In 2019 Trudeau Liberals plan to campaign like it's 2015

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a media availability following the Cabinet retreat in London, Ontario. PMO Photo by Adam Scotti

Speaking last weekend to 3,000-plus Liberals attending the federal party convention in Halifax, Justin Trudeau gave the kick-off speech to the 2019 election campaign.

The Liberal leader announced: "I deeply believe that we are and should be a progressive party." 

The party expects to own the constituencies that will rally to the progressive theme: specifically women and youth; and, overall, the majority of the 60 per cent who bothered to vote in the last election.

And, yes, the governing party can fairly claim that when it comes to smoking pot legally, welcoming 50,000 Syrian refugees, or approving medically assisted death, the Liberals have introduced progressive policy measures.

Importantly, the Liberals introduced the more generous and tax-free Canada child benefit (CCB) to replace the taxable, Conservative, so-called universal child-care benefit. In 2018 families with a net income of less than $30,000 (as income rises, payments are reduced) will receive $6,400 per year for each child under the age of six and $5,400 per year for each child aged six to 17. This compares well to about $2,000 per year for each child under six and $720 per year for each child aged six through 17 under the Conservatives' sad attempt to pretend they had a child-care spending plan.

In Halifax the party adopted policy recommendations that include universal pharmacare, a guaranteed minimum income, an environmental bill of rights, and an employee pension protection strategy.

However this does not mean the Liberal government is committed to implementing any of these measures. Indeed, in the recent parliamentary past, it has opposed some of these and ignored others.

The Liberals recently voted down a study of minimum income when the proposal was raised in parliamentary committee by NDP MP Guy Caron.

The governing party voted against an NDP proposal to bring in a universal pharmacare program.

The finance minister has pushed measures to reduce pension security for federally regulated employees, not protect pensions stolen by footloose corporations.

Bill 69, legislation Trudeau introduced on the environment, looks nothing like a citizen's bill of rights, and falls far short of what green activists expect from governments.

Any self-respecting progressive favours a decent minimum wage and a living wage strategy. Neither of these feature on the Liberal Party policy wish list.

Not only does Canada not create enough child-care spaces or provide affordable child care, in Halifax, the Liberals did not make a recommendation about addressing how parents are supposed to participate in the labour market without access to nationally funded child care.

Canada is a country without a national social safety net: the Liberals removed it in 1995, in the same budget where they ended support for social rental housing.

Homelessness is a national disgrace; the deepened crisis was not addressed in Halifax.

Progressive policy starts with progressive taxation: the more you make, the more you pay. Instead, in Liberal-governed Canada, the top one per cent get their own tax break.

Stockholders watching the market rise can claim capital gains when they sell stock. They then pay taxes at half the rate paid by Canadians busting their gut everyday for a wage.

As economist Andrew Jackson explains, Canadians with income over $200,000 took over 85 per cent of this nearly $7-billion tax break last year.

That is $7 billion a year Canada could use for social spending. In Canada social spending represents 17 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. That is less than half of what France spends, according to the OECD.

Despite featuring two labour leaders as convention speakers and no corporate chiefs, the Liberals continue to push the 1980s corporate agenda of free trade, privatization and de-regulation, while ignoring the negative impacts on equality, jobs and incomes for working people.

In 2019, the Liberals plan a re-run of their campaign of 2015. The focus will be on women voters. The Liberal leader will contrast his "feminism" and the CCB with the retro family values approach of the Conservatives.

For Trudeau, rallying his party in Halifax, the Conservatives may have changed leaders, but it is still the party of Stephen Harper. Over the next 18 months, expect Trudeau and his government to remind Canadians regularly why they voted the Harper Conservatives out of office.

Under current leader Andrew Scheer, the Canadian Conservative party wants to allow gun owners more leeway, discuss limiting access to abortion, and on climate change is a non-combatant.

The Trudeau Liberals will campaign against this type of social conservatism, and why not? Though by most measures the Liberals fail the test, compared to Conservatives, they are progressive.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

PMO Photo by Adam Scotti

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