Reporter (Marissa Semkiw): “What income range for individuals and households constitutes middle class?”
Trudeau: “You’d like a number?”
Reporter: “What income range constitutes middle class?”
Trudeau: ”There are all sorts of different ways of calculating which decile or quintile constitutes the middle class. The reality is that I consider the middle class is people who work for their income, …not people who live off their assets and their savings. And for me, as we’ve seen across the country, they’re struggling. We have a stalled set of numbers…if you want numbers…over the past 30 years, since 1981 the Canadian economy has grown over 100 percent. Median family income in this country has increased only by about 14 percent, which means middle class Canadians haven’t had a real raise in 30 years.”
House of Commons foyer.
Reporter (Daniel Proussalidis): Do you want to take another stab at what income range forms the middle class?
Trudeau: I have been very clear that people who live off their incomes are of the middle class and those who live off their assets, their portfolios, their trust funds are not.
House of Commons foyer again.
Reporter (me): The middle class. You were asked twice to define it, and you were very clear yesterday that it is people who earn income and not those who live off assets. So going further then, what sort of policy tools are available for you or for someone who wants to help the middle class, help the salaried CEO of Tim Horton’s as well as the hourly-waged baker at Tim Horton’s. They’re both in your middle class. What do you do to help them?
Trudeau: I’ve been very clear since I launched my leadership campaign back in the fall of 2012 that we are focused on helping middle class Canadians and the Canadians who hope to achieve middle class status. What the definition of the middle class is — we’ll let economists argue about which quintile or decile it starts or ends at, for me, it’s people who live paycheque to paycheque . . .
Reporter: But that’s an important issue which quintile or decile they’re in, is it not? That’s an important issue?
Trudeau: Canadians of multiple income levels are facing similar kinds of challenges of the reality of a generation where young people are not looking at having the same kinds of opportunities or quality of life their parents had, where seniors are worrying not just about retiring not just without a pension but into debt …
Reporter: But people on pensions aren’t in your middle class? You were asked that twice — you said people with pensions aren’t in the middle class?
And that’s where Trudeau moved on to other questions. (Watch the video of this exchange below… )
Why is this important? Because boosting the fortunes of the middle class is what Trudeau has staked his claim to government on, that a Liberal Party will focus on improving the lot of the middle class. Indeed, here’s Trudeau, in his own words, on Tuesday, speaking in the House of Commons foyer: “it is my priority to make sure that we have an economy that works for everyone in this country, specifically the middle class. And I’d like to see a government that instead of spending all its energies on attacking me spends all its energies on attacking the problem of the challenges facing the middle class. And that’s what we need to see.”
So presumably someone who is considering supporting Trudeau would want to know: am I in Trudeau’s middle class? Is he going to spend all his and his party’s energies on my challenges? If not, which party is? And, from a public policy standpoint, the number of people who might benefit by a middle class tax cut (or, for those not in Trudeau’s middle class, be hurt by a tax hike) or get a tax credit or get to use a government program set up by a Trudeau government for the middle class is an important number if we are trying to assess how much it will cost.
Indeed, the Conservatives, for example, have provided enough information about their income splitting campaign commitment — available to couples with children under 16 who will be able to dish off up to $50,000 in taxable income to the lower-earning spouse — contains enough detail that voters can determine for themselves if they benefit and policy types can determine and debate the macro effects of this policy.
So getting Trudeau to tell us who is in the middle class would seem to be an important issue:
And this week we tried three times and learned that you are in Trudeau’s middle class if you are one of those people who:
a) “…work for their income, not people who live off their assets and their saving.” (Monday)
b) “…people who live off their incomes are of the middle class and those who live off their assets, their portfolios, their trust funds are not.” (Tuesday)
c) “…who live paycheque to paycheque…” (Wednesday)
And if you’re confused,
d) “..we’ll let economists argue about which quintile or decile it starts or ends…” (Wednesday)
Photo credit: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 1, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)