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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses caucus during a meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 17.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau outlined his strategy to win back voters and try to put the Conservatives on the defensive in an address to the Liberal caucus Wednesday, with the budget providing the party’s road map.

Mr. Trudeau sought to paint Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre as an ally to the “ultrarich,” after the Opposition Leader said his party won’t support a deficit-fuelled budget that raises taxes and targets the country’s top income-earners and select corporations.

“Conservatives have already said they’re voting against this budget. They’re voting against fairness, they will be voting against asking the ultrarich to pay their share,” Mr. Trudeau said in a public speech to his MPs.

In the federal budget, the government unveiled about $53-billion in new spending for a housing strategy, affordability measures such as pharmacare, defence, Indigenous services, and research and innovation. The Liberals will pay for the new spending in part by raising $19.4-billion in new tax revenue. For corporations, the government will increase the taxable portion of capital gains from one-half to two-thirds. For individuals, the taxable portion will go up the same amount on annual capital gains above $250,000.

Mr. Poilievre has had a double-digit lead over the Liberals for eight months partly because of younger voters who delivered the Prime Minister his last two election victories, but who are now lending their support to Mr. Poilievre.

“This budget is about making sure we build an economy that is fair for everyone,” Mr. Trudeau said.

“We don’t think it’s fair that a teacher or electrician pays taxes on 100 per cent of their income, while a multimillionaire pays taxes only on 50 per cent of the passive income they make on capital gains, so we’re going to make them pay a little more.”

In Question Period, however, the Conservatives were quick with counterattacks, prompting pointed exchanges between the two leaders.

“We know who won’t pay. It won’t be those with trust funds that protect their millions of inheritance, like the Prime Minister, nor the billionaires that invite him to their private Caribbean islands,” Mr. Poilievre said.

“They’ll hide their money. You know who will pay? You will pay.”

The Conservative Leader criticized the budget’s deficit spending, which he blames for high inflation and for increasing the federal debt. The government is now paying more in debt-servicing costs than in federal health spending, he said.

“The Conservative Party is choosing to stand with the status quo, stand with the ultrawealthy,” Mr. Trudeau responded.

He defended the budget, which includes a $39.8-billion deficit, saying Canadians will benefit from new spending on housing, dental care, child care and a new disability benefit. “Those are the things that they stand against,” Mr. Trudeau said about the Official Opposition.

After months of letting the Conservatives set the political agenda on issues such as carbon pricing, the Liberals are for the first time in a long time trying to fight back, said Liberal strategist Scott Reid, who has been critical of the government’s performance in the past.

“For a year, they have been a cork in the river drifting almost wherever the currents of the Conservative movement, led by Pierre Poilievre, carried them. At least in this budget season, they are attempting to steer their own course,” Mr. Reid said.

He added, however, that it is not yet clear if the capital-gains tax changes will be a big enough wedge to capture voters’ attention.

But Conservative political analyst Kate Harrison said Mr. Trudeau lacks the credibility needed to land his attacks on wealthy Canadians and corporations. For example, she pointed out Mr. Trudeau’s most recent luxury vacation that was gifted to him over Christmas and his government’s frequent subsidies to major corporations.

“He doesn’t have that authenticity, to sell the message that he’s not a friend of the ultrarich,” Ms. Harrison said.

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