Justin Trudeau would loosen PMO control, reverse trend started by father

Justin Trudeau says he would loosen the tight grip the Prime Minister's Office has come to have on government, reversing a trend he admits began with his father.

'We've reached an end point on that,' Liberal leader says about power centralized in Prime Minister's Office

Justin Trudeau Interview with Peter Mansbridge

7 years ago
Duration 30:03
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau sits down with Peter Mansbridge for an exclusive interview.

Justin Trudeau says he would loosen the tight grip the Prime Minister's Office has come to have on government, reversing a trend he admits began with his father, the former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

"Well, one of the things that we've seen throughout the past decades in government is the trend towards more control from the Prime Minister's Office," Trudeau told CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge in an interview for The National on Tuesday. "Actually it can be traced as far back as my father, who kicked it off in the first place.

"And I think we've reached the end point on that."

Speaking about openness and transparency in government, Trudeau said that although it's "generally understood" his father started that control in the Prime Minister's Office, "I actually quite like the symmetry of me being the one who ends that."

"My father had a particular way of doing things. I have a different way, and his was suited to his time and mine is suited to my time. I believe that we need to trust Canadians. I  believe that it's not just about restoring Canadians' trust in government by demonstrating trust towards them, I think we get better public policy when it's done openly and transparently."

Trudeau also appears to be at odds with his father's thinking — and more in line with that of his political rival Conservative Leader Stephen Harper — over which party should get the first chance at governing in a minority government situation.

The party that receives the most seats on Oct. 19 should get the first opportunity to govern, Trudeau said. During the 1979 campaign, his father had suggested that it's not automatic and the governing party has a right to see what its options are before ceding power.

The Liberal leader said he couldn't choose between the Conservatives or NDP to give or receive support and wouldn't choose a "lesser of two evils."

"I think both of their positions are wrong. Both of them want to continue a failed approach on austerity and cuts that Canada doesn't need, and that's why I'm confident that Canadians are going to pick the idea that we invest in our own future, and that we create growth once again."

About Bill C-51, the controversial anti-terrorism bill, Trudeau said he didn't regret his decision to back the legislation, a move that may have cost him some support, particularly among critics who argue the bill is draconian and a threat to personal freedoms. 

But Trudeau said that if elected, his government would within the first few months amend the bill to bring in greater parliamentary oversight and to review clauses and sunset clauses.

Rivals fear-mongering

"Now, Mr. Harper  wants us to be fearful that there might be a terrorist hiding behind any given tree. Mr. Mulcair wants us to be fearful for our rights and freedoms. I've said no, we're going to do those both together, and we're going to do it in a responsible way," Trudeau said. 

On the economy, Trudeau said his first step would be to call together the premiers to discuss intra-provincial trade barriers, infrastructure projects and climate change. His government would roll out about $5 billion more in infrastructure spending in the first budget.

"In order to build the kind of prosperous future that this country needs, we need to move away from the kind of solo leadership that Mr. Harper has specialized in, where he won't talk to the provinces, where he will not engage in partnerships with municipalities."

Mansbridge took Trudeau though a series of programs implemented by Harper's government and asked what he would do with them if his party takes power.

Taxing top income earners

The child care benefit would be increased and made tax free for everyone earning less than $150,000 in family income, Trudeau said, and he would scrap that subsidy for those earning more than $200,000 a year. He said he would repeal income splitting and also cut in half Harper's recent doubling of the tax free savings account limit to $10,000.

Canada's corporate tax rates would remain the same, Trudeau said, as would the GST. But he may tweak the small business tax rates.

"A large percentage of small businesses are actually just ways for wealthier Canadians to save on their taxes, and we want to reward the people who are actually creating jobs, and contributing in concrete ways. So there's a little tweaking to do around that."

Trudeau, who has said he will run deficits for three years to spend more money on infrastructure, was asked whether he's trying to outflank the NDP on the left.

"I'm not worried too much about left-right spectrum, I'm worried about what's actually going to work to help Canadians who are worried about their own jobs, about their kids' jobs."


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