Trudeau’s Speech: Let’s Pretend There Are No Tough Decisions

Justin Trudeau spoke to the Liberal faithful for just under 30 minutes on April 21st. He loves to talk about “sunny days.” The list of topics he didn’t discuss was as revealing as the ones he did.

Context is important. A speech written to rev up the troops for the coming election should not be expected to provide a rigorous and balanced statement of facts.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has had a low profile in the news. Nevertheless, it was not surprising to hear Trudeau accuse the Conservatives of following “the same policies, the same politics of fear and division [as Stephen Harper]. If anything, they’ve been emboldened by successful campaigns elsewhere in the world to divide one against the other,” a subtle suggestion that Scheer is somehow like Donald Trump.

Trudeau followed by asserting that he was practicing “positive politics, not demonizing his opponents.”

What he did not say is that his policies have followed Harper’s in many areas, including funding for Indigenous programs, pay for civil servants, and cost-sharing with provinces for health care.

The Liberals commendably hastened the admittance of Syrian refugees in 2015 and eventually reached their target, albeit a year late. Trudeau’s speech implied, entirely inaccurately, that none of the 50,000 Syrian refugees who have reached Canada would have arrived under the previous government.

What he did not talk about was today. He has encouraged the influx of illegal border-crossers from the United States by his ill-considered tweet in January 2017:

The consequence is a growing river of asylum seekers coming into Canada at irregular crossing points. There were 20,000 last year, a number that could more than double this year.

These are typically economic migrants, and many will end up being deported at taxpayer expense. They are not bad people. But they will overwhelm our resources for dealing with refugees.

The asylum seekers are not nearly as badly off as the 5 million Syrian refugees still in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Those are the people for whom our refugee policies are intended, but they are being displaced by a border problem the government appears unwilling to address. There is no evidence of a plan.

Trudeau’s speech noted the government’s efforts to implement a carbon tax, and to develop a green economy. He did not remind Liberals, as he has said elsewhere, that there must be a balance between the environment and the economy.

He did not congratulate Nova Scotia on the upcoming exploration well by BP. He did not reiterate the government’s commitment to ensure that the Trans Mountain pipeline will be built.

Of course, neither are a secret, but the message of a balance being sought is subverted. Although the threat from BC has been evident since the formation of the Green-supported NDP government, there is no apparent plan for responding to BC’s opposition. Trudeau has talked about federal legislation to deal with the issue. Why was it not tabled months ago, or at least prepared?

The speech justifiably celebrated Canada’s good employment and economic growth numbers. It did not talk about deficits much larger than what was promised, which is not what one would expect in a strong economy.

The resolutions adopted by the party membership would drive the deficits much higher. They were all about further spending: pharmacare, a guaranteed income model, a tunnel to Newfoundland, more funding for affordable housing, and many more.

An important resource for this article has been the website which describes itself as “a non-partisan collaborative citizen initiative that tracks [Trudeau’s] performance with regards to his electoral platform.”

There are less than 18 months till we next vote, and little more than a year until governing is put aside to allow for campaigning. TrudeauMeter reports that of the 2015 Liberal platform’s 227 promises, there are 66 achieved, 69 in progress, 51 not started, and 41 broken. Many difficult choices have been deferred.

Late in Trudeau’s speech he acknowledged that “it is always possible to do better.”

There is ample evidence to support that. A good starting point would be to acknowledge that real leadership involves doing more than the easy things. It means acknowledging that some tough decisions need to be made even though they will upset some Canadians, including his supporters.

Trudeau is right in committing to the Trans Mountain pipeline. Failure to make it happen, to challenge the government of BC and to deal with the inevitable protesters, will be a sign of great weakness, of only being willing to implement choices that don’t offend.

For real leaders, not all days are sunny.


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