POLITICS

Trudeau Kicks Off Campaign With Pitch To Canada's Middle Class

08/02/2015 06:34 EDT | Updated 08/03/2015 01:59 EDT

Justin Trudeau's bid to restore his Liberal party's lost electoral lustre is underway — and it has its sights set squarely on Canada's shrinking middle class.

As he kicked off his election campaign in Vancouver, Trudeau dismissed the Conservative claim that he's not ready to be prime minister.

"My opponents can say whatever they like about me," Trudeau told supporters on Vancouver Harbour.

"I'm going to stay focused on you, on making real change happen that will make a real difference in your life."

Trudeau was the last leader to appear publicly today because he was on a plane to the West Coast when Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked Gov. Gen. David Johnston to dissolve Parliament.

He said he had already committed to march in Vancouver's Pride parade, and wasn't about to change his plans.

"I made a promise to the half-a-million British Columbians who will be celebrating Pride this afternoon, celebrating Canada's diversity," he said.

"No one's going to get me to break my word, particularly not Stephen Harper."

It was one of several jabs directed at both Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in Trudeau's first speech of the 11-week long campaign, though most of his criticism was focused on the parties' economic platforms.

Trudeau said Harper's plan for the economy has failed, making it more and more difficult for Canadians to get ahead. Mulcair's plan, he said, would put the brakes on the economy at the worst possible time.

The Liberals are the only party with a real plan to strengthen the middle class and the Canadian economy, Trudeau boasted.

"It's time to choose a person and a team with an economic plan based on this fundamental truth about Canada: if you want to create jobs and grow the Canadian economy, you have to give the middle class a real and fair chance to succeed."

The Liberals faced a crushing defeat in the 2011 election, losing 43 seats and suffering a demotion to third-party status.

The young, charismatic Trudeau has brought new life to the party almost single-handedly, and was leading the polls before Conservative ads targeting him as "just not ready" became constant fixtures on radio and TV.

Pollsters currently have the Liberals sitting third in a tight race, but Trudeau insists he's ready for and excited about the election — even if it will be the longest campaign in modern Canadian history.

He used his campaign launch to criticize Harper for calling the election early, saying it's all the prime minister could come up with to keep his job.

The prime minister's has three responsibilities, Trudeau said: keep the country united, keep Canadians safe and give people a real and fair chance to succeed.

"That's what our plan will do. That's what our team is committed to fighting for. And that's what this election truly will be all about."

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