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Politics If you’re in the right tax bracket, Trudeau has a platform for you

What is the middle class? For Justin Trudeau, it's a tax bracket.

The Liberal Leader is dedicating himself, his party and his electoral prospects to making life easier for people earning between $44,700 and $89,401 a year. They would get a major tax cut and enhanced child-care benefits in the election-platform plank that Mr. Trudeau revealed Monday.

If you make less than that, especially if you're childless, Monday's announcement offers you less. If you make more, the tax benefit diminishes proportionately as your income goes up. For the one-per-centers earning more than $200,000, there's even a tax increase.

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The new policy is simple, powerful and politically effective. If Mr. Trudeau can sell it, then he could win the Oct. 19 federal election.

But first he has to persuade people making between $44,700 and $89,401 that he truly, deeply believes in them, and not much else.

The great strength of Monday's announcement is its minimalism. It creates no new programs or bureaucracies, requires no complicated negotiations with the provinces, adds no more pages to the tax code.

It punishes the wealthy, and focuses laser-like on the middle of the middle. It is as important for what it leaves out as for what it includes.

Though there will be future planks and other announcements, the tax cut and child benefit takes up much of the available fiscal room.

If you believe that Canada has dug itself an infrastructure hole, and that Ottawa should be spending more to repair it, then be warned: Mr. Trudeau's middle-class tax cut sucks up so much money that there will be little for trains and airports and sewers and highways.

If you believe that fighting global warming should be the first priority, then be warned: There will be few dollars available for converting from mean to green.

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Many activists who are sick to death of years of Conservative hostility to their cause, whatever that cause might be, and who have poured their aspirations into the empty vessel known as Justin Trudeau, may only now be realizing that their hopes were misplaced.

Mr. Trudeau and his team of advisers believe that the real crisis of our time is the concentration of wealth among upper-income earners at the expense of the distressed middle. Their proposed solution is to expropriate a portion of that wealth and deliver it, not to the oppressed, but to the suburbs, to two-income, white-collar commuters who wonder why they work so hard and never get a raise. This tax cut's for them.

The more aspirational among them, who see their current income as a way-station on the road to something better, might not be impressed at the Liberals' willingness to raid what they hope will be their future earnings.

Also, a $60,000 income in Trois-Rivières delivers a much greater level of affluence than a $60,000 income in the Lower Mainland. Using income to define the middle class defies economic geography.

Speaking of Trois-Rivières, Mr. Trudeau has clearly decided to ignore the NDP. If they want to tailor policies for lower-income workers, if they want to guarantee subsidized daycare spaces, if they want to fight climate change, the Liberals are happy to let them.

It can be exceedingly dangerous to turn your back on Thomas Mulcair. But Mr. Trudeau clearly sees this election as a contest between himself and Mr. Harper.

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The Prime Minister has dedicated his entire political life to understanding, representing and defending the suburban middle class. He will fight Justin Trudeau to the political death over them.

If Mr. Trudeau has an advantage, it is that the Conservatives' plethora of targeted tax cuts, tax credits and tax-free accounts have accumulated like barnacles over the past decade. The Liberal platform of 2015 is as clean and simple as the Tory platform was in 2006.

Also, Mr. Harper is not willing to punish upper-income earners in order to reward those in the middle, and Mr. Trudeau is. To that extent, this is an ideological battle.

Mr. Trudeau's biggest challenge is to persuade those middle-income voters that he gets them and is willing to fight for them. It may be a hard sell, at least at first, for the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

But it's what he has to do. This tax cut is a good start. He has five months. Everything depends upon it.

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