JUSTIN TRUDEAU: A LEADER WHO RESPECTS CANADIANS
It has been just under a year since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals swept into power following a hard-fought election campaign, and the image of his government is beginning to come into focus. Proponents and opponents alike will describe his style in a myriad of ways, but the ethos of Prime Minister Trudeau bo
ils down to a single word: respect. Justin Trudeau respects Canadians; he respects his colleagues across the aisle, who were elected to represent their communities and to hold him accountable; he respects hardworking Canadians hoping to make ends meet; he respects Indigenous citizens who have suffered for far too long; and he respects the values of freedom and equality that have come to represent all that is great in Canada. In turn, I respect Justin Trudeau and I strongly believe that he has been, and will continue to be, a compassionate and thoughtful leader.
Justin Trudeau respects his colleagues. As a decade led by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to an end and a new era began, the most immediate change was in tone. Gone were the constant barrage of attack ads and divisive rhetoric; gone was the palpable disdain for parliamentary debate and the distrust of the media. Instead, Justin Trudeau ran a positive campaign, which has translated into a positive, open and accountable government. For example, mere hours after his victory, Trudeau held a session with journalists at the National Press Gallery Theatre, a venue that Stephen Harper had not used since 2009. Engaging with journalists is crucial for a healthy democracy, and Justin Trudeau’s openness should be applauded. Furthermore, in the House of Commons, his government has been positive and informative in debates, while welcoming compromise. When opposition parties pleaded for the Liberals to slow down the refugee intake process, they acquiesced; when the NDP asked for an all-party committee on electoral reform, the Liberals changed the system. Liberal members even decided to stop applauding Justin Trudeau after every answer so as to reduce partisanship and ensure that the substance of his remarks was not lost. Prime Minister Trudeau has worked hard to introduce a more welcoming environment into Parliament, and this has had a concrete impact on Canadian society: respect for the diversity of political views leads to a more robust debate on the issues, which in turn leads to better policy.
Indeed, on the policy front, Justin Trudeau has shown that he truly respects Canadian workers. Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, has spoken glowingly of Trudeau’s economic policies, saying that she hoped “Canadian economic policies can actually go viral.” Such high praise from an objective observer is well-deserved. In only a few months, the Trudeau Liberals have worked diligently to diversify the Canadian economy and grow the middle class. Faced with a dismal economic growth outlook due to the Harper government’s laser-eyed focus on oil and their inaction in the face of a recession, there is no question that the Liberals had their work cut out for them. The Alberta wildfires only compounded the problem. However, Trudeau has made tangible progress in getting Canadians back on their feet. Cutting the middle class tax rate was a strong first step in this process. It helped alleviate the impacts of the current economic turmoil and embodied the fundamental ideal that citizens know best when it comes to spending their money. Even conservatives would find it hard to fault a tax cut that puts more money in the pockets of Canadians while making the tax system fairer for all. However, the core of Justin Trudeau’s economic policy lies in his targeted investments in infrastructure and transit. This policy has two clear benefits. Firstly, it creates jobs and prosperity, especially in regions hard-hit by losses in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Secondly, alongside stimulating the economy, investments in transit and infrastructure are well worth the initial cost, as they lead to increased productivity and encourage foreign investment in Canadian cities. Thus, the Canadian government will see a return on its investment through increased revenue and a prosperous economy. Critics will lambast Trudeau’s deficit spending, while failing to acknowledge that Stephen Harper ran seven straight deficits, and that the stimulus package that he proposed following opposition pressure actually had a major role in mitigating the consequences of the Great Recession of 2008. Running small deficits when times are tough and surpluses when times are good is sound economic practice. What is more important is that the money is being spent well, and Trudeau’s targeted approach is conducive to prosperity and growth for all Canadians.
