Skip to main content

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau takes part in a TV interview on budget day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 21, 2015. More than two years after becoming leader of the Liberal Party, he is ready to begin unveiling his election platform, starting wtih two economic policies on the theme of “fairness for the middle class and people who are working hard to join it.”Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Members of Justin Trudeau's campaign team concede a narrative has set in, with the media if not necessarily the general public, that the Liberal Leader has lost momentum because of a lack of policy substance.

But they claim that storyline is about to change dramatically.

More than two years after he took his party's helm, Mr. Trudeau is finally ready to begin unveiling his election platform – making what an adviser described as "two major economic policy announcements" in the coming week. From the way the Liberals are hyping the roll-out, it is clear they want this to be a pivotal point in Mr. Trudeau's leadership – one that positions him as someone with a policy agenda in stark contrast to that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and proves he is at least as bold as NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Both policies, to be announced at once, will be on the theme of "fairness for the middle class and people who are working hard to join it." While the Liberals are being tight-lipped about what exactly that means, there are some hints as to where Mr. Trudeau is heading.

In conversations, senior members of their party accuse Mr. Harper of being indifferent to a growing gap between the richest members of society and everyone else. Beyond Mr. Trudeau's existing commitment to roll back the government's introduction of income-splitting and doubling contribution limits for tax-free savings accounts, the Liberals appear inclined to make further changes to the tax system.

Mr. Trudeau's officials are dismissive of the NDP's pledge to raise corporate taxes, but much more open to taking aim at high-income earners' personal taxes – to shift the burden, to help fund program investments aimed at promoting equality of opportunity, or some combination thereof.

Should they propose any tax increases at all, the Liberals will be opening themselves up to the sorts of Conservative attacks successfully used against their past leaders, most notably Stéphane Dion. But they believe that, despite being an unlikely champion of the middle class given his privileged upbringing, Mr. Trudeau has the people skills to sell such an agenda. And more than soft-selling policies along those lines, the Liberals seem inclined to be provocative in painting Mr. Trudeau as someone willing to speak truth to upper-income groups that have purportedly been coddled by Mr. Harper.

Mr. Trudeau's Liberals generally brush off criticism of waiting this long to put forward economic policies, partly on the basis that had they were right not to box themselves in with commitments before the sudden drop in oil prices affected federal budgeting. But there are mixed accounts within their party as to whether the perception that Mr. Trudeau lacks substance has started to set in with voters, with even some members of Mr. Trudeau's campaign team acknowledging that allowing marijuana legalization to be his most prominent policy to date may have helped the Tories paint him as a lightweight.

However the coming announcement plays, his advisers expect lack of policy to soon be the least of their concerns. After the coming announcements, one of them said half-jokingly, the complaint may be that he has too much of it.