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Stephen Harper is calling the 12-country deal historic. And as it happens, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is landing smack in the middle of the federal election.  Will it help or hurt Canada? And will it help or hurt the parties vying for your vote?  Blair McCreadie, Marit Stiles and Bob Richardson discuss that and more in the ONW Salon.


Marit Stiles:

Well Monday didn't go exactly as the Liberals or the NDP Opposition planned, I dare say. The announcement of the TPP deal eclipsed the Liberals platform release and pretty much everything else. I was at Tom Mulcair's big arts platform announcement in downtown Toronto where Mulcair was flanked by no less than Canadian icon Gordon Pinsent and many other stellar artists ... and the CBC reporter's first question (after Mulcair spoke about the Liberal and Conservative cuts to the CBC) was about the TPP. So, there you go. Ever the professional, Mulcair managed to slam Harper's secret deal while still pivoting back to arts issues.

But the TPP opens up new terrain upon which Tom Mulcair can showcase his experience, depth of policy knowledge, and differentiate himself and the NDP from the other parties. Stephen Harper is pitting one sector against the other. The NDP has said clearly they aren’t going to do that. New Democrats will not be bound by a deal that is bad for Canada. Simple. Straightforward.

It also allows Mulcair to once again attack Harper on his sorry jobs record. 400,000 jobs lost under this government, most in manufacturing and most of those in the auto sector. As Canadians head to the polls, the economy will likely be front and centre and Mulcair was at his best in this campaign pointing out that Canadians can't trust Stephen Harper to protect their jobs. Harper just handed it to him on a golden platter.


Blair McCreadie: 

Well, Marit and I agree on one point.  Through the final two weeks of the campaign, the economy will be front and centre – and, in my view, that only bodes well for the Conservatives.  If Canadians are picking the leader whom they believe has the best plan to promote economic growth and create good, well-paying jobs, then that can only help Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives.  And the TPP announcement gives the Conservatives a good bridge to talk about other trade agreements that have been put in place since 2006, and the 1.3 million jobs that have been created since the 2008-09 recession. 

When voters are focused on pocketbook issues, conservative parties win elections.  And so the TPP announcement is good news, and a good message to take to doorsteps over the next couple of weeks.

But I think that the announcement on the TPP can also give the NDP a bit of a boost, because Mr. Mulcair has articulated a clear anti-TPP position that should allow him solidify his union and anti-free trade supporters.  That may help Mr. Mulcair and the NDP at least slow, if not stop, their recent slide in the polls.


Bob Richardson:

Marit has an interesting take on the TPP. But I think she may have forgotten that her leader said on October 4th "we are enthusiastically in favour of a trade deal with our Pacific partners". There is a whiff of desperation in this latest NDP about face.

The Liberal Party remains very supportive of expanding trade!  The last 12 years we were in office we ran a trade surplus every single month. Trade expands markets and creates good jobs right across the country. In contrast the Conservatives talk a good game but have had trade deficits for the last 50 months in a row, including Canada's largest ever one month trade deficit.

We do however believe the smart and proper thing to do is read the agreement (over a thousand pages) discuss it with the provinces, and with experts and interested parties, before commenting on it in a specific fashion.  That is what the provinces are doing and that is what interests group both for and against are doing as well.

Finally, this will likely not be that critical an issue in this election because this entire process has been so secretive with virtually no information for MP's, the provinces, interest groups or the public.  The secretive, no information, no trust environment created by this government means there is no basis for a full and frank discussion. I think Canadians are not well served by this style and it is time for some transparency, communication and change.


Marit Stiles:

Yeah, I don't know Bob, Liberals have been playing fast and loose with the truth about that statement of Mulcair's. In the clip Bob's referring to, Mulcair also said that Stephen Harper is a weak negotiator and expressed concerns as a result.

Mulcair and the NDP have in fact been very clear in their position: we do need to trade with the Pacific but we cannot trust Stephen Harper to protect Canadian jobs.

Personally, I think it's fair to ask what Stephen Harper traded away so he could get this announcement out during the election. How many families that depend on auto industry jobs will be losing their income?  How many Canadians won't be able to afford life saving medications?

As we find out more about this deal it's increasingly clear that it will lock in higher drug costs for families in every region of Canada. It could mean fewer environmental protections, kill family farms and lead to 20,000 auto families alone losing a paycheque. Harper’s secret trade deal, which Justin Trudeau looks to support, raises significant concerns in the health sector over the long-term price of life-saving medications.  How can the Liberals in good conscience support this deal?

This is not about opposing trade.  This is about negotiating a deal that works for Canadians. The NDP is the only party that won't be bound by the deal and I think that's a great position to be in heading into the last critical weeks of this election.


Blair McCreadie: 

We must be talking trade - because we’re only a few hours in and, based on Marit’s comments, the NDP is already breaking out the “Chicken Little” routine. 

The negotiation process to get here has been long and complex among 12 countries, not to mention countless stakeholder groups.  Undoubtedly, we will have many weeks and months to discuss this agreement as it winds its way through the ratification process among the countries that signed it.  And of course, the TPP will obviously be subject to a full review and approval process before the Canadian parliament.  So, much discussion ahead.

But I think that the exchange here effectively captures the problem for the Liberals in the final two weeks of this campaign:  the Conservatives will ratify the TPP agreement; the NDP will tear it up.  And the Liberals?  Well, they’ll study it.  Give it some thought.  Talk to some people.  And get back to you later on what their position will be. 

Politically, this effectively leaves them squeezed out of the conversation and, in a possibly tight race - may shift the momentum back to the NDP among anti-Conservative voters.  Of all the parties, yesterday’s TPP announcement poses the biggest challenge – and threat – to the Liberals.  


Bob Richardson:

I actually agree with a number of Marit's questions. One of Canada's foremost trade experts, Peter Clark, in a written statement, questioned whether this agreement would get passed by the US Congress. There is opposition from both the right and the left in the U.S. House of Representatives.  So we are a long way from done on this file. Let's do our homework as a country; let's work with the provinces before running off half cocked.

We haven't said we are supporting it but we didn't run out before it was tabled and denounce it like the NDP did.  We said let's be prudent and responsible, study it and respond, and that is what we are doing.

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