VANCOUVER — Tom Mulcair criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and emphasized New Democrat roots in one of his first public speeches to supporters since being demoted to a federal third-party leader.
Mulcair told the Canadian Union of Public Employee's national convention on Friday that his party will be a strong, progressive opposition and hold the federal Liberal government to account.
"Canadians can count on us to do that, because there are major challenges on the horizon," he said.
The party is concerned about the TPP, Mulcair said, because details have been slow to emerge and the agreement may cost thousands of manufacturing jobs.
"We have to get back to good-paying jobs in Canada," he said.
Just before he was given a standing ovation from union members, Mulcair promised the NDP would fight to protect their jobs and worker's rights.
"Know that New Democrats have your backs," he said.
Mulcair said the party will continue to uphold the values of such leaders as Jack Layton and former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, including free universal health care and environmental protection.
Canada's health care system is something all residents should be proud of, Mulcair told media after the speech.
"But there are a lot of cuts that were imposed by the Conservatives and we want to make sure that we hold the new Liberal government's feet to the fire, make sure the money's there for the future of health care in Canada."
Mulcair said he'll also be keeping a close eye one the Liberal's approach to climate change. He applauded United States President Barack Obama's decision to reject the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have shipped between Alberta and the American Gulf Coast.
"I'm very satisfied that President Obama has come to the same conclusion as us, which is that it's not a good project," he said, adding that the decision sends a strong signal heading into climate talks in Paris later this month.
Some of Mulcair's election promises, including a plan not to run a deficit, met with criticism from some party members for straying from traditionally New Democrat values.
But the leader said he's proud of the principled campaign his party ran, despite the results which saw the caucus dwindle to 44 members.
"Our base is very satisfied that we ran a strong, principled campaign," Mulcair told reporters. "They saw that in us and they always understood that the NDP is in favour of removing inequality in our society and creating opportunity."
He noted that campaign promises such as universal childcare and a $15 per hour minimum wage spoke directly to the party's traditional social democratic values.
"That's the NDP. That's our history, that's who we are," Mulcair said.
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