the text as soon as it is available."
A spokesman for Fast refused to elaborate.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he could not agree to "a private briefing that leaves Canadians in the dark."
He accused Fast of breaking his "promise" to publicize the deal.
"Instead of openness and transparency, Canadians are learning details through leaked information and the government's own self-serving promotional efforts. That's not acceptable," Mulcair said in a statement.
In a letter to Harper, Liberal candidate John McCallum also sent his party's regrets, calling the invitation "a political ploy."
"The requirement to sign a confidentiality agreement and retain information 'under embargo' does not meet the Liberal Party of Canada's high standard for transparency," he wrote.
Further, it would be impossible to hold a meaningful analysis of the 1,500 page agreement in just 90 minutes, McCallum added.
"Due to your continued lack of transparency and refusal to be straight with Canadians, we will not participate in your political games."
The Liberals released a copy of an emailed invitation that the party received shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday from the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, inviting them to a "detailed, chapter-by-chapter technical briefing" of the TPP agreement on Friday.
Earlier, Harper said detailed summaries of the deal have already been released, while representatives of specific sectors of the economy have seen the sections that apply to them.
He said the TPP has received overwhelming support among Canadian businesses.
Mulcair has said he wouldn't be bound to the TPP if Canadians elect an NDP government, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called on the government to be more transparent about the deal.
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