Trudeau’s honeymoon, he over-promised and under-delivers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Art Babych
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Art Babych

Our usually hard bitten media pundits are predicting that Justin Trudeau’s political honeymoon may continue for many months, but I believe that it’s time to begin holding the Liberals to account.

Admittedly there has been a significant shift in tone for which Trudeau deserves credit. He is far more open than was Stephen Harper and he has, for example, met with the premiers, Indigenous leaders, the labour movement and many others who mostly received a back of the hand from the Harper government.

Syrian refugees

Still, the Liberals made 195 election promises which succeeded in setting them apart from the Conservative government, and also from the NDP, as the preferred agent of change. For example, the Liberals promised to resettle 25,000 Syrians as government-sponsored refugees in Canada by the end of 2015.  Immigration Minister John McCallum kept insisting against all logic that the target would be met – that is until he moved the December 31 deadline to the end of February 2016, and deftly included private sponsorships by church and other groups in the revised timetable.

McCallum admitted on CBC Radio’s The House on January 9 that a total of 6,400 Syrian refugees have arrived — 3,700 of them privately-sponsored and 2,700 sponsored by the government. In other words, the Liberals have fulfilled about 11 per cent of their promise. McCallum is now pledging that the government will have sponsored 25,000 Syrians by the end of 2016, doing in 15 months what it had promised to do in three.

Fighter jets in Syria

Justin Trudeau also promised that Canada would remove its CF-18 fighter jets from their bombing runs as part of a Western-led campaign in Syrian and Iraq. Yet three months after the election, the Department of National Defence continues to report that the bombing continues.  Minister Harjit Sajjan, who was so accessible to media immediately following the election, has recently become more elusive.

Tax cuts

Domestically, the Liberals promised a middle class tax cut to be financed by raising taxes on the rich. The numbers do not add up but no one took much notice during the election campaign. Finance Minister Bill Morneau now admits that the proceeds of the new tax on high income earners won’t pay for the other tax cuts. In any event most of the tax benefits will flow to those in the “middle class” whose incomes approach $200,000 per year.

Ditching enhanced CPP 

Morneau has also ditched the Liberals’ election promise to enhance benefits of the Canada Pension Plan by phasing in an increase in contributions made by workers and their employers.  Groups representing labour, seniors, pension experts and most provincial governments have for years been advocating an improved CPP because employer pension plans have been shredded since the Great Recession of 2008-09. Morneau abandoned the Liberal promise based on the opposition of just two provinces, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

TRC promises

Justin Trudeau has also promised to enact all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated Canada’s sorry history of Indian residential schools. Given the complexity of those recommendations that is another promise that is almost certain to be only partially fulfilled.

Photo ops and selfies

The Liberals promised too much and are delivering too little. They are buying time and good will based mainly upon the Trudeau’s popularity, responding to partially kept or broken promises with clever communications, photos ops and selfies.

This piece was published in a somewhat edited form by the United Church Observer on January 14, 2016.

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Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament

6 thoughts on “Trudeau’s honeymoon, he over-promised and under-delivers”

  1. Dennis,
    Of course we must hold the Liberals to account. But if you want to give an assessment of Trudeau’s accomplishments or lack thereof, I suggest that you be more balanced in your assessment.

    Syrian Refugees. Talk about more than just unmet target dates. The government did not meet its target dates re Syrian refugees, yet what they did was rally a national effort, both public and private, that has ignited energy, generosity and action to help these people in crisis. I give them credit for thinking big and for putting in place elaborate systems needed to make their goals reachable. This is more important to me than that they are late meeting their dates.

    Fighter Jets. With respect to fighter jets in Syria, the government has indicated the direction it wants to take….remove the fighter jets. But they also committed to continued involvement in other ways that support the Coalition’s efforts. This is a very complex, evolving situation. I would prefer that the government does its homework, consult, take a longer time to assess the most effective way to contribute…rather than simply acting to remove the jets without a good rationale for what else to do. I will judge them on the decisions they make and their reasons for them.

    With respect to tax cuts and pension plans….I want to see what the Liberals will do in these portfolios, short and long-term…that might mean waiting until the budget.

    And the TRC promises,,,,, you have already decided that they will not fulfill their promises….so what more needs to be said. Again no mention of steps already taken to reach out to Indian groups and the meetings with families about their women victims of violence…..

    Sure, hold the Liberals to account. But do it in a way that reflects all the evidence.

    1. I think the Paris attacks changed the playing field as far as the refugees and the fighters went. More care had to be given in the refugees background and security. Other nations such as the U.K. and France are stepping up with fighter planes. This all takes time. As far as tax cuts go we can’t afford them as a nation. Somebody has to pay for our healthcare and other programs. And with the problems in the economy I think the last thing employers need is an increase on the CPP.

      There’s going to be a large mess to clean up from the previous government. They dismantled things for the dumbest reasons. Like making sure there was no current data on global warming. They didn’t want anybody to know anything.

