Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took aim Friday at what he called financial elites, saying his own party needs to take inequality more seriously and to support ongoing emergency aid.
He used the midday speech to a largely business audience to say that how the country creates wealth needs to be reframed, or else “less reasonable” forces will do it instead.
“Too much power is in the hands of corporate and financial elites who are happy to outsource jobs abroad,” O’Toole warned the Canadian Club of Toronto, according to his text.
“It’s now expected of a shareholder to ask a CEO: ‘Why are we paying a worker in Oshawa $30 an hour when we could be paying one in China 50 cents an hour?’ And while that shareholder gets richer, Canada gets poorer.”
O’Toole blamed the Liberals for favouring elites over workers, trade deals over domestic jobs. The Opposition leader gave the broad strokes of how the Tories would tackle an economic divide widened by the pandemic, with higher-income earners faring better than low-wage workers.
O’Toole said government policy should focus on building “solidarity,” not just wealth, and talked about the need to intervene in the economy when good outcomes aren’t shared, or when it was in the national interest.
He also a mirrored a call from Liberal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, for ongoing aid to combat the health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.
“I don’t like deficits. But the alternatives were much worse. We had to do what needed to be done,” O’Toole said.
“This is not something I would support in normal times. But we are facing more than a health crisis. We are facing the greatest economic crisis of our lifetime.”
Watch: O’Toole explains his policies today from Stornoway, his official residence in Ottawa:
In the question-and-answer session after his speech, O’Toole added that he doesn’t support the depth of the deficit the Liberals have created.
Freeland’s department produced an update Friday on how much the federal government has borrowed to supply that aid so far.
The federal deficit hit $170.5 billion through the first five months of the government’s fiscal year. The deficit figure from April to August compared to a $5.2-billion deficit recorded in the same period one year earlier, thanks to billions of dollars in spending on emergency aid.
The monthly fiscal monitor from the Finance Department showed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit payments at $58.8 billion and the federal wage subsidy program at $37.4 billion over the five-month stretch.
Economic growth slows
A further $19.2 billion in spending over that time included money for a business loan program the Liberals have since widened and a rent-relief program for businesses the government plans to revamp.
The deficit numbers landed just after Statistics Canada…