As It Happens

'What we're competing on right now is our clear vision for change,' says Liberal spokesperson Kate Purchase

After weeks on the hustings, the Liberals are in a dead heat with both the Conservatives and the NDP. Kate Purchase says that Justin Trudeau has rebuilt the Liberal party and is focused on 'bringing it back to grassroots.'
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters during a 2015 federal election campaign stop in Saskatoon, Sask. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

At just about any other point in Canadian history, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals would be walking away with this election. The economy is sputtering. The polls show their Conservative rivals are down around 30 per cent and the majority of Canadians seem hungry for change. But after weeks on the hustings, the Liberals are in a dead heat, not just with the Conservatives, but with the NDP as well.

"Canadians really do want change and that's what we're competing on right now is our clear vision for change," Kate Purchase tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Purchase is the Director of Communications for the Liberal campaign. She admits that the Liberals have struggled through the past few elections.

"We saw ourselves as a fairly arrogant party and I think that Canadians unfortunately responded to that and Mr. Trudeau has spent a good part of his leadership rebuilding the party and bringing it back to grassroots."

Kate Purchase, Director of Communications for the Liberal campaign (Twitter)

Purchase says that Trudeau is reconnecting with Canadians and rebranding the party. But the Liberal position remains hard to pin down on key issues like the economy. Just months ago, Trudeau said he would balance the budget but he says he would take the country into the black.

"When Mr. Trudeau announced his plan for investment at the end of August, he was very honest with Canadians about saying we're going to have three years of modest deficits in order to grow the economy and provide real help to the middle class and create jobs," Purchase insists. "Through three modest deficits we will be able to return to balance in 2019, it's something that historically has always been true -- Liberals balance budgets and Conservatives create deficits." 

Asked why Trudeau now seems to be softening on his 2019 deadline to balance the books, Purchase says, "we absolutely are continuing to commit to balancing the budget in 2019 but we're also going to be responsible and not put forward a crystal ball forecast of what that's going to look like."

Trudeau has also faced criticism for his position on Bill C-51. The Liberals voted for the controversial security law despite warnings that it infringes on charter rights.

"The other parties think of this as a 'yes or no' or a 'black or white' approach and we've always said that we believe you need a responsible balance to these things," Purchase reasons.

When As It Happens last spoke with Trudeau he said he didn't want to let the Conservatives score political points by using Bill C-51 to 'jam' him on security issues. But Purchase points to Mr Trudeau's attempt to amend the bill.

"The Liberals brought forward a really comprehensive package of amendments to committees that dealt with the more egregious parts of C-51, narrowing the definitions so they're less broad, putting in place greater parliamentary oversight because that's something we believe very strongly in," Purchase argues.

Those amendments were rejected by the government and Trudeau voted for it nonetheless. Pressed on whether Trudeau would defend the bill against a charter challenge, Purchase says, "absolutely that's something that is going to be part of the discussion about what kind of legislation would be able to amend and replace C-51."

Trudeau has been clear in his backing of the Keystone XL pipeline that would send bitumen from the oilsands for processing in the U.S. 

"Mr. Harper has so degenerated our environmental responsibilities that it's very difficult to get Keystone or any pipeline built and I think that changing the approach, working and continuing negotiations with the United States and with our important partners is something that absolutely Mr. Trudeau will do," Purchase explains.

Asked how Trudeau plans to overcome Keystone's opponents like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Purchase says, "the province is obviously part of this negotiation, absolutely, just as First Nations are part of that negotiation."

"It's that kind of collaborative approach that Mr. Trudeau would take both to Keystone but to a number of different pipeline and a number of different resource issues."

Kate Purchase in conversation with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. (Twitter)

The government's ban of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies is likely to be a hot topic at tonight's first French-language debate. Trudeau opposes the Conservative position, and Purchase is confident that he will win over dubious Quebec voters. 

"I think Quebecers are going to respond to his strength of conviction on that particularly issue, I think that every Canadian will respond to the strength of his values and to standing true to his values on that front."

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