Justin Trudeau respects First Nations. From the residential school system to decades of neglect, Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous citizens has been a stain on our history. Trudeau recognized that Canadians could no longer ignore the plight of First Nations and vowed to turn the page on this relationship. To date, he has, without a doubt, kept his promise. The Liberals’ first budget included over $8.4 billion devoted to Indigenous communities over the next five years, specifically focusing on education and services. While the Harper government refused to hold an inquiry on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women, Justin Trudeau took a stand. Ignorance is only bliss for those who can afford it, and for the countless Indigenous women whose lives were tragically cut short, the Conservative government failed them. Trudeau’s leadership in launching the inquiry will save lives and offer closure to grieving families. Beyond these measures, the Trudeau government has given First Nations the respect they deserve by consulting and collaborating with them in a nation-to-nation relationship. Inevitably, there will be conflicts, as a century of suffering cannot be reversed in a few short years, but Justin Trudeau had the courage to speak out when his predecessors stood by in silence.
Justin Trudeau listens, and he respects the freedom of Canadians. By providing a comprehensive framework for assisted suicide, protecting transgender rights and beginning the process to legalize marijuana, Justin Trudeau has offered bold policy solutions to the most important social issues of our time. While the Harper government was preoccupied with dictating what women could and could not wear, the Trudeau government welcomed diversity and opened its doors to refugee families looking for a new home. In fact, the success of the Trudeau government’s social policies has reinforced centrism’s place in the political discourse: he has consistently offered progressive policy prescriptions that are thoughtful and comprehensive enough to address the concerns of conservative citizens. Justin Trudeau respects Canadians enough to let them make their own choices and exercise the freedoms that every citizen deserves in a healthy democracy.
Finally, Justin Trudeau respects the international community, and they respect him. A common Conservative refrain prior to the election was that Trudeau would be a laughingstock on the global stage. However, quite the opposite has occurred. Trudeau has become the face of positive, progressive politics, and Canada’s brand has not been so influential in decades. Canada is an outlier in respect to the West’s descent into nationalism and divisiveness, two trends that voters rejected on October 19, 2015. In fact, European leaders have reportedly implored Trudeau to give a speech in their home countries to promote unity and stability. At the United Nations, Trudeau drew unusually sustained applause, and even Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev was compelled to say of Prime Minister Trudeau, “I love him. I admire him. He is a wonderful young leader of this planet.” Stephen Harper liked to use lofty rhetoric on foreign policy, but action speaks louder than words. For example, while the Conservatives criticized China over their detention of Kevin Garratt, only Trudeau’s collaborative approach led to his swift release. Soft power and international engagement are important assets, and Justin Trudeau has put Canada back on the world stage.
Trudeau is not perfect, and neither is his government. However, it is how he has handled controversy that makes him even more appealing. For example, when Minister Philpott was accused of unreasonable spending of public funds on a luxury car service, Trudeau ensured that she repaid the expenses. Contrast this to Bev Oda, the Conservative MP who charged taxpayers for numerous luxury items, including the famous $16 orange juice, while Stephen Harper stood by her side and supported her rather than being a leader and supporting Canadian taxpayers. Trudeau’s willingness to recognize mistakes and make amends shows that his government is humble enough to listen to Canadians.
Justin Trudeau’s first year as Prime Minister has been a successful one and his unprecedented popularity can be attributed to his respect for all those around him. From the struggling worker in Edmonton to the suffering teen in Attawapiskat, Justin Trudeau has shown that he is a forward-thinking Prime Minister who truly cares about the people he serves. Canadians deserve a leader who listens; Justin Trudeau has delivered, and not a moment too soon. After all, it is 2016.
Written by MWR writer Logan Stack, edited by MWR reviewer Rebecca Windheim
THE RAW TRUTH: JUSTIN TRUDEAU
On Monday, October 19, 2015, a new Prime Minister was elected: Justin Trudeau. Since then, the Canadian Prime Minister, known around the world for his good looks, has risen to the top of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. During his first 10 weeks in office, Trudeau committed to a framework focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, appointed a cabinet with gender parity, and pledged to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. Moreover, though, Trudeau governs with a distinct philosophy, saying: “I’ve been fairly engaged internationally over the past six months to try and ensure that Canada is seen as a strong and active and valuable trading partner on the world stage, for drawing in investments, for highlighting Canadian products and produce around the world.” It is clear the Trudeau has big plans for Canada.
