How much does Justin Trudeau’s personal wealth matter?

Thomas Mulcair joins the Conservatives in questioning Trudeau’s economic status


Over the weekend, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair decided to make an issue of Justin Trudeau’s personal wealth.

“The problem is, Justin Trudeau will never know what middle-class means,” said Mulcair. “He just doesn’t understand the real challenges that families are facing. Never has. Never will.”

… At a news conference after his speech, Mulcair was asked if he was saying that Trudeau did not understand the middle class because he has never been part of it. “There’s no question that you get to know the stories [of the middle class] by meeting people across Canada — connecting with them at a kitchen table.

“But it’s also something that is, of course, something that you have lived or haven’t lived. And if you’ve got no connection to it other than a line in a speech that somebody else has written for you, well then of course it’s going to sound hollow.”

This isn’t quite a new line of attack against Mr. Trudeau—the Conservatives have been testing it out for the last several weeks.

Kevin Sorenson, February 24. “Unlike the Liberal leader, who has no idea what it is like to be in the middle class, our government has cut taxes 160 times for ordinary Canadians…”

Blake Richards, March 31. “Unfortunately, the Liberal leader has no idea what it is like to be middle class.”

Kevin Sorenson, March 31. “He has no idea what it costs and what it is like to be in the middle class.”

Phil McColeman. April 1. ” Unfortunately, the Liberal leader has no idea what it is like to be middle class. Middle-class families do not live spoiled lifestyles while collecting thousands in speaking fees on the backs of charities.”

Kevin Sorenson, April 3. “Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader has no idea what it is like to be in the middle class.”

(Stephen Harper has also mused of Mr. Trudeau’s “disconnection from the realities of the Canadian middle class.”)

So what do we make of this? Or, put another way, how far do we want to take this? At the very least it would seem fair to demand that everyone participating in this debate table their tax returns. If one’s personal income history is relevant to how much one can be trusted to craft policy that would be of benefit to the middle class, let’s see some financial data, gents.

For that matter, we might settle on a strict income range to identify the middle class and then we might ascertain whether MPs qualify as middle class. (MPs currently make $163,700 per year. Cabinet ministers and the leader of the opposition earn an additional $78,300. The Prime Minister gets an additional $163,700. Justin Trudeau, as the leader of a recognized party, receives an extra $55,600.) Or perhaps we should peg MP salaries to the median income so as to ensure that they know what it is like to be in the middle class. Of course, that wouldn’t account for spousal salaries, inheritances, stock portfolios, real estate holdings and the like. So perhaps we could tax those things differently for MPs. Or perhaps we could means-test MP salaries.

Or perhaps that would be silly.

Stockwell Day suggests that to attack the luck of Mr. Trudeau’s birth is to become a socialist, which is probably not a word that any Conservative MP wants to be associated with. (Here is Blake Richards, a month before questioning Mr. Trudeau’s middle-class status, accusing the Liberals of promoting “class warfare.”)

Of course, all of this possibly becomes secondary once Mr. Trudeau has a set of policy proposals to his name. At that point, his relative affluence might become moot: his ability to assist the middle class judged more directly by what can be said about what he says he would do.

This is obviously, in a way, not much more complicated than Mr. Trudeau’s opponents trying to build an idea of him as a spoiled rich kid who doesn’t understand how the world works. But, if Mr. Trudeau’s wealth is to be an issue, even if only in the meantime, it’s difficult to see how that doesn’t necessitate everybody having to detail their economic circumstances and history so we can have a proper debate.

Beyond that, we might get into a fun discussion about whether a politician can properly represent his or her constituents if he or she does not share the same socio-economic characteristics of the majority. In the case of income, it’s perhaps enjoyable to mock and resent rich people, but I’m not sure I’d ban them from holding positions of political leadership.


How much does Justin Trudeau’s personal wealth matter?

  1. Let’s face it, most of the members of our political class don’t know what it’s like to struggle in school, grow up in poverty, be unemployed, raise children in poverty, face discrimination, or be unable to fill a prescription or do without eyeglasses either.

