Justin Trudeau attacks Pierre Poilievre as irresponsible in speech to Liberal caucus

Justin Trudeau attacks Pierre Poilievre as irresponsible in speech to Liberal caucus

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched a forceful attack of Pierre Poilievre Monday, describing the new Conservative Leader as an irresponsible politician who promotes reckless economic ideas.

In his first public comments since Mr. Poilievre’s decisive Saturday night leadership victory, Mr. Trudeau laid out his criticisms in an outdoor speech to the national Liberal caucus, which is gathering in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, for three days of meetings ahead of Parliament’s return.

“What Canadians need is responsible leadership,” said Mr. Trudeau. “Buzzwords, dog whistles and careless attacks don’t add up to a plan for Canadians. Attacking the institutions that make our society fair, safe and free is not responsible leadership. Telling people they can opt out of inflation by investing their savings in volatile cryptocurrencies is not responsible leadership. By the way, anyone who followed that advice would have seen their life savings destroyed.”

Mr. Trudeau was referencing comments Mr. Poilievre made in March at a leadership campaign stop, where he said cryptocurrencies “let Canadians opt-out of inflation with the ability to opt-in to cryptocurrencies.”

The value of bitcoin, the most popular form of cryptocurrency, has dropped by more than 50 per cent since Mr. Poilievre made those comments.

Mr. Trudeau spoke after Mr. Poilievre made a public speech to the Conservative caucus in Ottawa in which he urged the Liberals to pledge not to raise taxes. The Prime Minister did not directly address that request and he did not take questions from reporters after his speech.

Mr. Trudeau congratulated Mr. Poilievre on his victory and said Liberals are open to working with other parties in Parliament.

“But this doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be calling out highly questionable, reckless economic ideas,” he said.

Liberal MPs have been meeting for informal chats with various cabinet ministers and in smaller groups such as regional caucuses, as well as the full national caucus.

The Liberal caucus gathering is taking place just days before the House of Commons resumes sitting after the summer recess. Various ministers this week have signalled that the government’s fall priorities will include affordability measures aimed at lower-income Canadians, gun-control legislation and a suite of bills dealing with new regulations for the internet in areas such as promoting Canadian content and curbing hate speech.

Even though the Liberals and the NDP voted earlier this year to extend hybrid sittings adopted due to the pandemic that allow MPs to participate virtually in House of Commons debates and votes, the full Liberal caucus meetings this week are occurring without virtual options. Previous Liberal caucus meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic have included virtual participation.

While speaking with reporters, Government House Leader Mark Holland was asked why his government supports the continuation of a virtual Commons while not offering that option for its own caucus meetings.

Mr. Holland said the House of Commons committee on procedure and House affairs will be holding a study in the fall to review the hybrid system to determine what changes should be made. He said he’ll be bringing forward his own recommendations.

The Official Opposition Conservatives have been very critical of the hybrid Parliament, saying it reduces accountability by allowing ministers to appear virtually in the House of Commons or as a committee witness.

“I spent a lot of time in opposition. I am incredibly sympathetic to making sure that the mechanisms of accountability are there,” said Mr. Holland. “Now that we’re in – what I hope – is moving out of this pandemic and moving to brighter, clearer days, let’s take an opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn’t work in this experiment.”

Mr. Holland and other Liberal MPs delivered a common criticism of Mr. Poilievre’s political style, accusing him of proposing “simplistic” solutions to complex problems.

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP Marcus Powlowski said he expects Mr. Poilievre’s support of the freedom convoy protests will limit his political appeal.

“I think a lot of Canadians are going to see him on the far right. I think a lot of his opinions are not, but he’s also catered to the far right – the kind of people that park their trucks in downtown Ottawa, the freedom convoy and that kind of people,” he said. “And I think the majority of Canadians, the many quiet Canadians, don’t agree with that.”


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