Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!

By Allan Hewitson

I have to admit to a despairing level of utter frustration as a result of what I consider to be the ‘bust-status’ of the Justin Trudeau Liberal government since it won a majority from the Conservative Party of Canada in 2015.

The first two years have been a bust, and if you consider large deficits a non-starter – we can likely say, at the end of his first term this country is likely to be a lot like the old Johnny Cash song – Busted!

I wasn’t pleased to see the Liberals win a majority. A small minority, I might have been able to live with, because it can create an environment for a better level of partisan compromise within Parliament and tends to inhibit the bulldozer style of government.

Few people I am sure would argue with the suggestion that two or three four-year terms can try the patience of a large percentage of Canadians, who have widely divided opinions and who are not afraid to express them.

I think bulldozers it has been. Liberal policies and strategies, which Justin Trudeau insists daily the Canadian public continues to endorse wholeheartedly, have all been ‘full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes’.

What hasn’t been full speed ahead is any level of success, particularly in terms of fulfilling grandiose pre-election promises – with the exception of the plan to legalize marijuana, the perceived attractant for many new young voters with tunnel-vision in 2015.

In his usual Trudeau joie-de-vivre sunny ways style, this legislation was essentially outlined on the back of a napkin and turned over to the provinces to devise the means to implement it,

As I predicted a year ago, this impossibly-complicated chore is just about to implode as provinces ever-so-slowly reveal widely-varied plans, few of which, Liberals say, follow the rather vague rules tapped out by the government a year ago.

Have the Liberals failed to achieve their goals? Yes, I say – and almost as spectacularly as the gnarly mess of failures accomplished by Donald Trump’s administration, south of the border, resulting in his lowest-in-presidential-history approval rate.

No need to go into that, we have enough problems at home, although some are ignited as a result of Trump’s ham-fisted approach at dictatorship.

This summer has, I am sure, been one of severe discontent for the Liberal government – with one scandal after another at the top. The conflict of interest issues essentially admitted by the Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, have been followed by numerous connections demonstrated with former Liberal Prime Ministers and the party’s chief revenue raiser, to off shore tax avoidance in the Paradise Papers leak.

All this unravelled while Morneau was trying to raise needed revenues by taxing small business, creating a furor across Canada and another back-off by the Liberals, solved by re-introducing previously-promised tax cuts for small business.

So, I don’t really expect to hear much more about waitresses and workers in burger joints paying more ‘fair-share taxes’ on the value of tips or company-provided lunches!

In a short column the abandoned promises are easiest to track. Promised – forecast $10-billion deficits for three years, leading to a balanced budget in 2019, in time for the next election. That is long gone – Canada posted a budget deficit of C$17.8 billion for the 2016-17 fiscal year, high, but a bit below the preliminary deficit of C$21.85 billion suggested in May, 2016.

Morneau’s second budget in spring, projected shortfalls of $23 billion for 2016-17, $25.5 billion this year and $24.4 billion in 2018-19, not including a $3-billion contingency fund. The government did not outline any plan to return the books to balance, as promised in the election platform.

In fact, the Toronto Sun notes Trudeau said annual deficits over his first term in office would total $24.1 billion. “But the recent federal budget pegs them at $93.3 billion”, which the Sun describes as “an immodest increase of 287 per cent”.

Also promised but abandoned was electoral reform, introducing proportional representation.

This left the PM accused of “deceit, cynicism and betrayal,” by our very own MP Nathan Cullen, after his determination not to hold a referendum on the prospect.

It does go on and on, through Trudeau’s blasé non-reaction to thousands of potential migrants simply walking illegally across various Canadian borders seeking refugee status. That number reached over 15,000 last week, as winter approaches. New Trump announcements made last week could see that flow become a flood in the next few months.

A new concern is the introduction of cuts to special allowances for elite soldiers involved in Canada’s most dangerous and secretive military operations. They now face losing monthly allowances if they are sick or injured for more than 180 days.

Paratroopers, submarine crews, pilots and air crews, rescue technicians and ships’ crews are also among the affected. That hit the Question Period last week.

A promise to reestablish lifelong disability pensions for veterans is expected to be outlined next month, after constant demonstrations by angry veterans.

The tax break for middle-income earners was to be ‘revenue neutral’, paid for by hiking taxes on the wealthiest one per cent. It is now costing the federal treasury $1.2 billion a year. Nothing neutral there.

Indigenous reconciliation? Not enough space to get into that.

What’s next, added to what there isn’t room for, promises continuing whirlwind controversies for the Liberal Government in Canada.