Harper's gone...Now what? 10 Trudeau promises Canadians need kept

Harper’s gone…Now what? 10 Trudeau promises Canadians need kept

Harper's gone...Now what? 10 Trudeau promises Canadians need kept
Stephen Harper (CP) exits the ring after a crushing defeat at the hands of Justin Trudeau (Matt Usherwood)

Even a few days ago, who woulda thunk it? Justin Trudeau and his red tide sweep the nation to a majority government, washing Steven Harper out to sea. For many progressive voters, it was too decisive – if only Mulcair hung in there a little more and we faced instead a Liberal-led minority government…But if ending the Harper era was the main objective of this “change” election, then beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

So here we are. And if Tony Blair is any kind of a model for what happens next, then big, bold promises for things like electoral reform have a way of falling by the wayside with a strong majority government. As my colleague Rafe warned in these pages a few days ago, “It is up to us to hold them to that promise after election day – especially if Mr. Trudeau should continue his late surge, all the way to a majority government. Once the keys to absolute power are in his hands, he will need ample reminding of his commitment to change the mechanism by which he achieved it.”

Mr. Trudeau made some impressive promises, indeed, on his path to victory. And it would be a shame if we Canadians who gave him this mandate for change, now let him off the hook. So herewith a list (in no particular order) of the promises we really need kept – lest we too forget:

1. Electoral Reform

This is the grand daddy of them all. Once again, we are reminded of the manifest unfairness of our first past the post system, as a leader who won under 40% of the vote is left with 100% of the power. Mr. Trudeau – along with Tom Mulcairpledged to change this and we need to hold him to it. We may never get such a good opportunity as this again if we fail to seize it.

2. Cancel Bill C-51

As my friend and anti-C-51 crusader Steve Anderson corrected me, Mr. Trudeau did not actually promise to cancel Bill C-51 after he got into power (a presumptuous declaration that now seems, if conceited, at least correct). He did however say he would “amend” it or repeal parts of it. So he will need to be held to that – with a little extra prompting to go further and kill the darned thing. The issue – which proved a major self-inflicted wound for Trudeau early on in the campaign – has hardly gone away. If anything, as the chorus of prominent voices and persistent citizen movement around the issue demonstrate, it is only growing. Killing it would be good politics and a bone to throw to the above-mentioned progressive voters who backed Mulcair.

3. Follow through on First Nations commitments

Mr. Trudeau called attention to Canada’s disgraceful inequity of water quality, pledging to end all boil water advisories in First Nations communities within five years. This is no small feat but it must be done. He has also joined the NDP and the UN in calling for a national Inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women – something he insisted he will do “immediately”. Finally, Trudeau has earmarked half a billion dollars a year towards First Nations education.

Mr. Harper’s shameful evasions and non-answers when questioned about the lack of clean drinking water on reserves and murdered and missing women marked a low point on the campaign trail – even for him. Let’s hope Mr. Trudeau’s actions speak as loud as his words on this file.

4. Invest in public transit

Mr. Trudeau differentiated himself from both his opponents with a ballsy commitment to deficit-fund much-needed infrastructure in this country, including public transit – to the tune of “$20 Billion or more” over the next decade. This is a tangible way to tackle our climate challenges, make our economy more efficient and offer affordable transportation choices to lower-income Canadians. And wouldn’t it be refreshing if this kind of federal support could alleviate the transit policy gridlock that continues to frustrate provinces like British Columbia.

5. End fossil fuel subsidies, invest in clean tech

Mr. Trudeau has vowed to uphold a G20 pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies and committed $200 million and year for “strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in the forestry, energy and agricultural sectors”. He will earmark another $100 million in support for clean tech companies. That’s not nearly enough – paling in comparison to other industrial nations like America, China, Germany and Brazil – as we have often demonstrated in these pages. Which is why we need to push our new PM not only to keep this commitment, but to expand on it. But compared with Mr. Harper, who absolutely gutted our innovation funding, Mr. Trudeau’s attitude is a welcome change.

6. Don’t forget the “middle class”

Whatever the “middle class” is, Mr. Trudeau should keep his promises to recalibrate our tax structure more in favour of regular Canadians and less in favour of corporations and the wealthy. These reforms don’t go far enough, but following through with them would be a good start.

