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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo by Art Babych

Trudeau’s honeymoon

Canada’s new prime minister over-promises and under-delivers

By Dennis Gruending

The political honeymoon of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may continue for many months, according to our usually hard-bitten media pundits. But I believe that it’s time to begin holding the Liberals to account.

Admittedly, there has been a shift in tone for which Trudeau deserves credit. He has, for example, met with Canada’s premiers, indigenous leaders, members of the labour movement and many others who mostly received a back-of-the-hand from the Harper government.

Still, he made 195 election promises, which succeeded in setting them apart from the Conservative government and the NDP as the preferred agent of change. For instance, the party promised to resettle 25,000 Syrians as government-sponsored refugees in Canada by the end of 2015. Immigration Minister John McCallum repeatedly insisted against all logic that the target would be met — that is, of course, until he moved the Dec. 31 deadline to the end of February while deftly including private sponsorships by church and other groups in the revised timetable.

Then on Jan. 9, McCallum admitted on CBC Radio’s The House 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 percent of their promises. McCallum is now pledging that the government will have sponsored 25,000 Syrians by the end of 2016, accomplishing in 15 months what it had promised to do in three.

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 bombing continues, according to the Department of National Defence.

At home, he promised a cut to be financed by raising taxes on the rich. Finance Minister Bill Morneau, however, now admits that the proceeds of the new tax won’t pay for the middle-class tax cuts. What’s more, the bulk of the savings will flow to those whose incomes approach $200,000 per year.

Morneau has even ditched the Liberals’ election promise to enhance benefits of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) by phasing in an increase in contributions made by workers and their employers. Ever since employer pension plans were shredded during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, groups representing labour, seniors, pension experts and most provincial governments have advocated for an improved CPP. Still, Morneau abandoned his party’s promise based on the opposition of just two provinces: British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Around the same time, Trudeau 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 yet another promise that’s almost certain to be unfulfilled.   

Everything considered, the Liberals promise far too much while delivering very little. They buy time and goodwill mainly based on their leader’s popularity. And what’s equally worthy of criticism is that they respond to these partially kept — or broken — promises with mere photos ops and selfies.

Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
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