Trudeau warns the rich to watch out, again

‘If we don’t deliver fairness, Canadians will eventually entertain more radical options.’

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Arguably the most ominous element in Justin Trudeau’s way of talking about the economy is how he’s prone to warning rich Canadians that they had better be careful or the customarily amenable middle class will turn on them, or at least on the policies that help make them wealthy.

The Liberal leader delivered this message again in Toronto today at a key speech to a business lunch audience at the Canadian Club, but I first took note of him framing the stakes in the economic policy debate in this provocative way back in the winter of 2014, at his party’s policy convention in Montreal.

That was where Trudeau first established his assertion that middle-class incomes have stagnated in Canada as his signature policy theme. His argument was that the well-heeled had better start paying attention to the frustrations of those a notch below them on the economic ladder.

“To wealthier Canadians, I say this,” Trudeau said in Montreal. “The growth we have seen over the past three decades has been the product of a broadly supported agenda. Investments in education, fiscal discipline, openness to trade—all of which the middle class voted for, repeatedly. Here’s the point: The original promise of that agenda was that everyone would share in the prosperity that it creates. It hasn’t happened… and if we don’t fix that, the middle class will stop supporting a growth agenda.”

He reprised that warning today, but this time in the context of his own recent proposals to, at least in part, solve the problem. Last week, Trudeau pledged that if he’s elected prime minister, his government would create a new, higher tax bracket for income over $200,000, and use the $3 billion raised to pay for a tax cut on income from $44,700 to $89,401. To the Canadian Club audience—a large swath of which would presumably be dinged by the higher top tax bracket—Trudeau alluded darkly to what might happen if they balked at paying more.

“In short, fairness for the middle class and those working hard to join it is good for all of us. It’s good for Canada,” he said. “And, I might say, if we don’t deliver fairness, Canadians will eventually entertain more radical options. All of the time I’ve spent with Canadians tells me that the status quo is not sustainable. Change is coming, my friends. What we need is leadership and a plan to shape that change responsibly, for the benefit of all.”

It’s hard to know what to make of Trudeau’s hunch that the middle class is close to fed up. I wonder what “radical options” he’s heard about in that time he’s spent with Canadians. In fact, median incomes have been rising pretty steadily in recent years. Trudeau said, however, those income gains have been mostly limited to the oil-rich provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. “But nobody should confuse this with robust growth,” he said.

Actually, growth has been more widespread than that, as this Statistics Canada table shows. For instance, in his home province of Quebec, the median income for families (including couples with or without children, and single-parent households) rose about 10 per cent to $70,480 in 2012 from $63,830 in 2008.

In any case, his contention that a better deal for the middle class is a matter of maintaining Canada’s “social cohesion” is now apparently fixed as a feature of his campaign rhetoric. It takes what can be a rather dry debate about economic options—the right mix of taxes and federal benefit programs—and turns it into a narrative about class friction and even societal justice.

This might be seen as a new way of positioning the Liberal party as the guardian of national unity. In times past, the party often presented itself as the bridge between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Now, Trudeau proposes his Liberals as the party that will prevent a rift between the complacent rich and the restive middle class.


Trudeau warns the rich to watch out, again

  1. A toned down version of…..

    ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’

    John F. Kennedy

  2. You know, Trudeau don’ t even have to attach a price tag to his policy until the writ is dropped, he can keep the dippers and the cons guessing where the money is coming from until then, he can still lay down his markers and leave the cons, dippers and the MSM with their nickers in a knot. Mulcair still hasn’t told Canadians how he is going to pay for all of his goodies, are the MSM afraid to question, him. When Mulcair pitched his policies last, the price of oil was twice what it is today. If the MSM are going to try to poke holes in Trudeau’s policies, well I think it’s time to revisit Tom Mulcairs new trinket budget and check out under his hood.

  3. “… rose about 10 per cent to $70,480 in 2012 from $63,830 in 2008.”

    To the average middle class employee, those figures make one annoyed. Of course, $70k three years ago or, perhaps $75k today, is sufficient to maintain a reasonable standard of living. But these people are looking at the filthy rich who have moved from $200k three years ago to $500k today … plus bonuses. Do the rich people shop in secret grocery stores where the bread and milk costs 150% more than at the average superstore?

