Trudeau presents us with an opportunity, but it’s up to us to take it
Ten years ago my mom came back from the elections centre with grim news. She’d just voted for our local Tory candidate, hoping that a silver-haired man named Stephen Harper would help our family emerge from a financial rut. “It’ll be good for the economy,” she assured me.
As we now know, her hopes were held in vain. Harper leaves behind a legacy not of stability and national fortitude, as the Conservative Party has always upheld, but one of precarity and shame. After ten years, we’re a country of unapologetic genocide and aggressive ethnic nationalism. We’re a stain on international efforts to reduce carbon emissions. We don’t care about protecting our civic rights. On top of it all, according to the last report from Statistics Canada, we’re in a recession, once again. Sorry, mom.
Whether Trudeau and the Liberals can rectify all that has gone wrong remains to be seen. But with a majority government — even a comparatively progressive one — a dangerous situation arises, especially on the heels of such relative horror. The election might be over, but our participation needs to endure beyond what we put in the ballot box.
The Liberals hold 184 seats, and 140 of those are rookie MPs. They’re up against an atrophied NDP, with 44 seats, and a Tory bloc that shrank overnight to a portion of its once dominant legion. The reins are firmly in Trudeau’s hands, and with a fresh Parliament, there is strong potential for achieving significant change.
Already, he’s promised to legalize cannabis, Colorado-style, and to keep the state from interfering with abortion rights. He’s set the agenda to include inquiries into over 1,200 missing aboriginal women, an ongoing national disgrace that Harper wouldn’t touch. He wants a proper climate policy devised before the November UN summit in Paris. It’s promising for anybody whom these issues concern, that is to say, most of us.
Despite all the good news, however, we should probably learn a lesson from my mother. Simply voting and then returning happily to obliviousness sends the Prime Minister-designate the message that he can take risks without worrying about public opinion. It’s like watching the Leafs during the playoffs, but not paying attention to the preseason — and having the audacity to wonder how it all went wrong in the end.
For a man who was, and is, in support of Bill C-51 and Keystone XL; for an MP who voted willingly with Harper on tightened cannabis penalties in 2009; and for a politician who considers arms deals with Saudi Arabia a legitimate means of national revenue; perhaps blind faith isn’t the best approach to the imminent Trudeau era.
The relief caused by Harper’s exit is surely one to revel in, but an absence of blatant racism, environmental irresponsibility, and generally authoritarian tendencies does not necessarily mean that ideal progressive behaviour will immediately fill the vacuum. Democracy is an ongoing process, not an absolute; so while the Conservative’s departure from Ottawa may signal a step in the right direction, it remains our responsibility to keep the new incumbents accountable for their election promises.
Do not allow the rhetoric of change to fool you into lowering your guard — there’s a lot of damage to be undone and progress to be made, and we’ve only just gotten started.
Malone Mullin is a fifth-year student studying philosophy. Her column appears every three weeks.
The newly-elected Liberals are unlikely to bring about revolutionary change
Expectations for the incoming Trudeau government are high, and every possible source of commentary has thrown in its two cents on what we can expect in the next five years. So, aside from clickbait Buzzfeed articles, what change will the establishment of a new Parliament bring?
To answer that question, we need to take a look back in time. Our venerable fathers of confederation, looking south of the border, saw a godless land of wily politicians, bitter partisan politics, and freebooting frontiersmen. Of course, being the steadfast loyalists that they were, they wanted Canada to be the exact opposite of that. Thus, Canada’s institutions were born — slow-moving and with strict divisions between provincial and federal powers. Gradual change and stability have characterized our governing institutions ever since.
Relating this to Trudeau’s mandate, then, the structure of the system means that little is going to change for the average person. Our provincial governments far outspend the federal government, while continuing to control critical sectors like health, education, and utilities. The formulation and implementation of policy in many important areas of federal decision-making will remain within the hands of unelected and level-headed institutions like the Bank of Canada, the judiciary, and the civil service. Despite cranky voices from the wee corners of the Internet, griping that Harper has somehow damaged them in a meaningful way, these institutions remain independent and non-partisan, just as they were envisioned to be.
These factors — compounded with a preponderance for political parties in the developed world to campaign from the left then govern from the centre-right — mean that even with a majority, the Liberal government will remain on the same slow and steady course Canada has been on since the end of the Second World War. To say that this election is revolutionary for Canada in any sense exhibits either partisan hackery, or a fundamental lack of understanding of Canadian politics.
And what does the future hold for the Conservatives? Some lessons to learn, I hope. The turning point of the election seems to me to have been the transformation of the niqab debate, and by extension the Islamic community, into an electoral issue. Despite whatever good intentions there may have been when these issues were first brought to the table, the Tories’ public relations were unfortunately mismanaged, and were interpreted as an attack on immigrants in general.
This was an unlucky mistake. The perception of the Liberal Party as a glorified nationwide country club, amongst immigrants and their children still has weight. Consequently, the fact that many immigrants who have ‘small-c’ conservative values shied away from the Tories simply because they felt the party isn’t ‘for them’ is a missed opportunity. The Tories have done excellent work in creating a party where all who support family values and fiscal responsibility can come together under a big blue tent, but clearly more needs to be done. The Ontario PCs under Patrick Brown have made great strides in this regard and may serve as a future template.
It’s going to be business as usual; and I can’t think of a better outcome than that in a place like Canada.
Haris Yaqeen is a third-year student at Trinity College studying international relations and near & middle eastern civilizations.