However, nothing is completely black or white, and Justin Trudeau is no exception. Indeed, according to Rachel Giese, editor-at-large of Chatelaine Magazine, “there are concerns about the economy, the Canadian dollar is in bad shape, oil prices are low and Canada is seeing a lot of household debt.” Giese makes a good point: the Canadian economy is struggling. Furthermore, the Liberals’ new budget is adding, over the next four years, 100 billion dollars to the national federal debt. Right now, the federal debt is roughly $633,470,500,248.14 CDN, or $17,572.74 CDN per person. And if you’re asking yourself how Trudeau plans to pay for all this, just look at what you’ll be paying in taxes come spring.
Justin Trudeau uses our tax dollars to pay for his trips around the world. He says it is for the sake of promoting our country and getting more business opportunities, but is it really? Our Prime Minister went to Washington, D.C., in March to attend a state dinner with Obama. Even though only 22 seats were available, he brought his mother, his in-laws, the president of the Liberal Party, and the Party’s chief fundraiser with him, while most of his cabinet stayed in Ottawa. This trip was then criticized by Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer, who said: “The Prime Minister’s celebrity-sized entourage apparently did not have room for ministers with actual responsibilities. With so many important bilateral issues at stake, can the prime minister explain why he had room for his in-laws but not the minister of natural resources?” For now, his overexposure could possibly help Canada find more business partners, but only time will tell this strategy’s effectiveness.
Moreover, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is compared to his predecessors, he stands out as the least productive of any government in the House of Commons in more than two decades, according to data compiled by the Library of Parliament. His electoral promises regarding climate change, health care, the national security bill, decisions regarding Canada Post home delivery, defence spending, and the National Energy Board have been delayed or simply put off. Undeniably, he only passed 10 bills since taking office, even though his government holds a majority in Parliament. Conversely, Harper, while holding a minority government, passed 14 bills in 2006 and 26 bills in 2009. As for Jean Chrétien, a fellow liberal, he passed 34 bills in 1994, 38 bills in 1997, and 28 bills in 2001. Is Justin Trudeau’s obsession with media engagement thus preventing him from properly addressing our national interests? For many Canadians, the answer is ‘yes’.
In the words of Evan Solomon, the host of a political radio talk show, “Justin Trudeau is going to be on a long political honeymoon. […] Ït’s early to be cynical but it’s not too early to be skeptical.”
Written by MWR writer Shan Wang, edited by MWR reviewer Yanni Stavrakis
Gillis, Damien. “Why Justin Trudeau may be more dangerous than Harper.” The Common Sense Canadian, 6 May. 2016, www.commonsensecanadian.ca/why-justin-trudeau-may-be-more-dangerous-than-harper/.
Gold, Ashley. “Justin Trudeau: How is the new Canadian leader doing?” BBC News, 7 Jan. 2016, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35238732.
Raj, Althia. “Justin Trudeau Says He’s Selling Canada Abroad. But Is He?” The Huffington Post, 5 July 2016, www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/05/07/trudeau-canadas- billboard_n_9861864.html.
Raj, Althia. “Trudeau Government’s First Months Were Least Productive In Decades.” The Huffington Post, 17 Sept. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/09/17/justin-trudeau-least-productive_n_12066614.html.
Swift, Catherine. “Trudeau vs Canada’s youth: Young Canadians are the big losers under Liberal government.” The Financial Post, 20 July 2016, business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/%E2%80%8Btrudeau-vs-canadas-youth%E2%80%8B-young-canadians-are-the-big-losers-under-liberal-government.