      I’m pretty sure the TRC is a high priority. Justin Trudeau wants to end the distrust and suspicion. There are a lot of people among the Liberals who want to do something.
      How come on the world stage we as a nation have respect again? I think even Obama regretted the words he used on the Keystone decision. After meeting and speaking to Trudeau I think he realized he wasn’t dealing with Harper. We actually acknowledge there’s global warming.

      I thought I’d seen messes left by a previous governments. I look at Alberta or Canada right now and shake my head.

      Have a little more faith Dennis. I’ve already seen government being misquoted enough in Alberta on purpose. A news media purely blinded by ideology. I don’t know how they’re going to get anywhere with the media fighting them tooth and nail.

  2. I’m grateful for the two previous comments, even though it would be virtually impossible for a mainstream government to meet my hopes and expectations. I have been heartened by many things. Catherine McKenna and Trudeau listened to and appreciated the work of my MP, Elizabeth May, and truly took a leadership role in Paris. But now we need real action on carbon pricing, cutting fossil fuel subsidies, stopping ISDS treaties like the TPP… The fact Trudeau has a true cabinet and that he made the mandate letters public moved me to tears. The “middle class” tax cuts may well be a problem if not balanced by progressive sources of income. On that, Rocco Galati, the wonderful lawyer representing COMER in its Bank of Canada case, says this is the most important case he’s ever done!

    Maybe a “quick” way to share information on what I think needs doing is to copy a letter I sent to our CBC morning program below.
    all the best, Jan
    *********************************************************
    Dear Rick Cluff and others at CBC,

    I felt, this morning, that your reporting on market news got things backwards.

    Bemoaning slumping oil prices and markets, while laughing about a new gun channel is a bit scary. When people get desperate, the last thing we want is more guns and gun talk.

    We know we must wean ourselves off of fossil fuel emissions as fast as possible if we want a liveable planet for future generation. We know there is far too much corporate control of our economy. As the Leap Manifesto says, “The drop in oil prices has temporarily relieved the pressure to dig up fossil fuels as rapidly as high-risk technologies will allow. This pause in frenetic expansion should not be viewed as a crisis, but as a gift.”

    Let’s really question the way our economy works. People involved in the Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform (COMER) have a case before the court, aiming “to do nothing less than force the Bank of Canada to reorient its activities on behalf of Canadians”. The lawyer representing COMER, Rocco Galati, could be called a legal rock star for his able defence of democracy and the common good. He says this is “by far the most serious and important case I’ve ever done.”(Toronto Star, 23/3/15)

    For more understanding on why economic and monetary reform is so important, here are two quotes from a great book by a great Canadian, Mike Nickerson (in Life, Money and Illusion: Living on Earth as if We Want to Stay).

    In 1935 (about when the Bank of Canada was established), Prime Minister Mackenzie King said:
    “Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit,it matters not who makes the nations laws. Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation. Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile.”

    A quote from Mike Nickerson (2006):

    “The ‘War on Terror’ has helped keep money circulating. It is an ultimate make-work program that provides huge growth opportunities in the manufacture of massively destructive weapons and then doubles those opportunities through contracts to reconstruct the things those weapons destroy.”

    Sincerely, Jan Slakov (250) 537-5251

  3. When it came to Liberal promises, I believe that their 195 promises were excessive. There is no way they can keep all of them. And Liberals have never bothered about making them. But to promise to bring 25,000 refugees by the end of 2015 was an example of an excessive promise and they should have known that. The logistics were just not in place. They had to know that bringing in 10,000 would be difficult.

    They should have known that the increased tax on the 1% wouldn’t cover the increased reduction in taxes on the “middle class.” Liberals have always been the most promising political party in Canada. Let’s watch what they “forget” about in the future.

    But I still felt a breath of fresh air at Harper’s defeat even though I’m sure we’ll have lots to complain about in Trudeau’s future actions.

  4. I agree that the Paris terrorist attack changed the landscape as far as bringing in Syrian refugees. It seems that the only ones that care about the deadline being changed are the Conservatives and the media. Regular citizens agree that it should be done right, no matter how long it takes to get the 25k of refugees here. Yes they are now including privately sponsored refugees right now, but they have already said that they will have 25k government sponsored refugees here by the end of the year. It should also be noted that by including the privately sponsored refugees in the current totals, those refugees are not being billed for their transportation and health examinations, so they are not starting their new lives with a large debt hanging over their heads. I also believe that the CPP will change, however they are dealing with a mess left by the previous government and it will take time to get the economy turned around. It’s important to do that first before raising the CPP premiums. I applaud the efforts and progress that the Liberal government have made so far and am proud to see Canada being respected on the world stage once again. As far as the selfies go, that is the way things are done now a days and we should be proud that our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is in such high demand and restoring Canada’s reputation abroad. Considering that Mr. Trudeau had so much traveling to do pretty much as soon as he took office, I think he has managed to accomplish a lot, much more than Stephen Harper did with his one man show. He has the respect of indigenous leaders as well as most, if not all, of the leaders of other countries. Three months is not enough time to fairly judge a new government, especially after the last one was in power for 10 years. There are a lot of closets to clean out before all of the promises can be fulfilled.

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