7. Work with the provinces on health care

Mr. Trudeau has promised a new health accord with the provinces – something which Mr. Harper, in his characteristically antagonistic and aloof manner, let expire and linger in that fashion for over a year and a half. Health care was strangely absent from this campaign, relative to its importance to Canadians. But Trudeau’s commitment to thaw relations with the provinces and invest in programs like home care is sensible and much-needed.

8. Welcome more Syrian refugees

Mr. Trudeau committed to boosting the number of Syrian refugees welcomed by Canada to 25,000 by the end of this year, and possibly more. Time is ticking and the situation only worsening by the day, so he had better get down to it.

9. Leave the Niqab – and divisive politics – alone

I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping this is the last we hear of niqabs. Mr. Trudeau took the right stance on this divisive issue – even though it could have cost him politically (and did very much cost his “change” rival, Mulcair – who said politics was fair?). Good for him and good for Canada that the Lizard of Oz failed this time around. Let’s hope, as my colleague Rafe Mair has discussed in these pages, that with Mr. Trudeau comes a return to decency and civility in our politics and society.

10. What the heck – legalize pot

This one is number 10 for a reason, but while he’s at it, keeping the above promises, Mr. Trudeau might as well get on with it and legalize marijuana. It’s high time (forgive me) Canada got with the program – four former attorneys general in BC are backing legalization because of the issue with organized crime and the underground drug trade, while a number of US states have already taken the leap. With Harper gone, it would be nice to leave behind his irrational crime-and-punishment agenda and the pot file is as good a place as any to start.

A few promises he didn’t make but should

Mr. Trudeau would show wisdom and leadership by reinstating the many environmental protections gutted by his predecessor through a series of horrendous Omnibus Budget Bills – such as the habitat protections in the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and our environmental assessment processes. While he’s at it, he should unmuzzle our government scientists and reinstate their funding for important initiatives like air and water quality monitoring, climate research, and clean tech innovation.

Mr. Trudeau did not propose a price of his own on carbon, leaving it instead to the provinces to set their own. It’s nice that he at least acknowledges the importance of the subject – dedicating some rhetoric to it on the campaign trail – but he would do well to follow the NDP’s lead towards a national cap-and-trade system or at least an expanded role for the federal government in this issue.

He would also do well to rethink his devotion to trade deals like the TPP (it’s not too late to halt Canada’s involvement by not ratifying it in the House), and the European CETA deal.

As for pipelines, let’s face, none them are a good idea in this climate – literally and figuratively. Exporting raw bitumen scarcely benefits the Canadian economy – certainly nothing like we’ve been told by the oil lobby. And with these prices, there’s no market for it anyway. Moreover, in an era of global warming (something that has been excluded from the National Energy Board’s reviews of projects like Northern Gateway and the TransMountain Pipeline), it’s grossly irresponsible for Canada to continue down this path. So double down on your clean tech investments, Justin, and put the pipelines on the shelf.

Finally, we British Columbians are very concerned with the impacts of the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry. While this is BC Premier Christy Clark’s baby, the program has benefitted from federal tax credits (these should be reversed, in keeping with Trudeau’s promise to end fossil fuel subsidies), massive export licences from the NEB, and a peculiar double-standard on tanker safety, whereby the Harper government banned tankers on the East Cost but blessed them here. Not even the NDP openly criticized the program during the federal campaign and, while Howe Sounders concerned about the proposed Woodfibre LNG plant will be glad to see the back of Conservative MP and LNG cheerleader John Weston, it would be nice to see his Liberal replacement, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, step up on the LNG file. And Mr. Trudeau would do well to distance himself from this fool’s errand of Premier Clark.

Of course, none of the above will happen unless the public now holds Mr. Trudeau to his promises and pushes him to go even further. Stephen Harper is gone. Now the real work begins.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

18 thoughts on “Harper’s gone…Now what? 10 Trudeau promises Canadians need kept

  1. In light of the recent events in Paris, Mr. Trudeau should demonstrate that he has more than just a nice hairdo by reversing his position on Canada’s role in the war against ISIS, AS WELL AS THE DANGERS OF OPENING Canada’s doors to refugees admitting the terrorists and all their hate mongering propaganda with the true refugees. He will not likely survive his trip to Turkey. and we will be subject to yet another election turning control of Canada over to someone much more hear less than Harper.

