NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks to members of caucus during a strategy meeting Friday January 17, 2014 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair announced the launch of a nationwide campaign to tackle household debt and make life more affordable for average Canadians, in a speech delivered to his party's caucus on Parliament Hill Friday morning.
"Canadians are counting on us to help usher in a new generation of opportunity and prosperity," Mulcair said in his prepared remarks.
NDP MPs are meeting for the second day of a strategy session to lay out the party's plan heading into the next election. Hoping to frame the party as an alternative to the Conservatives and Liberals, Mulcair alluded to the ongoing Senate expense scandal and a growth in income inequality under previous Liberal leadership.
"Canadians have had enough," Mulcair said. "They’ve had enough of the revolving red and blue doors of Liberal and Conservative corruption and entitlement."
Mulcair said the Official Opposition will focus on middle-class priorities as it launches its campaign for the next federal election, expected to be held in 2015.
In aiming to take back the reins of the consumer agenda following the Conservative government's speech from the throne from last fall, Mulcair put forth practical ideas, including ensuring access to low-interest credit cards and ending fees at ATM machines and at gas pumps.
The party also intends to bolster small- and medium-sized businesses.
"We’re reaching out, we’re engaging local business owners, and we’re going to work together to find ways to help them grow and prosper."
A fair portion of Mulcair's speech reaffirmed the party's commitment to strengthening public pensions. He cited the recent meeting of provincial finance ministers to discuss the Canada Pension Plan, which ended with the provinces accusing the federal finance minister of blocking CPP reform.
"In a shameful betrayal of their own promises, this government turned its back on any semblance of leadership," Mulcair said.
Notably, Mulcair indicated that his party will call for a youth employment tax credit, as well restore the retirement age to 65. In the 2012 budget, the Conservative government had delayed the age at which workers could access Old Age Security benefits to 67.
He also mentioned the NDP would invest more money in health care, as well as improve access to employment insurance.
Mulcair plans to discuss these issues on the road when he embarks on a cross-country tour next week.