    People who start off well and do well in life are obviously much more likely to succeed in business, professional or political endeavours. The important thing is if they recognize that and have the humility and empathy to understand that they don’t deserve their good fortune any more than someone who is struggling deserves misfortune.

  2. Justin is upper-middle class…..the same as Mulcair and Harper.

    I don’t think we’ve ever had a ‘poor’ or ‘working class’ leader. If Cons and Dips go down this road, they’re going to get lost in the bushes.

  3. 2 comments? 2?!

    Paul Wells used to get hundreds of comments. Wherry used to get at least a couple dozen and often more.

    What a disaster the Macleans makeover has been. Better get back to Disqus, just like I said on day 1.

    I’ll check in again in a few weeks to see if there’s any improvement.

    Bye for now.

    • Maybe it’ll be up to 4 by then? I don’t know if Macleans even considers losing their online regulars a bit of a disaster or not…but they sure nuked this place good anyway. What’s worse, utting up with the trolls and the petty sniping, or this peaceful wasteland!

    • It doesn’t help that their comments system eats about half the posts attempted, either.

    • And now they are asking for my name and email with each post. I used my usual “name” for this post but a different email address. If it goes through, it means they have abandoned attempting to verify user IDs – which means a post under a given name could really be from anyone.

  4. This strategy didn’t work to well for Martha something and something[ thx Feschuk] did it? Because she was privileged stock herself. Other than partisans it isn’t likely to do so now either. The simple fact is a lot of our political class are almost as far from being m/c as Justin. What’s more he has the grace to admit it. My rule of thumb is: if you never ever run into your local mp pushing the cart around Safeway – they aren’t m/c. Mulcair’s one of ten kids shtick will play well amongst the dippers,fair game, but his shot at Trudeau for moving his young family to Ottawa is low. I used to think Tom was a decent sort who just chosen the wrong party; now i’m not at all sure he’s that much ahead of Harper on the go low stakes. It wont work anyway against an opponent who’s determined to take the mostly higher road.

  5. And now they are asking for my name and email with each post. I used my usual “name” for this post but a different email address. If it goes through, it means they have abandoned attempting to verify user IDs – which means a post under a given name could really be from anyone.

  6. OMG…Trudeau was left $1.2 million in his Trust fund.

    The horror.

    Mr. Harper’s net worth is north of $ 6 million and Mr. Mulcair cannot manage his own lemonade stand. But hey, all career politicians, like Harper and Mulcair are leaches.

    Tis hilarious to hear them go after Trudeau…Desperado…

  7. Career politicos like Harper and Mulcair are going to lecture others about the middle class?


  8. So did Mulcair raise his children with the benefit of his income as a lawyer and politician? Did his pass on the benefits of his income to his kids?

    As for Harper, we are in the same age group. I grew up working class, and did not have the benefit of a daddy working for an oil company who could get me a job in the mailroom. I had to start in the service industry and work my own way up. Harper has nothing to teach me about the working or middle class.

    Finally, I agree with the poster who pointed out that none of these men have any understanding of what it means to be truly poor. Harper just introduced a victims’ rights bill without consulting the group most likely to be victims of crime – First Nations.

  9. Mr. Wherry, I think you are missing the point… he grew up in affluence, he has NEVER lived a middle class life. The critique is not whether other politicians are currently affluent, the critique is the fact that he claims to understand the middle class and base his entire platform on the middle class when in reality he has never spent a single minute of his life as middle class. It’s like penguins trying to tell birds how to fly, or writing books on flying. No other politician is trying as hard as Trudeau to win over the middle class, so naturally the lens is focusing on him. He can’t try to tell us the “plight” of the middle class while sitting on his throne, it’s offensive to the actual members of the middle class.

    • By that logic, Harper should stop acting like he can prevent crime. How can he stop crime when he has never been a criminal and has no idea what leads people to make those choices?

      I guess he better stop trying to appeal to immigrants too.

      I am pretty sure WHerry completely understands the point Harper and Mulcair are trying to make. It is just that the point is not a particularly good one.