Following Friday’s press conference about opening a Vancouver Coast Guard station, Trudeau sat down with the North Shore News for a one-on-one interview regarding other issues Canadians are facing as the 2015 campaign machines kick into gear.
The Liberal Party has been slow in trickling out its campaign platform so most questions about policy were answered with digs at the current government’s direction and a pledge to do things differently.
Vagueness notwithstanding, the Liberals' campaign messaging focuses on the middle class.
GDP numbers released on Friday morning showed Canada’s economy actually shrank in the first quarter of 2015. This belies the Tories’ constant boasting about their economic record, Trudeau said.
One platform piece the Liberals are ready to talk about is a $490 per month child benefit based on a family of four — $2,500 more per year than what is available now.
“Mr. Harper wants to continue to give benefits and tax cuts to the wealthiest Canadians. We’re focused on giving the most help to those who need it most,” he said.
There's also a tax regime shift in the books should the Liberals capture a majority of the 338 seats up for grabs this fall. While most of his barbs are were reserved for the Conservatives, Trudeau took this as an opportunity to put some space between himself and the NDP.
“Raising corporate taxes, like the NDP want to do, strangles growth. It slows down the kind of investment that we absolutely need to keep the economy going, so whereas the NDP wants to tax the growth that we need, we’re just asking Canadians who are doing well to pay a little more by bringing in a new tax bracket on the wealthiest Canadians to help give a $3-billion tax break to the middle class,” he said.
Asked how that would go over on the North Shore, where some of Canada’s highest income residents live, Trudeau spoke about the big picture.
“I’ve spoken with a whole lot of people who understand that growing an economy means helping the largest number of Canadians have a little more money in their pockets that they can spend, grow and invest and feel confident about the future,” he said.
In recent weeks, frustrations over the astronomical cost of housing in the Lower Mainland have crystallized into a grassroots movement calling on all three levels of government, who have been loathe to even study the impacts of property speculation or of foreign investment, to take action.
Trudeau said the federal government needs to first acknowledge there’s a problem and that a federal responsibility to meet with municipalities and the provinces to address the matter. What that might look like though, he couldn’t say because one policy might not work for all parts of the country.
“Mr. Harper, around eight or nine years ago, said straight out ‘The federal government has nothing to do with housing and we won’t have anything to do with it.’ That’s the kind of lack of leadership, quite frankly, people are tired of,” he said. “I know people would love to talk about specific solutions for here or there but the challenges facing Vancouver and the Lower Mainland are not the same challenges being faced in Saskatoon or downtown Montreal.”
Liberal MPs have been facing criticism, including from members of their own party, over their Yay votes on Bill C-51, the latest in anti-terrorism legislation. North Vancouver resident and senator Mobina Jaffer, a Jean Chrétien-appointee, has been campaigning against the bill in the Senate for its privacy concerns, rampant information sharing, powers of preventative arrest and detention as well as its overly broad definition of terrorism that could entangle lawful protestors.
“It is not a great bill. There’s no question about it,” Trudeau said. “There are some really, really bad things in the bill. Any government has to, as one of its most important responsibilities, balance protection of citizens’ physical security and protections of their rights and freedoms and privacy.”
Trudeau said his party worked hard to amend the bill and was successful in changing some of its language but, if elected to a majority, promised his party would repeal the remaining problematic parts and introduce parliamentary oversight for police and national security agencies.
Canadians should also be reassured that the judiciary, guided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, will ensure due process is followed “regardless of whether or not this government likes it.”
Despite his reservations and promise to change the bill in the future, Trudeau said his party’s support was not simply an attempt to inoculate themselves from attack ads from the Tories.
As noted in some other parties' campaign literature, Trudeau is in favour of doing away with Canada's pot laws in favour of a more regulated model. That's a position that's only been bolstered, he said, by the “confusing morass that has been created by the Conservatives’ half-hearted attempts around medical marijuana while at the same time maintaining prohibition.”
“We need a government that’s going to respect science and best practices, protect our kids, keep it out of the hands of gangs by controlling, regulating and taxing marijuana,” he said.
The day of his visit to the North Shore, an EKOS poll put the Liberals in third place nationally with 26.8 per cent support among decided voters, compared to the Conservatives' 29.5 per cent and NDP's 28.9.
Rather than fight an election on two fronts, Trudeau said he was content to let Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair attack him while he focuses on promoting his platform, candidates and vision.
Asked if he’d be willing to see another Conservative government at the expense of co-operation with the NDP, Trudeau said he will put his confidence in Canadians to make the right decision.
“I know that Canadians want a better government. I know they’re going to make the right choice in the fall. I know that Mr. Harper has demonstrated a level of arrogance and out-of-touchness that means that when the election actually roles around, people are going to very clearly see where the alternative is to form a better government.”