Poilievre takes ‘clear line of attack’ on economy as Trudeau paints Conservative leader as ‘reckless’ in first QP showdown

Strategists say Pierre Poilievre launched a targeted attack on the economy against Justin Trudeau when the two leaders faced each other in their first showdown at Question Time, while the prime minister called the newly elected opposition leader “dangerous” and “reckless” if it management is about the country’s finances.

“I think this was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the economic issues that are really affecting Canadian families right now,” with a message focused on “tangible and immediate benefits for Canadians,” said conservative strategist Josie Sabatino The hill time.

Poilievre (Carleton, Ontario), she said, “wants to fight that in the economy, and he hopes that in the next election — whether in 2025 or early — the ballot box issue will be framed around these economic issues.”

Liberal strategist Mira Ahmad said Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) responded by trying to contrast Poilievre in economic policies, such as on the GST rebate or Canada’s child benefit.

“I think Pierre will be the new leader of the Conservative Party, which really solidifies Canadians’ election and demonstrates the really stark contrast between the Liberal government and the Conservative Party today,” Ahmad said.

The duel represented a possible preview of the pivotal duel in the next federal election, with Poilievre crucially securing his party’s leadership earlier this month and Trudeau giving increasingly clear indications, publicly and privately, that he intends to stay on for another campaign.

The exchange comes after Poilievre had previously appeared at Question Time several times this week while the Prime Minister was abroad – at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London and then at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York – before he returned to Canada and appeared in the House of Commons for the September 22 question period.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, pictured in the foyer of the House of Commons on September 13, focused his message heavily on economic and cost-of-living issues in his first opportunity to question Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since he became chairman of the opposition. The Hill Times photo of Andrew Meade

The House is still in a hybrid session, meaning MEPs can attend remotely, but there were few vacancies in the Chamber when Question Time started. The front benches of the various parties were almost full, as was the press gallery. Secretary of State Melanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Ontario) and Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour, NB) were among a small handful of Cabinet ministers not present in the chamber.

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The mood on the Conservative side was upbeat as Poilievre’s caucus greeted him with a standing ovation, though he quickly motioned for them to be seated.

After some early fighting – Poilievre opened by noting that Trudeau was only back in Canada to “fill up his private jet” – both leaders stayed away from the kind of awkward face-to-face confrontations some observers had predicted and instead focused then political questions about the cost of living.

Poilievre repeatedly accused the government of raising taxes on Canadians. Referring to the impact of the carbon tax on seniors in rural Newfoundland, he said: “Heating your home in January and February in Canada is not a luxury and does not make these Canadians polluters. They’re just trying to survive. This from a prime minister who used more kerosene in a month than the average Canadian 20 did in a year.”

He also said the government uses the labor insurance system “to feed itself [Trudeau’s] insatiable hunger to spend” by collecting $10 billion more in EI deductions than they would pay out in EI benefits over the next three years.

“Canadians can’t afford a bigger chunk of their paychecks,” Poilievre said.

Trudeau, meanwhile, began congratulating Poilievre on his new position, and while he allowed himself a few jibes about Poilievre’s support for cryptocurrencies and his record as a minister in the previous Conservative government, he mostly remained dry and neutral in tone.

Some of the key points Trudeau used to parry Poilievre’s cost-of-living attacks were highlighting MP Carleton’s record on EI bonuses as Secretary of Labor and noting the massive price drop in cryptocurrency after Poilievre previously said In this year, Canadians could invest in it to “run out of inflation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured ahead of Question Time on September 22, parried Poilievre’s attacks on cost-of-living issues by pointing to statements Poilievre had made during his election campaign. The Hill Times photo of Andrew Meade

“If Canadians had followed the opposition leader’s advice and invested in volatile cryptocurrencies to avoid inflation, they would have lost half their savings,” Trudeau said.

Ahmad, who is a former Liberal Party staffer and currently serves as vice president on the party’s national executive board, said Trudeau’s strategy of pointing to Poilievre’s ministerial history and statements from his leadership campaign is an approach Liberals are likely to continue using.

