Canada election shifts attention to trade deal as race narrows

Mon Oct 5, 2015 2:37pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Trailing in second place two weeks before Canada's election, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a trade pact on Monday that largely protects the agricultural voting bloc, putting pressure on opponents who hope the deal would be a weak spot.

Harper touted the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a good accord that offers only limited access to Canada's politically important farm industry, largely neutralizing an attack from the left-leaning New Democratic Party, which has been sinking in polls.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair derided Harper for backing the 12-nation agreement in the midst of a campaign when the government is supposed to be in a neutral caretaker status.

"It's inconceivable that Stephen Harper signed a secret deal in the midst of an election campaign. He's sacrificing our family farms, he is selling out auto workers," Mulcair said.

Mulcair vowed to stand up against the deal but stopped short of saying he would back out of it if he won the election.

Previously Mulcair had said he would not be bound by the terms of the deal. The NDP's last hope for political victory may be voter anger over free trade.

The centrist Liberal Party, which has edged ahead of Harper in recent days, signaled it would probably support the deal.

"You are either in or out," Harper told a news conference. "We choose to be in because there is simply too much to gain for Canada."   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in Ottawa, Canada October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie