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Trudeau says Conservatives' vote against budget is a vote against 'fairness'

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OTTAWA -

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing the Conservatives of siding with “multi-millionaires” and standing against fairness over their decision not to support the federal budget.

The Liberals' latest spending plan, tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, aims to make corporations and rich individuals pay more tax on capital gains.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called it a “wasteful, inflationary budget” and said his party would vote against it.

On Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Liberal caucus, Trudeau said it isn't right that multi-millionaires are asked to pay less tax on capital gains than a teacher or electrician pays on their income.

He said the change would not affect 99.87 per cent of the population at all and does not apply to the sale of anyone's primary residence.

He did not mention the New Democrats or Leader Jagmeet Singh, who hasn't yet promised to back the budget despite his supply-and-confidence agreement with the Liberals.

The budget contains several NDP priorities, including funding for the first phase of national pharmacare and federal standards for long-term care.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also said his caucus would not support the budget.

That means if the NDP breaks its agreement, the budget will fail, likely triggering an election.

Singh has said he wants to talk to Trudeau about what is missing from the budget, including any windfall taxes on excess profits for corporations.

He also said he believes the Conservatives would cancel important programs if they form government, including national child care and pharmacare.

Conservative housing critic Scott Aitchison said people shouldn't believe the Liberals' plan will ever come to fruition because they have promised a housing overhaul before and it never materialized.

“In 2017, Justin Trudeau stood in front of a large building project with lots of hard-working Canadians behind him and promised a life-changing transformational National Housing strategy,” Aitchison said.

“And we see the transformation: house prices have doubled, rent has doubled, mortgage rates have doubled and people can't afford to put food on their table and pay the rent.”

Aitchison said the solution for housing is that government should get out of the way.

But Trudeau said the Conservatives are the ones trying to stop progress.

“They're voting against fairness,” he said. “They will be voting against asking the ultra-rich to pay their share. Canadians need responsible leadership right now - leaders who come to them with solutions ready to invest in Canadians ideas.”

The budget increased spending to more than $530 billion for 2024-25, with more than $11 billion in new spending largely focused on housing, student aid and grants, along with pharmacare and finally funding the long-promised disability benefit.

That benefit, at $200 a month, falls well shy of what advocates wanted to see.

The budget is in some ways a Hail Mary effort from the government to appeal to millennials and gen-Z voters, who once strongly backed the Liberals but have increasingly been drifting to the Conservatives as the affordability crisis is hitting them hard.

Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland are billing the budget as a fairness plan for younger Canadians.

The people being asked to pay more are among the ones “who've benefited from an economy that seems tipped towards them and away from everyone else, particularly young people,” said Trudeau.

“So we're asking them to pay their fair share so that younger generations can have the same opportunities that Xers, boomers and other generations had when they were starting out in their lives.”

The capital gains tax is expected to raise $19 billion over five years, by increasing the portion of capital gains that is taxed from 50 per cent to 66 per cent.

The change will apply to all corporations and trusts, along with individuals whose capital gains exceed $250,000 in a year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2024.

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