Justin Trudeau defines middle class as: 'Those living paycheque to paycheque' 0
OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has a new definition of Canada's middle class that could exclude anyone who has some money socked away for a rainy day.
"For me, it's people who live paycheque to paycheque," Trudeau said Wednesday.
That's a switch from what the Liberal leader said earlier in the week.
"People who live off their incomes are the middle class and those who live off their assets, their portfolios, their trust funds are not," Trudeau said Tuesday, similar to how he defined middle class a day earlier.
When Trudeau raised the issue of middle class debt and financial stress in the Commons during question period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tore into Trudeau's new paycheque-to-paycheque definition of middle class.
"So that would exclude, Mr. Speaker, people of modest incomes who have saved something, like pensioners, who are not living from paycheque-to-paycheque," he said. "And, of course, Mr. Speaker, it would include people who have a very affluent lifestyle and spend all their money even though they get a very large paycheque."
The prime minister said Trudeau's comments leave him confused.
"I have no idea what the leader of the Liberal Party is talking about and I suspect he doesn't either," he said.
Trudeau shot back that Harper needed "to spend more time with middle class Canadians."
Harper responded with more ridicule for Trudeau.
"If the leader of the Liberal Party was with middle class Canadians he wouldn't actually know whether they were middle class or not," he said.
Trudeau's shifting definitions come as he tries to make fighting for the middle class the Liberals' hallmark issue for next year's federal election campaign.
"We are focused on helping middle class Canadians and helping Canadians who hope to achieve middle class status," he said.
Trudeau has promised not to raise taxes on the middle class, but he has yet to define which tax brackets or income levels would be safe from any tax hikes under a Liberal government.
Trudeau said Wednesday he'd "let economists argue about which quintile or decile (the middle class)" starts or ends at.
Carleton University economist Ian Lee took up the challenge.
He said Trudeau's latest definition of middle class is meaningless because it's "a psychological, subjective test."
Instead, Lee said he defines the middle class by excluding the richest and poorest Canadians from his calculations.
"The top 20%, they're the rich people," he said. "The bottom 20% are the really poor people, you know, people on welfare, people in social housing."
Lee said that leaves "the middle 60% of Canadians" as the middle class.
He also insists the group is easily defined.
"It's an empirical, measurable amount of income coming in to you," he said.
The latest Statistics Canada data for families of two or more people in Lee's definition of middle class had annual incomes ranging from $43,000 to $132,000 in 2011.
Lee adds that wide range captures the full gamut of middle class, including what he calls the lower and upper middle classes.
Do you agree with Trudeau's definition of middle class?