NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is taking aim at the federal Liberals and Conservatives, battering both parties with the same blunt attacks over jobs, the economy and Canadian income inequality.
Income has shrunk for the majority of Canadians over the past 35 years, under both Conservative and Liberal governments, Mulcair said Wednesday in Saskatoon.
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The leader of the New Democrats told MPs at their summer caucus retreat that the march to the 2015 election starts now. And, on a twist of the traditional NDP activist chant "Liberal, Tory, same old story," Mulcair pushed the idea that only his party will abolish the Senate and help Canadian families.
Mulcair said his opposition New Democrats have held the Conservatives to account over the last two years "for scandal and mismanagement, for gutting environmental protections and slashing funding for our cities. For throwing workers off EI and raising the retirement age for OAS[Old Age Security]."
He focused the speech on economic issues, pointing to problems he says Canada has with stagnant incomes and families having to work harder to cover their expenses. Mulcair bundled the Conservatives and Liberals together as doing little to help average Canadians
"Ninety-four per cent of the income inequality that we've experienced in Canada has happened under Liberal governments. You heard that right — 94 per cent," Mulcair said.
"That widening gap has left an entire generation of middle-class families teetering on the edge — buried under a mountain of household debt. By the end of last year, household debt was a staggering two-thirds higher than disposable income. That's a record," he said.
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He also grouped the Liberals and Conservatives together over the Senate expenses scandal over, which has seen three Conservative-appointed senators and one Liberal-appointed senator face allegations of illegitimate spending.
Liberal Party history of 'platitudes'
Mulcair also signalled he'll be devoting more effort to raising questions about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Asked why he avoids mentioning Trudeau by name, Mulcair said the Liberal leader hasn't done enough to merit mention.
"You'd have to point to something Trudeau has ever done for me to mention him. If and when he does do something — but he's already advised you he won't have much to say between now and the next election — we'll of course talk about that," Mulcair said.
"What I will talk about is something I've mentioned in the last two days — the Liberal Party has a history of getting leaders that are supposed to just stand there and repeat platitudes and say things they think Canada wants to hear. The NDP is talking straight up about serious, concrete things."
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc, a long-time friend of Trudeau, says the attack on the Liberal leader is a sign of "obvious concern and panic."
"Mr. Mulcair hasn't been paying a lot of attention to what Justin Trudeau's been doing or saying," over the past few months, LeBlanc said. "[Mulcair is] reverting to his well-worn instinct to be divisive and negative."
"It's a playbook that Tom Mulcair knows well. He's a negative character and he's reverting to that knee-jerk instinct that Canadians have seen in him."
LeBlanc said he's seen thousands of people show up at Liberal events across Canada to meet Trudeau.
Won't raise personal income tax
Mulcair repeated an NDP pledge not to raise personal income taxes, although he said the party would increase the corporate tax rate to what it was before the Conservative government finished cutting it several years ago. He also promised to do better than the Conservatives and Liberals on the environment, arguing it's not incompatible to support developing resources, but having companies cover the costs to remediate the effects of development.
The New Democrats have strong ties to Saskatchewan, the party where its forerunner, the CCF, was born, and Mulcair lauded Saskatchewan as not only the birthplace of the NDP, but of public health care too.
The speech, which Mulcair delivered to the 99 MPs in his caucus, kicks off the third and last day of the party's summer retreat in Saskatoon.
MPs held a fundraiser Tuesday night at a local bar, with the proceeds going to support Saskatoon candidates.
The party runs second to the Conservatives in Saskatchewan and doesn't hold any seats in the province, despite its deep roots, but new riding boundaries should help the NDP.
The new ridings will include several urban ridings, rather than rural-urban splits, and come into effect in time for the 2015 federal election.
Read the prepared text of Tom Mulcair's speech: