OTTAWA—Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau is launching his pre-election message Tuesday in Greater Toronto, the first of a series of speeches to tout Liberal achievements while acknowledging the financial anxieties felt by many, The Star has learned.
If Morneau’s messaging is any indication, the Liberals intend to infuse their “sunny ways” election slogan in 2015 with a sobering overview of the concerns confronting Canadians.
And Morneau will tell business audiences Tuesday there’s no shortage of worries, from the job market — where radical changes now unfold every few years rather than every couple of generations — to the environment and climate change, affordability and retirement and the concerns of business owners.
Despite job growth, low unemployment and forecasts of continued growth in Canada, Morneau will bluntly say that Canadians see an uncertain future ahead, according to a draft speaking notes obtained by the Star.
All that talk of uncertainty lays the groundwork for Morneau to argue in the speech that the Liberals are the party best positioned to govern for another term.
Morneau will say that the Liberals intend to stick with their “plan.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and other MPs in the party have criticized the Liberals over their broken election promise to eliminate the deficit, which rang in at around $19 billion in 2017-18. They have also gone after the Liberals over the federal carbon pricing plan.
But Morneau is expected to challenge the Conservatives to release their own strategies to combat climate change and balance the books, without cutting services or raising taxes.
The federal finance minister is expected to poke at Premier Doug Ford too, saying it made no sense to withdraw from a cap-and-trade alliance with California and Quebec after businesses had invested billions of dollars in the arrangement.
That follows Ford’s own claim on Monday that Ottawa’ climate change plan could spark a “carbon-tax recession.”
Morneau will roll out his messaging Tuesday in two separate speeches, first at a morning meet of the Aurora and Newmarket Chambers of Commerce and then a lunch speech to the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce.
Tuesday’s speeches and others to come in the weeks ahead are part of a campaign by Morneau and the government to put a spotlight on the government’s economic initiatives while trying to address financial jitters they worry could overshadow election messaging.
That campaign was signalled when Trudeau gathered with his cabinet ministers for a retreat in Sherbrooke, Que. last week.
The October election is months away but the federal parties will return to Parliament next week from their Christmas break already in campaign mode.
Scheer was in Montreal on Monday where he promised a number of initiatives, including a single tax return for Quebecers and giving the province more autonomy on the immigration file, two demands that Premier François Legault highlight last week in a meeting with Trudeau.
“We are listening to Quebecers, and this first step of the unveiling of our political offer is a clear sign,” Scheer said in a news release.
Quebec’s 78 seats could be key in deciding who forms the next government. The Liberals hold 40 seats, the NDP 15, the Conservatives 10, the Bloc Québécois 10 and Maxime Bernier, now leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has one. There is one vacancy, which will be decided in a Feb. 25 byelection.
Scheer said the Conservatives are the “only serious alternative to Justin Trudeau Liberals,” a pointed attempt to elbow the New Democrats out of the picture.
Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier