Trudeau’s Montréal speech is slick, hints at the policy in play

John Geddes on the choices the Liberals have to make

(Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

(Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)


Even the second time around, it was a pretty good speech.

Listening to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau this evening as he gave the crowd at the opening night of his party’s convention in Montréal exactly what they’d come for, it was impossible not to be impressed by his ability to get the job done from behind a podium—even though I’d heard, along with a bunch of other reporters, his relaxed run-though of the text a few hours earlier, when it was accidentally piped into a media room.

In fact, having heard his practice session, the impact of the real performance in front of a real audience was perhaps even a bit more telling. One of the skills a politician must master, especially come election time, is injecting a little freshness into familiar lines. And Trudeau simulates spontaneity with the best of them.

None of this, of course, is a surprise. If he’s proven one thing by the way he handily won the Liberal leadership and then, more remarkably, sustained his strong standing in the polls since then, it’s that he can execute the stage-craft part of the job. The questions revolve around putting some substance behind the scintillation.

There wasn’t much of that this evening; more is expected in his second speech to the convention on Saturday. But even that won’t be a platform talk: Trudeau and his team have repeatedly said they won’t be fleshing out policy until close to a 2015 election. Still, there were scattered references in tonight’s speech to themes that must come into focus for him to gain credibility.

The most important question is what policy ideas Trudeau settles on to make good his oft-repeated promise to focus on the supposedly stagnant Canadian middle class. “People haven’t had a real raise in 30 years, while inequality has increased and household debt has exploded,” he said this evening.

Leave aside for a moment the very legitimate debate about whether that dour picture of middle-income malaise is entirely accurate. Assuming it’s close enough to reality, what’s to be done about it? In his sketchbook economics lesson earlier this week, Trudeau suggested a key point is how indebted families (and, for that matter, provinces) can’t afford to spend much, but soon-to-be-in-surplus Ottawa can.

Some economists, including Stephen Gordon here, raised worries that Trudeau was signalling a belief in government stimulus even at a time of economic growth. But maybe Trudeau was suggesting, not straight-up stimulus spending, but something like a push to ensure access to opportunity. Typically, that sort of messaging means education above all else.

“Canadians are tired of the politics of fear and division,” Trudeau said near the end, emphasizing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ornery streak. “But they don’t just want a different government. They want a better government. They want a government that is focused on making sure each and every Canadian has a real and fair chance at success.”

It’s hard to know how to interpret such bromides. But to my ear there’s a difference between saying it’s the government’s job to directly take up the spending slack if middle-class consumers tighten their belts, and suggesting it’s government’s job to make sure opportunity isn’t denied anyone, even in a tough, competitive economy.

On the policy front, the Liberals have some choices to make. We’ll see if this weekend gives us a sense of which way they’re leaning.




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Trudeau’s Montréal speech is slick, hints at the policy in play

  1. I want to see a coalition of NDP and Liberals. Enough of letting Harper take apart Canada.

    • That’s been a winning combo here in Ontario, so far…

  2. Why would the Libs schedule their convention on the last weekend of the Olympics? Did anyone outside of that room actually watch this speech?

  3. So, he said nothing. What a shocking surprise! Policy is hard.

    • Just like you’ve said nothing here!

    • Yep, just more idle BS. Change the name and sell the same old lies.

  4. Was that the speech that Jughead read off the teleprompter(badly I might add), driving everyone but Shiela Copps for the remote? Yeah…RIVETING…

  5. 38 years of being eligible to vote, so many Liberal lies….(NDP and Cons too)…..

    How can we hold term dictators accountable after the election? And we do elect term dictators as we have no direct control in referendums, recall and have no recourse after 8pm election day. One day of democracy, 4-5 years of term dictatorship.

    MP/MLA are proxy positions, they alway follow the leader. They don’t answer to constituents, they answer to the partly leaders money-media bought. Some examles where people wishes have been discarded without accountability:

    - Mulroney conservatives gives us GST against our wishes.
    - Liberals promise to get rid of it and never do.
    - Mulroney-Airbus scam, Liberals bought the planes with NDP union support.
    - no new taxes, yet hidden taxes, tax table slid, inflation taxes all end up giving the government more and more revenue as a percentage of GDP.

    No party gives straight talk. All are about deceiving the people and abstracting democracy to a point where the people have no real control. Just lie, deny, deceive, present the illusion of democracy and statism slaves will not know better.

    We need better choices and more direct control over our governments.

  6. Trudeau is just another statism power hunger pushed of BS. Same as NDP and Cons, decieve the public for a vote so that other peoples money becomes their power.

    Lets look at what no politician wants to talk about. Ra facts about money and economics they ignore every day.

    Canada’s GDP is $1.8 trillion, $280 billion of it, 15.56% of all money spent, also means 15.56% of taxes in end game. Provinces and cities extra, governemtn takes 15.56% of the economy to do stuff.

    Lets use Ontario’s share, a $616 billion economy. 127 billion provincial spending on $616 billion GDP is a 20.6% of GDP. Add in 15.6+20.6% we have 36.2% of all GDP exchanges going just to provincial and federal governments. They even get the poor.

    As it isn’t just income tax, its spending taxes, corporate taxes its taxes we don’t even know exist, GDP from all people gets taxes at 36.2% from all human exchange of goods and services not including city taxes which are extra. It also doesn’t include protectionism costs.

    That my friends is the truth with all the political gloss stripped from it.

    We have become economic slaves of state. Now the question is what is Trudeau going to do about it? More deceptions to keep statism alive?

    Taxes were meant for common good. But little of todays spending in government is for common good, its a machine to tax-ensslave and add debt to the unborn. Bailouts, inflated contracts and other peoples money for nothing in return.

    So what is Trudeau going to do about it and if he lies, how is he going to account for it?

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