It was a breath of fresh air—a leader and now prime minister ready and willing to talk to ordinary Canadians, and ministers who answer media questions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau not only recognizes that global warming is a serious, man-made
problem, he is ready to tackle the issue. He invited provincial and territorial ministers to last month’s Paris Climate Change conference, signalling a return to cooperative federalism, and acceptance of proven science. Targets are still being negotiated.
Among the first measures announced was the reinstatement of the mandatory long-form Census, cancelled by the Harper Conservatives as of 2006 because it was seen as a privacy intrusion. This marks a return to what statisticians say is a significantly more reliable survey of essential data, such as first language learned and still spoken at home, which are necessary to frame legislation and administrative decisions.
The courageous move to cancel Canada’s role in bombing ISIS targets is another positive step, repeated by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion. Our CF-18s were only contributing minimally to the U.S.-led campaign, and the so-called collateral damage—death and injury to innocent civilians who are among bombing victims – is too high a moral price to pay. An enhanced training role for local forces by Canadian troops is preferable from a practical and ethical angle.
Although the electoral promise of receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end turned out to be not feasible, the commitment to pull out all stops to reach that humanitarian goal by the end of February far outweighs the failure to fulfill a campaign pledge. We applaud the hands-on leadership Immigration Minister John McCallum is offering in returning Canada to the role of
alleviating human suffering by giving asylum to those fleeing for their lives, as it has done for tens of thousands since the end of Word War II.
The Speech from the Throne, outlining government intentions for the new Parliamentary session, is never rich in detail, but there were promises of action in important areas. For example, there was a commitment to “legalize, regulate and restrict” access to marijuana, a long-overdue measure. And we await details on promised infrastructure investments.
There were, however, also missing elements that are of concern, particularly for seniors. There is no mention of a campaign promise to restore 65 as the eligibility age for Canada Pension Plan
payments, which the Harper Conservatives had hiked to 67—a punitive and unnecessary step.
There has been no follow-up to the promise to restore the federal interim healthcare program for refugee claimants, callously removed by the Tories. There have been no concrete steps to formally reverse the Canada Post project, now suspended, to replace home delivery of mail by community mailboxes. There was no mention of a promise to remove threats to individual liberties in Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terror legislation.
We await action on these files.
Nannies overshadowed by bigger issues
As we are bombarded with data in what has been labeled the information age, it is often the trivial that grabs public attention. The fact that Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire have put two nannies on the public payroll was singled out as hypocritical, since during the election campaign he said wealthier families, such as Stephen Harper and his own, should not be getting Harper’s Universal child Care Benefit. That measure is to be replaced by a targeted Canada Child Benefit to low and moderate-income families.
Surely, now that Trudeau has the demanding and time-consuming job of prime minister, and Madame Grégoire is taking on an active role in public affairs as his partner – and not the
traditional role of stay-at-home mom – the family deserves help in raising three young children.
So-called “Nannygate” pales in comparison to other issues of social and economic justice. The New Democratic Party, for example, proposed during the election a $15-a-day national childcare program, similar to what we have in Quebec. That merits attention and consideration as a way of freeing up working couples who need double incomes and career advancement by each partner so they can afford it when both parents return to work as early as six months or a year after a birth.
A much more urgent question, one that could result in an important boost in government
revenue, is whether the corporate tax rate should stay at 15 per cent, among the lowest in the
developed world. The Liberals supported the Conservatives when they lowered it, while the NDP in the campaign called for an increase to 17 per cent. There is some evidence that corporations have not used that tax break for investment and job-creation. It’s worth doing when the government gets around to tackling fiscal policy and promised tax breaks for the middle class. We await the next chapter.