  2. He also promised these:

    11. Restore funding to the CBC.
    12. Reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard base in Vancouver.

  3. What will happen with the promise of $20 billion for public transit, every Liberal mayor will be getting money to fund his or hers vanity project.

    Mayor Robertson and TransLink will get money for his vanity Broadway subway, which does not have the traffic flows to justify subway construction. 6,000 pphpd past Main St. just not justify a subway.

    Surrey’s LRT is so poorly designed that one must ask; “Did TransLink purposely design it to fail?”

    Designed as a poor man’s SkyTrain, Surrey’s proposed LRT again operates on routes that just do not have the traffic flows to justify construction.

    Both transit projects, with a combined cost in excess of $5 billion will drive up the cost of transit in the region but will not offer the transit customer any tangible benefits.

    TransLink already has a cost per revenue passenger one third higher than cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto, and these two vanity projects may well drive up the cost with Vancouver having the cost per revenue passenger 50% higher than Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto.

    Throwing money at transit does not improve transit, rather it makes it worse. What is lacking in the region is a coherent transit plan, done by credible transit planners. So far, TransLink could not design an outhouse, let alone understand its function.

  4. Liberal promises? Anyone recall the red book which was promptly torn up last time?

    Promises that will be broken in this order from the supplied list;

    One, two and five.

    Number three might not be possible in 5 years so that one is a fence sitter.

    Number 10 should be done immediately as more Canadians (70%) want the issue dealt with then voted (68%)

    But it won’t be as this issue will threaten votes trudeau obtained from the conservatives that came over.

  5. I get bored immediately with calls to “kill” C51″ – as I do with calls to abolish the senate. There are good aspects in each – amending is more reasonable.

  6. Weirdly dismissive of the cannabis issue. It’s a big part of what got Trudeau elected, it’s one of the major civil rights issues of our time, and still people love to dismiss this as some kind of joke.

    If Mulcair had supported legalization earlier on, before Trudeau did, I bet he would be PM today.

    1. Not dismissive, Dana. Just not as high a priority for me as climate change, murdered and missing women, or electoral reform. But a priority nonetheless – which is why I included it.

      1. I look at the cannabis issue as a very large fiscal issue – one the tax to made from the regulation and distribution, second, the saving of current tax expenditures by reviewing every non violent/non gun related case of possession and/or trafficking currently incarcerated in prisons. The financial win fall from this could help defer some of the spending that has been promised.

  7. Good list.

    I think one of the problems moving forward is that Trudeau faces what we could call two types of challenges that people expect him to live up to: one is de-Harperizing Canada, if I can put it that way, and the other is pursuing a legitimate agenda of his own.

    Neither of those are simple tasks. In fact, your list of 10 must-keep promises here includes more than one item that it’s fair to say would be monumental in scope if done right (electoral reform, health policy, climate policy), some others that are relatively easy (more funding for public transit), and some that are easy but sufficiently politically controversial that the fallout could distract from more substantive issues (namely legalizing pot).

    I don’t mean this as a comment on Trudeau’s leadership abilities in particular but it’s worth considering how much any leader can reasonably expect to achieve, on how many files, given the way politics now operates in this country. There are only so many hours in the day. Subtract the ones you need for sleeping and for managing public relations and that doesn’t leave very many to think through radically new approaches to complex issues.

    Of course you can mitigate that problem somewhat by delegating the tasks to others, but that will mean investing even more time in dismantling the power structure set in place by Harper and to a lesser extent by Chretien, Mulroney, and Trudeau’s own father. And it will mean assuming the political risk of taking responsibility for tasks you didn’t direct in the event that they go wrong.

  8. This is a great post, tasking, as it does, not only the Liberals with introducing and implementing these changes, but also the NDP with wholeheartedly supporting them! We live in hope that either of these will come to pass. LOL

Comments are closed.