Liberal strategist Mira Ahmad said her party is likely to continue to refer to Poilievre’s achievements as minister and statements from his leadership campaign. Photo courtesy of Mira Ahmad/Twitter

“[Poilievre’s] Communication has been very strong throughout his campaign, but I think you need to be responsive to the things he’s done before so that Canadians are not only aware of the videos he’s posting and the tweets he’s tweeting, but what he’s actually doing would,” said Ahmad, who is now a senior campaign strategist at Crestview Strategy. “His economic plan is dangerous, he is ruthless.”

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Sabatino, a former Conservative Party staffer who most recently served as communications director for then-opposition leader Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.), said while the Liberal strategy of hitting Poilevre’s economic record makes sense — he called on business on “A battleground Justin Truduea must fight for” – she said Liberals might find it difficult to separate Poilievre’s ministerial record from the Harper government.

“I think the problem with liberals is that when you talk about tax cuts … when you look back to a track record of 10 years ago, nobody really looks back that far,” said Sabatino, who is now a senior consultant at Summa Strategies. “What they want is an instant difference that will impact the paychecks they’re seeing now. They understand that when they go to a grocery store, their money doesn’t go as far as it used to. I think that’s where the Liberals have an uphill battle and it’s a tough line of attack really.”

Sabatino added that although Poilievre had some shots from Trudeau on economic policy, the fact that the Liberal leader spent the entire exchange talking about the economy – Poilievre’s main political issue – was itself a victory for the new opposition leader.

“We see such a clear line of attack against Justin Trudeau” on the economy because those are the issues Poilievre wants to frame in the debate, Sabatino said.

Conservative strategist Josie Sabatino said Poilievre would continue to focus his message on the economy. Photo courtesy of Josie Sabatino/Linkedin

Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet (Beloeil-Chambly, Que.) chimed in by noting that now that the Prime Minister is back in the House, “we won’t need the NDP anymore, to tell us what the liberals think.” Blanchet challenged the liberals on the issue of royalties for French-language artists.

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NDP leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, BC) skipped the jokes and tried to attack both liberals and conservatives on cost-of-living issues, saying Canadians are caught between “a party that says nothing and a party that does nothing. ”

Cam Holmstrom, a former NDP staffer who is now founder and director of Niipaawi Strategies, said Singh continues his approach of “trying to show the role of a constructive member of the opposition – that you can make proposals and still oppose them.” the government can provide and push them.”

The day’s focus embodied a key challenge faced by the NDP of maintaining relevance in a narrative that increasingly focuses on the contrasts between Trudeau and Poilievre. Holmstrom said Blanchet’s barb shows the NDP remains a key player.

NDP strategist Cam Holmstrom said block leader Yves-François Blanchet’s attack on the NDP shows the party remains a key player. Photo courtesy of Cam Holmstrom

“If the NDP wasn’t in the know and didn’t have influence, you don’t get that opportunity from Mr. Blanchet because that speaks to what’s really happening — the NDP has a lot of influence,” Holmstrom said, pointing to many of the policies that Trudeau highlighted in his replies as “almost all directly the outcome of the NDP.”

After his initial exchanges with opposition party leaders, Trudeau handed the reins to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ontario) and the rest of his team, and spent the remainder of Question Time catching up on paperwork and conferring with Prime Minister Mark Holland (Ajax, Ontario).

Matching the usual theatrics of the Question Period, Freeland accused Conservative MP Frank Caputo (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, BC) of failing to read the latest issue of the Fiscal Monitor and howling loudly but still good-naturedly when she replied a question with its own question.

When Trudeau withdrew himself from the bureau, Poilievre handed the questioning to others in his party and left the Chamber for most of the remainder of Question Time, only to return towards the end as MPs gathered for an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of 1972 prepared series of summits against the Soviet Union. Team Canada members should be honored in the House of Representatives with speeches by party leaders and other lawmakers.

Question Time ended on a show of goodwill when Holland, in response to the traditional Thursday question from new Conservative House Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), first took a moment to address the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Brassard (Barrie-Innisfil, Ont.), for his contributions in that position. That got a standing ovation from the Conservative faction.

Despite preparing for the first meeting between the prime minister and the opposition leader, Holmstrom said he was not surprised that the affair remained relatively tame given that it came early in the autumn session after a long summer break.

“There was still that little buffer that would have helped relieve some tension. I’ll wait to see after Thanksgiving, a little later in the fall, how much more tense it gets,” he said. “I think at that point you’re going to start to see things snap. If it had cracked today, God help us all, we’re in a bad spot.”

The hill time

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