    Such a comment will be totally ridiculed by the rich, but that is what, I believe, Mr. Trudeau is focussed on. He is not poor but he seems to be empathetic with Canadians, quite unlike the PM.

  4. You’re conflating the income of the “middle class” with “median income”.

  5. “For instance, in his home province of Quebec, the median income for families (including couples with or without children, and single-parent households) rose about 10 per cent to $70,480 in 2012 from $63,830 in 2008.”

    uuuum, so anyone that remotely knows anything about economics knows that numbers over time need to be compared in real terms, not nominal, to take into consideration inflation, (StatsCan, even if we can rely upon comparing their old methodology to their new now that the long form census is dead), presents their numbers in nominal terms

    Using BoC’s inflation adjustment calculator, $63,830 in 2008 = $68.988 in 2012 which means the reported income gains of about $1492 over the 2012 numbers in the article, which is not exactly sharing in the wealth, know what I mean?

    • eer, the $1492 is over the 2008 adjusted to 2012 for inflation numbers rather, not the 2012 as I mistakenly mentioned above

  6. I don’t understand how so many people are so dumb that they can’t see what this is. It’s one of the elites warning his fellow elites that this sort of greed and inequality is what always precipitates bloody revolution. No, obviously it’s not going to happen tomorrow or even 5 years from now, but 20 years? At current rates we’ll be back to the full on bad old days of the robber barons by 2050 with zero labor laws and protections, 16 hour work days where you get docked for going to the bathroom. In short, they’re aiming for a ‘work for food’ society. And with the apathy of people in Canada they’ll get it.

    In effect, he’s saying let the peasants have some cake so they don’t revolt. Not a lot, just enough to keep them from revolting. It’s ok to exploit them, just be smart about it.

    And that’s why Canada sucks. Unlike places like the US we actually have other alternatives to the 2 party stranglehold on the system that actually represent WORKING CLASS people. Protip: Even if you wear a white collar you’re still working class unless there’s a word like executive in your title and you’re making 250k plus with stock options. Yet in spite of that. In spite of the Libs/Cons – two sides of the same coins – continually gutting all the good things in government that protect and help you, you continue to vote for them and against your own self-interest. So yes, Virginia, if you’re voting Lib/Con you’re an idiot.

    • Err, why is there no edit function on this board? Come on, it’s 2015.

    • Yes, it is 2015

      And the ‘working class’ is disappearing.

      There will be no revolution.

      • This is always nonsense. What do you mean by the ‘working’ class? Most employed people work and some of the high earners in law, medicine, high corporate responsibility (I’m not one of them but I’ve seen it) typically work long hours at the expense of other factors in their life. Those who don’t get heaved or moved aside much quicker than in union-oriented jobs, the worst being public service union jobs. The real non-workers are any who ride on the earnings of others – that includes heirs and heiresses, and yes people who are so non-productive (poor) they are living on your tax dollar. We feel for them when they are typically deserted spouses and moms who never were able to hold the guilty party accountable.

        • There are 3 main classes in society….lower or working class [they work in factories, or as skilled labour…they have a trade]

          Middle class are teachers, managers, lawyers etc

          Upper class are judges, diplomats, senators, the wealthy etc. And the queen is top of the heap.

          Each of these 3 classes is also divided into 3.

          For example with the middle class it’s lower middle class, middle-middle class and upper middle class.

          Public service people are anyone from fire fighters to PhDs

          And what is the point of working hard all your life if you can’t pass wealth on to your children?

  7. JT might have been speaking at the Canadian Club but his target audience was located far to the Left.
    He’s just trying to sell himself as a better-looking Robin Hood than Mulcair – hoping to secure votes from that group waffling between the Libs and the NDP.

    • LOL Only the right wing would identify with Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham

  8. Would you say this is more or less substansive than the ”Danger is lapping at our shores” campaign?

    At the very least I think this approach will make the tax cuts battlefield a lot tougher this next election.

    • I should be clearer: I don’t aggree with John Geddes that JT’s conclusion is wrong, in fact there’s a very obvious flaw in his argument. JT’s stats cover a 10 year period while JG covers only 4. It’s also hard to detach any growth post 2008 crash from economic stimulus money.

      But I do agree that it changes the tax cut narrative and possibly force the tories into an inconfortable corner away from their base.

      All JT needs now is a false MSM outrage over either side of the coin to let his message flourish on the Internet.

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