There are numerous indications that Canada’s Liberal Government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and various members of his gender-equity cabinet, have hit a number of bumpy rumble strips along the highway to the next general election – a year and a half away.
The ill-fated state visit to India was a major reminder that Justin Trudeau is, in fact, as former PM Steven Harper predicted – “just not ready for the role” … with virtually all recent polls indicating rapidly declining support all across the country. Why you ask?
Well, Canada’s premier big-city newspaper, the Toronto Globe and Mail recently ran this troubling headline – Liberals need to stop shaming Canadians if they want their support.
It was an opinion piece by John Ibbitson, a long-time Ottawa political affairs writer. Ibbitson’s main message for Justin Trudeau was simple – to win back public support, the Liberals must change their tone.
I agree their tone is too often arrogantly righteous, politically correct to the extreme – and is always said to represent “what Canadians elected us to do” – to the ending of virtually every evasion of direct opposition questions in Parliament.
The Globe piece centred on recent issues where the government’s standard communications actions stirred considerable reaction, including the very public outburst last week by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in response to well-researched questions from Evan Solomon, on CTV’s Question Period, enquiring about her attitude to voters not in agreement with her policies on climate change and carbon taxes.
“I have no time for folks who are like, you know, ‘we shouldn’t take action,’ on climate change,” she retorted angrily.
Like any good politician she later attempted to limit the damage by clarifying, but wound up saying she was frustrated by politicians denying climate change – “not ordinary folk”. However, public comment on the interview was predominantly critical, one commentator claiming McKenna is an “elitist know-it-all.”
McKenna is hardly alone tripping over her tongue – Finance Minister Bill Morneau seems to have temporarily ducked his recent conflict of interest issues but his retorts got him into trouble again when Conservative Lisa Raitt got under his skin during testimony before a government committee.
Raitt accused him of hypocrisy for promoting gender equality in words but not deeds.
“I actually find your line of questioning to be offensive,” Mr. Morneau responded, insisting that promoting women was a core Liberal priority. “We will drag along the Neanderthals who don’t agree with that and that will be our continuing approach,” he concluded.
This brought Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to his feet in Question Period, demanding a retraction of the “neanderthal” description of Raitt – but that is yet to come.
Then there was the PM’s own Tweet in January last year “To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” which is now being credited with causing nearly 30,000 migrant hopefuls to stream across unprotected provincial borders, but particularly into Quebec.
Last week, the government of Quebec sent a bill for $146-million to the federal Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussein, to meet the costs it says it has had to pay so far to accommodate these thousands of migrants crossing illegally into Canada along the Quebec-U.S. border and who have made asylum claims.
The $146 million estimate includes temporary housing, feeding, and the multitude of other costs while asylum seekers wait for their claims to be heard by the federal government, which can take up to five years, given the existing backlog.
The numerous broken promises from the Trudeau election campaign no doubt have turned off many voters – but since so many of the proposals were actually tempered by reality when the party was elected, to me they only serve to demonstrate a party that was largely unprepared for government.
Trudeau had promised, once elected, to run consecutive deficits for three years, to be followed by a balanced budget in 2019-20. This campaign promise explicitly stated that these “small” yearly deficits would not exceed $10 billion a year. Instead, we got a grandiose infrastructure programe to cost over $140-billion.
The Liberals 2018 budget revises the government’s deficit projections downward by an average of $167-million each year compared with the fall update, but, at this point, the closest Ottawa will come to a balanced budget may be in fiscal year 2022.
Trudeau’s campaign also promised electoral reform. Canadians were assured the 2015 election would be the last under the first-past-the-post system.
An All Party Committee on Electoral Reform submitted a report suggesting the vast majority of Canadians and experts supported a proportional representation system. Liberals however backed away and Canada is no closer to electoral reform than it was before the election.
There is so much more – but so little space.
Will the Liberal tone change? I doubt it with PM Justin behind the wheel of the steamroller. Interesting times ahead.