Chinta Puxley (The Toronto Star):
The Liberals courted the traditional NDP vote Tuesday, criticizing that party’s insistence on balancing the books and promising unions $750 million for skilled trades funding.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau addressed a local plumber and pipefitter’s union, saying he would give $500 million to the provinces while spending another $200 million on training for workers who can’t get federal training.
Another $50 million in the Liberal plan would go to help aboriginal people improve their skills and job prospects. The money is part of a previous $2 billion employment announcement Trudeau made a week ago in New Brunswick.
He accused Conservative Leader Stephen Harper of being out of touch with the concerns of workers and said his announcement Tuesday would undo the damage caused by cuts to labour market agreements last year.
“You’ve seen your personal debt rising as your job prospects sink. You want to seek out better opportunities but you can’t access the training you need,” Trudeau told supporters and apprentices at the shop within view of the local Conservative candidate’s campaign headquarters.
“Stephen Harper doesn’t know what that’s like. When he was first elected, Windows 95 was still two years away . . . (and) the cutting-edge way to apply for a job was to send in your resumé by fax.”
Trudeau also said his party’s resolve to strengthen the middle class — rather than balance the books immediately — is a testament to the Liberal commitment to workers’ rights.
The NDP dismissed the announcement as a “repackaging of previously announced funds” and said only a “tiny part” of the funding will actually directly support skilled trades. The party also questioned the Liberal commitment to labour issues, saying its MPs have routinely voted against bills in the House that would benefit workers.
Trudeau made the announcement in a riding where the Liberals lost to the Conservatives by only a handful of votes in 2008 and finished a close second in 2011.