Justin Trudeau has vowed the economy will be top of mind for Liberals as they inch closer to an election next year.
But his reluctance to share concrete policy proposals since becoming Grit leader last April has resulted in criticism from some corners that he is, to quote Tory attacks, "in over his head."
On Tuesday, the Liberal leader released a video on YouTube highlighting his economic priorities as Liberal delegates head to Montreal for their biennial convention later this week.
And it's clear the focus will be on the challenges facing Canada's middle class.
The clip, which runs more than seven minutes, features sleek cartoon drawings and charts meant to illustrate Trudeau's central point that while Canada is relatively flush, the middle class is tapped out.
"Over the last 30 years, Canada's economy has more than doubled in size. Not bad. But how about personal incomes? Since 1981, they've only risen about 15 per cent," he says in the clip. "In fact, the only thing that’s really kept pace with GDP growth is household debt."
Trudeau also argues in the clip that provincial and territorial governments are feeling squeezed and Ottawa needs to step up. That is likely music to the ears of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who fumed last week that her province was shortchanged in the federal budget.
The Liberal leader urges a "national focus" on raising the post-secondary education attainment rate, supporting new immigrants and making new investments in infrastructure development and research and innovation. He also recommends "being strategic in foreign direct investment and trade," saying jobs in the export sector pay higher wages.
"People often ask me how I define a strong economy," Trudeau says in the clip. "It's pretty simple. A strong economy is one that provides the largest possible number of good jobs to the largest number of Canadians."
A recent poll from Abacus Data suggests Trudeau is now seen as the federal leader best equipped to manage the economy.
The Liberal convention kicks off on Thursday. Grits will debate more than 160 different policy resolutions concerning everything from tax reform and youth unemployment to Canada Pension Plan modernization and gender parity on corporate boards.
However, a resolution calling for the legalization of assisted suicide, put forward by the National Women's Liberal Commission, is expected to grab the most headlines.
But Trudeau told The Canadian Press last week he is concentrating on economic matters.
"Our focus will entirely be on — almost entirely be on economic issues, because that is what is most worrying to Canadians," he said.
Trudeau did spark a minor controversy this week when he told Liberals to head to Montreal's Main Deli, not the famed Schwartz Deli, for the best smoked meat in town.
Meanwhile, Conservatives are reportedly working behind the scenes to disrupt the Liberal gathering.
Last week, the Toronto Star shared details from secret documents outlining how the Tories aim to highlight disunity in the Liberal ranks and project the notion that Trudeau is a lightweight who is just interested in pot legalization, not managing the economy.
And it appears Conservatives are also targeting former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, Trudeau's senior adviser on defence and foreign policy and a potential star Liberal candidate in 2015. Leslie will be a keynote speaker at the convention.
This weekend, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said he would ask his department to explain how it approved more than $72,000 in moving expenses for Leslie to change houses in Ottawa.
Leslie said Sunday that like all Canadian Forces personnel who retire after 20 or more years of service, he was offered and accepted a standard benefit that allows veterans a final move to anywhere in Canada. He said most of the expenses went to real estate fees.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Leslie accused Conservatives of a partisan smear but said that since he has been shot at by "real bullets," he can withstand the attack.
What do you think of the video? Is it effective? Tell us in the comments.
With files from The Canadian Press
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