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Updated: Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:33:59 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Tom Mulcair engages Justin Trudeau in battle for the middle class



In a campaign-style speech this weekend, NDP leader Tom Mulcair took aim at Justin Trudeau's efforts to win over middle class voters. Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

In a campaign-style speech this weekend, NDP leader Tom Mulcair took aim at Justin Trudeau's efforts to win over middle class voters. Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

In a campaign-style speech this weekend, NDP leader Tom Mulcair took aim not at the government, but at the leader of the third party instead.

In particular, Mulcair took shots of a decidedly personal nature at Justin Trudeau's efforts to win over the middle class.

"The problem is, Justin Trudeau will never know what 'middle class' means," Mulcair told the NDP's Federal Council in Ottawa Sunday. "He just doesn't understand the real challenges families are facing."

The NDP leader then went on to remind his audience, again, that he was raised in a family of 10 children. He told them he had a paper route when he was 10, to help out.

It was was clearly an attempt to paint a contrast to Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who enjoyed an affluent upbringing.

Parties staking claim with middle class

The battle for the middle class vote is seen as crucial in the next federal election, expected in October, 2015.

All three parties are already trying to stake their claim for this demographic.

In his speech to the party faithful Sunday, Mulcair reiterated the NDP's promises on increased funding for post-secondary education and keeping the age of eligibility at 65 for Old Age Security.

There was a time when Mulcair focused his criticism solely on the governing conservatives.

But with the Liberals leading in the polls for weeks now, clearly the focus is changing.

Even when asked about the Quebec provincial election, Mulcair pointed out he is the only federal leader eligible to vote, unlike Trudeau.

Liberal staff would only say Sunday that their leader has moved his family to Ottawa to spend more time with them.

But on Monday the Liberals issued a statement to try and draw out Mulcair and his Quebec MPs on separation.

“Mr. Mulcair and his NDP have long played dangerous political games with their position on sovereignty. Quebecers deserve to know whether members of the NDP Quebec Caucus wholeheartedly support the federalist option,” said Liberal National Caucus Chair, Francis Scarpaleggia in a the statement.

The NDP also announced on the weekend that Anne McGrath would succeed Nathan Rotman as National Director. McGrath served as chief of staff to late leader Jack Layton and returned to the NDP last fall to help in pre-election planning.

To further show his party is getting ready for 2015, Mulcair announced two MPs will co-chair the election campaign — Quebec's Alexandre Boulerice and B.C.'s Jean Crowder.

As well, party president Rebecca Blaikie will be the campaign director in Quebec.

Correction : This story has been edited from an earlier version that incorrectly referred to Rebecca Blaikie as the NDP's "former" president. In fact, Blaikie is still president as well as being Quebec campaign director.(Apr 07, 2014 2:45 PM)

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