PM calls Poilievre an 'irresponsible' leader bent on exploiting anger for political gain
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused the Liberal government of plunging the country into "chaos" after eight years in office, blasting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a spike in crime, inflation woes and trouble at the country's airports.
"What's happening in our country? Seriously. Look around you," Poilievre said in a Friday speech to the Conservative caucus. "You told us better is always possible and yet everything is worse and you blame everyone else."
A Poilievre government, the Conservative leader said, would restore order and bring the economy back from the brink.
Trudeau, meanwhile, delivered a pointed speech of his own Friday. The PM argued that by courting radical elements, peddling misinformation, ignoring science and pitching questionable investments like cryptocurrency, Poilievre has placed himself outside the political mainstream.
"Mr. Poilievre has no real solutions. He's just trying to exploit people's anger and concerns," Trudeau said. "When you twist the facts or make things up for political gain, that's not responsible leadership."
Poilievre's speech to Tory MPs and senators and Trudeau's response Friday reveal how the two leaders plan to approach the next sitting of Parliament, which resumes next week after the holiday break.
Poilievre is intent on blaming the Liberals for the country's hardships while painting a bleak picture of the future under a Trudeau-led government.
Trudeau is promising what he calls a "positive vision" for the country while also blasting his opponent as a far-right leader who won't adequately address the big challenges of our time: fighting climate change, building a more inclusive economy, fixing a health-care system on the ropes and pursuing Indigenous reconciliation.
Poilievre, Trudeau argued, doesn't offer any "constructive or positive solutions," while Liberals will "meet the moment."
WATCH | Poilievre says 'everything is worse' under Trudeau:
Addressing his Conservative caucus, Poilievre says 'everything is worse' under Trudeau
Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre addresses his Conservative caucus and highlights crime rates during Justin Trudeau's time as prime minister.
Poilievre accused Trudeau of ducking his responsibilities as prime minister. He linked a rise in violent crimes and drug overdoses to Liberal changes to the federal Criminal Code and a more permissive approach to drug enforcement.
Citing a spate of violent attacks on Toronto's transit system, Poilievre said people are scared to ride the subway because they might get stabbed.
Between January 2016 and December 2021, nearly 30,000 Canadians died of opioid overdoses, according to federal data. There are crime-ridden homeless encampments in Canada's big cities, Poilievre said, because of Liberal policies.
"Justin tied the hands of our police and failed to hold the scumbag corporations who brought these drugs to our streets accountable," the Conservative leader said.
'Get out of the way'
Poilievre said big spending during the pandemic has pushed the national debt over the $1 trillion mark, fuelling inflation. The federal price on carbon emissions, Poilievre claimed, has left seniors in the cold.
"If you're not responsible for these things and you can't do anything about it, why don't you get out of the way and let somebody who can," Poilievre said.
"Everything seems to be broken," he added in French.
Trudeau has pushed back against Poilievre's claim that the country is in disarray.
In a speech at the Liberal Christmas party last month, Trudeau said that when Poilievre says Canada is broken, "that's where we draw the line."
"Let me be very clear for the record: Canada is not broken," he said in the Dec. 14 speech, citing post-Fiona hurricane relief and a new national child care program as examples of recent progress on his watch.
At the Liberal cabinet retreat in Hamilton this week, ministers also touted a return to normal at Canada's passport offices, a promise to fix to the air passenger bill of rights and meaningful progress on an increase to health-care funding as proof that the country is headed in the right direction.
Poilievre dismissed Trudeau's defence Friday.
"Justin says I should never mention these problems because Canadians have never had life so good," he said.
For some people, Poilievre said, the prime minister is right — the people at the Liberal Christmas party are doing just fine. "Lobbyists and Liberal political assistants here in Ottawa, they've never had it so good," Poilievre said.
The government's use of outside advisers has made people at consulting firms like McKinsey rich, Poilievre said, while working-class people skip meals to save money.
Trudeau said his government is laser-focused on rebuilding Canada's middle class.
He pointed to new investments in the automotive sector, clean technology, mining, rare earth metals and manufacturing as signs that Ottawa's industrial policy is paying off with high-paying jobs in industries of the future.
The prime minister said Poilievre can't be trusted to lead a major economy like Canada's when he was pushing bitcoin — an investment that has tanked in recent months, wiping out tens of billions of dollars in value.
"Mr. Poilievre was out talking about how we should all invest in bitcoin to opt out of inflation after he watched YouTube videos about it," Trudeau said. "Now, we all like YouTube, but it matters what content you watch and what you choose to amplify."
He also condemned Poilievre for recently speaking to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy — a group that has said it's a "myth" that the residential school system robbed Indigenous children of their childhood.
"It's just plain wrong," Trudeau said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Canadians don't have to choose between the red and the blue team.
He said New Democrats are best placed to save a faltering health-care system and criticizing some provincial plans to send more surgeries to private clinics to help clear mounting hospital backlogs.
"That's the wrong way to do it because it will only make things worse and cannibalize workers from our existing system," he said. "We'll defend public health care."
Singh also criticized Trudeau's performance on the housing file, saying too many Canadians can't afford their rent.
"He has to invest massively to build more housing and ensure major corporations are not making huge profits because that hurts families," he said. "So far, Justin Trudeau hasn't taken this seriously."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at email@example.com.
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