Face to Face 2021: Justin Trudeau met 4 undecided voters. Here's what happened
The conversation was the second instalment of The National's Face to Face series
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said keeping Canadians safe is his priority, and he will continue to stand up to anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protesters, while admitting there are some Canadians who will never get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Liberal leader said that keeping Canadians safe meant asking ourselves as a society "whether we're going to tolerate anti-vaxxers and fringe groups and people who want to take away women's rights and bring back guns. Or do we stand strong for the values that we know make us stronger as Canadians?"
Trudeau made the remarks during the second instalment of The National Presents: Face to Face with the Federal Party Leaders, in which four undecided voters get five minutes to ask one of four federal party leaders about an issue close to their hearts.
During one exchange with a voter, CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton jumped in and pressed Trudeau on whether his ongoing confrontations with anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxers at campaign events across the country might be pushing these Canadians farther away from being vaccinated.
"There are very different groups we're talking about right now. The folks who are coming out screaming profanities at health-care workers are not going to be convinced by a well-meaning advertising campaign," Trudeau said.
Watch: Trudeau answers questions on divisions in society and hate from Puja Bagri of Pickering, Ont.:
Asked if there were certain parts of the Canadian population he would just have to give up on, Trudeau said, indeed, there are. "Some people you need to protect other Canadians from, and that's what I am unequivocal about doing," he said.
"We're going to recover our country for the almost 80 per cent of people who've done the right thing," Trudeau said."We have to get Canada back going for the people who've done the right things.
The issue of rising hate crimes and personal safety was brought up by voter Puja Bagri of Pickering, Ont. Born in Canada to parents who migrated here from India, she says that she has been a victim of racism and said she is worried about the rising incidents of hate across the country.
"What I want to know is, what do you … plan to do to ensure that Canadians from all walks of life feel safe and protected?"
Trudeau said that his government would maintain its current ban on assault weapons and will take action on online hate "where, yes, freedom of speech is going to be really important to continue to protect always; but not freedom to hate and freedom to incite to violence."
Watch The National Presents: Face to Face With the Federal Party Leaders on CBC News Network, CBCNews.ca, the CBC News App (Apple or Android) or CBC Gem at 8 p.m. ET, followed by highlights on The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC News Network, and at 10 p.m. ET on CBC-TV and online.
Rebuilding the economy
Ty Simpson of Bowmanville, Ont., is a musician who worked at a big-box store during the pandemic. He asked Trudeau what he would do, if re-elected prime minister, to help low-income Canadians struggling to pay bills and afford their own home.
"What would you do to address the growing income inequality in this country and improve the lives of low-income workers, many of which, such as myself, were asked to continue working through the pandemic despite an increased risk to their safety?" Simpson asked.
Trudeau said many Canadians are facing barriers to housing and education and that by helping those people, a Liberal government would be able to improve the economic situation for Canadians such as Simpson.
"Whether it's better access to education, if you want to go back to school, better supports for artists or better support for you and your partner to be able to buy their home with a real housing strategy that's going to put more money in your pocket and support in the creation of supply, there's lots of things that we need to do, and we want to be there to support you on it," Trudeau said.
Trudeau also ruled out the prospect of implementing a guaranteed universal income, saying that such a program would still leave some Canadians without the support they need.
Trudeau said sending out the same amount of money "to everyone means necessarily some people will get more than they need and some people won't get what they need," he said. "Targeting is better than universal."
Liberal delegates at the party's policy convention in April overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for the establishment of a guaranteed universal income — 77 per cent voting in favour of the economic support.
A guaranteed universal income would work similar to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which kept millions of people afloat with monthly cheques during the first wave of the pandemic.
Watch: Trudeau answers questions on economic inequality from Ty Simpson of Bowmanville, Ont.:
The Liberal leader also said that he would push the provinces to adopt 10 days of paid sick leave in all industries and all sectors to protect workers from illnesses spread through the workforce by employees who cannot afford to take unpaid time off work.
Pushed by CBC's Barton on how he will be able to successfully encourage premiers to take action on a policy that is the responsibility of the provinces, not the federal government, Trudeau said he would strike deals with the provinces that are willing and allow public pressure to do the rest.
"Some [provinces] are really resistant, but I know the pressure from voters like Ty on the provincial levels. Pressure from families. Pressure from people who actually know: 'Yeah, paid sick leave is a really good idea.' We've demonstrated an ability to push the provinces to do things," the Liberal leader said.
Watch: Trudeau answers questions on economic recovery and inflation from Ahmed Hassan of Edmonton.:
Rising inflation and child care as stimulus
Ahmed Hassan of Edmonton said he did not feel that any party had a real plan to get the economy back on track after the pandemic and wanted to know what the Liberal leader would do to help ensure Canada's economic future.
"The cost of goods and services has increased while our purchasing power has decreased," Hassan said. "What are you going to do to get the economy back on track? And where are you going to draw the line between economic stimuli and [fiscal] restraint?"
Trudeau said that the Liberal housing strategy would help make the costs of housing more affordable by introducing more housing stock into the economy, and that his party would also offer additional support for students, touting its child care plan, which he said would make a significant difference in boosting economic output.
"As you look toward having a family, child-care costs are way too expensive across the country. We're going to get those down to $10 a day," he said.
The Liberal child-care plan, Trudeau said, would cut the cost of child care in half for the first year of his plan. In provinces where premiers have signed child-care agreements with the federal government, the cost would be further reduced to $10 a day five years from now.
Rolled out as an economic stimulus program in the spring budget, child care has become one of the most costly policies proposed by the Liberals. Pressed by Barton on whether additional stimulus to the economy is necessary after all the spending that has taken place during the pandemic, Trudeau defended his party's policy.
"It's not about spending that amount of money, it's about what you invested in," He said. "The $30 billion we're putting forward for $10 a day child care will make a huge difference right across the country, not just to families, but to employers and businesses as we get women back into the workforce in larger numbers."
Watch: Trudeau answers questions on reconciliation from Dodie Ferguson of Cowessess First Nation, Regina.:
Reconciliation and economic growth in the West
Dodie Ferguson, from Cowessess First Nation, near Regina, comes from a family that works in the oil and gas industry and says she is concerned about the economic future of her family as the oil industry butts up against the need to take action on climate change.
"What can you tell me that would encourage me to vote Liberal this time around, taking into consideration the future for my children and my grandchildren as Indigenous workers in Canada?"
Trudeau said that if re-elected his government would establish a $2 billion "futures fund" for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador that will help those provinces diversify away from the fossil fuel industry.
"Unless we bring along workers and people in Saskatchewan and Alberta, particularly, we don't get to meet our reduction targets. We don't get to do what we need to do to make sure our kids and grandkids are safe," Trudeau said.
Barton pressed Trudeau on his 2015 campaign promise to eliminate all boil-water advisories within five years, something his government has made progress on but has not been able to complete.
Boil water advisories
"You said, we're not going to meet that deadline. I wonder if it was a mistake to create that expectation to suggest that it could take that amount of time," Barton asked.
Since 2015 the Liberal government has lifted 109 boil-water advisories in Indigenous communities. With new advisories having been added since 2015, there are now 51 still in place in 32 communities.
Trudeau said past Canadian governments had proved unable to end boil-water advisories for decades and he does not regret setting a target he proved unable to meet because he wanted to aim high.
"Despite well-meaning governments and some less well-meaning governments, it hadn't been solved," Trudeau said. "So I said, you know what? We're going to make a big, bold moonshot and we're going to do it. And … we lifted 109 … and we now have a plan and projects and money for all of them."
With files from the CBC's Rosemary Barton and Tyler Buist