Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

Trudeau portrayed the Conservatives as disconnected climate deniers and peddlers of disinformation

Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with a partisan speech that sounded much like the launch of an election campaign.

While the prime minister has insisted he has no interest in plunging the country into an election in the midst of the deadly third wave of COVID-19, his speech was aimed at positioning the governing Liberals as the only party with “real solutions to the real problems” facing Canadians.

By contrast, Trudeau portrayed the Conservatives as disconnected climate deniers and peddlers of disinformation with a two-faced leader.

And he painted the Bloc Québécois as a party that’s all talk and no action, a manufacturer of jurisdictional squabbles, incapable of delivering the concrete measures Quebecers need.

He did not mention either the New Democrat or Green parties directly, although he urged Liberals to reach out to friends and neighbours who planted “a blue, orange or green” lawn sign during the 2019 campaign to spread the word about the Liberal plan for surviving the pandemic and reviving the shattered economy.

Liberal rank and file, meanwhile, endorsed Saturday a number of policy resolutions that could wind up mowing the NDP and Green parties’ grass should they wind up in the Liberal election platform, including calls for a universal basic income, national pharmacare and enforceable national standards for long-term care homes.

Trudeau’s wrap-up speech came little more than a week before his minority Liberal government is to introduce its first budget in two years, a document that will be dripping in more than $380-billion worth of pandemic-induced red ink and will lay out up to $100 billion more in new spending that Liberals say will stimulate more equitable, inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.

If all three of the main opposition parties were to vote against the budget, the government would fall. However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has promised his party won’t trigger an election during the pandemic.

Trudeau could decide to pull the plug himself and Liberal insiders suggest that could happen during the summer, provided the vaccine rollout is going smoothly and the pandemic, currently spreading like wildfire once again, is brought back under control.

In his speech to the virtual convention Saturday, Trudeau reminded Liberals of all the measures his government hastily introduced to help millions of Canadians stay afloat during the health crisis: the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the wage subsidy, rent relief, business loans, among others.

“My friends, what it all comes down to is this: which party has a real plan for the real problems in the real world,” he said, standing alone in a studio with a red Liberal backdrop, facing a giant screen dotted with the faces of party supporters watching online.

“Some refuse to accept reality, all while offering falsehoods and division.”

He attacked Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives, repeatedly asking “how disconnected do you have to be” to advocate cutting CERB payments during the pandemic, to “call young people lazy when their summer jobs disappeared,” to “flirt with disinformation on public health and vaccines” and to refuse to admit that climate change is real?

“The problem for Erin O’Toole is that he’s not interested in real solutions to real problems,” Trudeau charged.

He accused the Conservative leader of being “willing to say different things to different people at different times,” claiming to want safer communities and to be personally pro-choice while pandering to the gun lobby and the anti-abortion faction of his party to win the Tory leadership.

As for the Bloc, the Liberals’ primary opponent in Quebec, Trudeau said it “pretends to be the only party that can speak for Quebecers” while Liberals are the ones who deliver “the goods for Quebecers with direct help for seniors, businesses, families and workers.”

“When the time comes to deliver for Quebecers, it takes Quebecers in government,” he said.

He highlighted how his government has worked with Quebec authorities to combat the pandemic, including sending in the military and Red Cross to help in hard-hit long-term care homes.

“We prefer to choose action instead of division. We are always there for Quebecers, and for all Canadians,” he said. “And we will continue to have a unifying message instead of looking for squabbles.”

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus countered with a statement accusing Trudeau of trying to “dine out on COVID benefits the NDP forced him to provide to Canadians.”

“Justin Trudeau wanted to leave millions of people behind, but the NDP wouldn’t let him,” said Angus, whose party was holding its own virtual convention Saturday.

Earlier in the day, grassroots Liberals ranked a national pharmacare program — a favourite demand of New Democrats — as their top priority among 26 resolutions chosen to become official party policy. The Trudeau government has promised to deliver pharmacare but has so far taken only incremental steps toward achieving it.

Two slightly different resolutions on implementing a universal basic income were ranked second and fifth, despite Trudeau’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. He has suggested now is not the time to embark on a costly overhaul of the country’s social safety net.

The parliamentary budget officer last week concluded that a universal basic income could almost halve Canada’s poverty rate in just one year but at a steep cost: $85-billion in 2021-22, rising to $93-billion in 2025-26.

Conservative MP Ed Fast said Trudeau would have to “increase personal income taxes by almost 50 per cent, or triple the GST” in order to pay the basic income tab.

“The simple fact is that this risky and unknown experiment will leave millions more Canadians behind,” Fast said in a statement.

Liberals ranked national standards for long-term care homes as their third-highest priority.

Other resolutions that made the top 26 included calls for a 10 per cent increase in old age security for those 70 and over, a “green new deal” to ensure a just and fair to transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and investments in affordable housing, a trans-Canada high-speed rail line and expanded access to high-speed Internet.

Liberals rejected the one resolution that could have helped the government pay for all the other proposed costly new initiatives endorsed by convention-goers.

That defeated resolution called on the government to impose an inheritance tax on all assets over $2 million and to reduce the capital gains tax exemption by 40 per cent.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusJustin TrudeauLiberals

Just Posted

Alberta is now below 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, as the province reported 2,639 Wednesday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer below 100 active COVID-19 cases for first time since March

69.7 per cent of Albertans 12 and over have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Premier Jason Kenney says the provincial government is doing everything it can to encourage Albertans to get vaccinated. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Travel prizes added to Alberta’s vaccine lottery

More than 40 travel rewards available for those who are fully vaccinated

Stettler town hall
Town approves Canada Day fireworks show, using phase two health restrictions

The funding for the fireworks show has already been allocated

Castor Evangelical Missionary Church Pastor Brent Siemens, celebrating five years in Castor, reflects on the journey that brought him to the community. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Castor pastor celebrates five years of serving the community

Brent Siemens is the pastor of Castor’s Evangelical Missionary Church

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer down to 102 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 332 cases with 26 in hospital and five in ICU

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S President Joe Biden shake hands during their meeting at the ‘Villa la Grange’ in Geneva, Switzerland in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
Biden says meeting with Putin not a ‘kumbaya moment’

But U.S. president asserted Russian leader is interested in improved relations, averting a Cold War

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

Most Read