TORONTO - Liberal leadership hopeful Marc Garneau positioned himself Wednesday as a business-savvy candidate with a package of focused tax cuts he says are needed to help Canadians and the economy reach their full potential.
Garneau unveiled a policy-heavy economic platform that says Ottawa needs to steel itself in the face of global challenges by taking precise steps to bolster innovation and tackle weaknesses in the economy.
The Montreal MP told a Toronto business luncheon he'd put in place a series of targeted tax measures to get more people in the country employed in skilled, future-proof work, reversing what he called a return under the Conservative government to the "colonial past" of raw natural resource exports.
The former astronaut told the crowd Canada must be on the "leading edge of discovery" in science and technology in order to prosper in the 21st century.
"What I want to do is to make Canada a country where there are better opportunities for Canadians in terms of jobs (and) a more creative and competitive economy," he told reporters after the speech.
His platform calls for capital gains taxes to be eliminated for Canadian entrepreneurs, payroll tax breaks for small and mid-sized businesses that invest in employee training as well as firms that hire students in skilled jobs. It also includes measures to help recent immigrants find work in line with their field of training.
Garneau also chided the business sector for failing to take risks and invest in research and development.
"Far too often Canadian entrepreneurs must set up their companies in the U.S. to find funding," he said.
The solution, he said, is not "more government handouts" but giving businesses more incentives to grow.
"A government official should not be making the decision where to invest. It's the experts... the innovators themselves that know best."
The platform rollout follows Garneau's pledge Monday to allow greater foreign involvement in the country's wireless market.
Garneau contrasted his views with those of the NDP and Conservatives, saying he doesn't believe in less or more government.
"Rather than the stark choices we face today — a choice between a party that believes in less government and a party that believes in more government — what I'm proposing to you is a government that believes in innovative, and responsive and smart government."
Garneau is one of six contenders in the race, which includes fellow members of Parliament Justin Trudeau and Joyce Murray, former MP Martha Hall Findlay, retired Canadian Forces Lt. Col. Karen McCrimmon and Toronto-based lawyer Deborah Coyne.