(Bloomberg) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau squared off against new Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre for the first time in parliament, with taxes and inflation relief at the top of the agenda.
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The opposition leader framed Trudeau as an extravagant spender who needs to hike taxes to pay for it, and the prime minister painted Poilievre as a populist sacrificing his party's credibility on the economy. The exchange Thursday sets up the main event in Canadian politics over the coming years.
Poilievre was elected Conservative Party leader in a landslide victory two weeks ago. He has focused relentlessly on taxes since then, accusing the governing Liberals of hiking carbon and payroll levies despite Canada's inflation rate running at a 40-year high.
"Heating your home in January and February in Canada is not a luxury, and it does not make those Canadians polluters," Poilievre said in his opening salvo during the daily legislative question period, referring to Trudeau's plan to gradually raise the national carbon price. He also targeted rises in federal pension plan and employment insurance premiums.
In his response, Trudeau pointed to his government's move to give inflation assistance to low-income Canadians, including by temporarily doubling the rebate from the federal sales tax.
The prime minister then went further, singling out Poilievre's vocal support for cryptocurrencies in early 2022, before the price of the digital assets crashed in response to higher interest rates.
"If Canadians had followed the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and invested in volatile cryptocurrencies in an attempt to 'opt out of inflation,' they would have lost half of their savings," Trudeau said.
Although parliament returned from its summer break earlier this week, Thursday was the first chance for Trudeau and Poilievre to go head-to-head due to the prime minister's trips to London and New York for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral and the United Nations General Assembly.
But the two leaders may not be sparring in a general election for another three years, however, due to a power-sharing deal signed earlier this year between the Liberals and the left-leaning New Democratic Party.
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