Friday, October 9, 2015 - 09:16

Canada Electn Watch: TPP Deal a Possible Wedge Issue in Electn

By Dale Smith

OTTAWA (MNI) - The announcement of a deal regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership is something that all of the parties are trying to use to their advantage as the federal election in Canada reaches its final days. While Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is touting the deal as a sign of his government's good economic stewardship, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair hopes to use the TPP as an issue to revive his party's flagging poll numbers.

"An NDP government will not consider itself bound to any agreement signed by your Conservative government during this federal election," Mulcair wrote in a letter sent to the incumbent trade minister.

While the Canadian government managed to win concessions to largely protect its system of supply management for the dairy and poultry sectors, as well as content requirements for auto parts, Mulcair has taken to citing a figure of 20,000 auto jobs under threat, per union calculations. Mulcair has also pointed out that his position echoes that stated by U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, whose party is now topping most polls, said that his party strongly supports free trade, but wants the details of the agreement as soon as possible.

"If the Liberal Party of Canada earns the honour of forming a government after October 19th, we will hold a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement," Trudeau said.

The 12-country deal will see some tariffs dropping immediately, while others will be phased in over a number of years. The deal may not come into force until 2018, depending on how soon it can be ratified by each member country.

"Assuming it comes into force in 2018-19, I think the immediate effects will be some drops in prices for Canadian consumers, mostly on food, a little bit on automotive to start," said Mike Moffatt, economics professor at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. "In the long run, it will help the Canadian economy. It will take some time on the export side."

Moffatt said that there is the potential for large gains on the agri-food side with the opening of the Japanese market, but with trade deals already in place with the U.S. and Mexico, the total impact of the TPP will likely be small.

"Over time, it might be a per cent of GDP, but that's a really rough estimate," Moffatt said.

The three-way race that has dominated much of the election is now broken, and the Liberals and Conservatives are now in a statistical tie according to most polls, while the NDP have dropped to third place by nearly a 10-point margin. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals would have enough seats to form a majority government, according to seat projections, but both the Liberals and NDP have pledged to defeat a Conservative minority government at the earliest opportunity.

--MNI Ottawa Bureau; tel: +1 613-853-9648; email:

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