The NDP is the only party with the backbone to stand up to the Conservatives and walk away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, party leader Tom Mulcair said Sunday as the trade agreement appeared to be within reach.
On one of his most active campaign days to date, Mulcair embarked on a blitz of six ridings in southwestern Ontario that went to the Tories in the last election.
He honed in on the Liberal position on the trade talks in Atlanta. Specifically, he seized on comments by Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna, who on Saturday said her party was not willing to echo the NDP's position that they wouldn't feel tied to an agreement.
"Where was Justin Trudeau and his Liberals in all of this? Well, yesterday in Ottawa, they were saying that they had no choice but to back Stephen Harper's secretly negotiated deal for the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Mulcair said in Brantford, Ont., his first stop of the day.
"The NDP, when we form government on Oct. 19, will not be bound by this secret agreement that Mr. Harper has been negotiating."
Mulcair later spoke in front of about 300 people during a quick visit to Waterloo, Ont., where he implored the crowd to keep in mind what the Trans-Pacific Partnership could do to the region's farmers whose businesses could unravel.
"Think about the family that's been running that dairy farm for generations," he said.
Mulcair, who has been confronted with headlines in recent days that say the NDP has fallen behind in the polls, stressed that people seeking change have only one genuine option.
"Get tired of the Liberals and the sponsorship scandal? No problem, you're supposed to go back to the Conservatives. When you're tired of Stephen Harper's unblemished record of continuous corruption and a revolving door of favouritism and $90,000 cheques in the Prime Minister's Office? No problem, you're supposed to go back," he said.
"Hold on. This time, for the first time in our history, there's hope. We can get real change."
The whistle-stop tour is also intended to deliver the NDP's message that Harper has failed Ontario's agricultural and industrial heartland, long before the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.
Mulcair has repeatedly accused the Conservatives of enacting policies that cost 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the recession in 2008, including 43,000 in Canada's auto industry.
His campaign also included a stop in Stratford, Ont., at the campaign headquarters of NDP candidate Ethan Rabidoux, who is running to represent the Perth-Wellington riding.
A school bus parked across the street from the event didn't go unnoticed by Mulcair. The bus was there to pick up local Liberal supporters for what the party was billing as a huge rally for Justin Trudeau later in the day in Brampton, near Toronto.
"The way to show support for the people in Stratford is to show up in Stratford," Mulcair quipped before his campaign headed to London, Sarnia and Essex.
The NDP issued a handout that listed all the communities that Mulcair is visiting, with highlights beside each one showing the number of manufacturing jobs that the party says the communities have lost since the Conservatives came to power.
All six ridings Mulcair was visiting are held by the Conservatives where the New Democrats came in second place in 2011.