By KYLE GARDINER
It’s not that I hate the man. I mean, I voted for the Liberals. I think Justin Trudeau is probably a very pleasant person to be friends with, and he can be a charming public personality. However, when I try to have conversations about the head of my country’s government, it always seems to be about “because it’s 2015,” his handshake with Donald Trump, or whatever the most current meme is about PM Steal Yo Girl. Although the man has mastered the art of symbolic politics and pretty speeches, his honeymoon period with the Canadian public is over.
Frustratingly, the foreign media rarely has anything but heart-eyes emojis and puff pieces to publish about him. The dichotomy of observing otherwise well-informed students discuss Trudeau in terms of a god sent defender of Western values, while the Canadian press and my own friends grapple with the reality of the Liberal government is rather depressing.
“Otherwise well-informed students discuss Trudeau in terms of a god-sent defender of Western values”
Justin Trudeau campaigned for election on the slogan of “Real Change,” from his austere Conservative predecessors led by Stephen Harper. Upon election, he received praise at home and abroad for the gender-parity in his Cabinet, his calls for accepting refugees, his strong support of environmental protection, his promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples and enact the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, his plan to increase federal spending to create a deficit, and – very important to the domestic audience – his vow that the 2015 election would be the last one to be held under a first-past-the-post system.
Of course, what really matters is how he has actually performed in regard to his campaign rhetoric. His Cabinet has been reshuffled a couple of times during the term so far, particularly in response to the American presidential election, and is now in fact more female than male. All well and good. This is where the good news ends, I’m afraid.
Trudeau promised to commit funding to infrastructure investment. Instead, he has announced plans for massive amounts of privatisation of government services in order to court private sector investment. The true cost of transforming public services into profit-aimed companies is far more expensive than avoiding a deficit.
While stating his desire to work with Indigenous tribes on a nation-to-nation basis of mutual sovereign respect, he has withheld federal funding from tribes under the claim that he knows better than the chiefs what Indigenous youth want – a classic condescending tactic that stays in line with the paternalistic ideology of past governments wishing to give lip service to decolonisation, while undermining the legitimacy of aboriginal systems and institutions. Hardly real change.
In contrast to the airtime he has given to environmental protection and clean energy, he supports the Keystone XL pipeline and the further exploitation of the Alberta tar sands, despite a chorus of opposition, including former US president Obama.
Despite presenting himself as a positive politician, he is under two different investigations of ethics violations: one for pay-for-access fundraisers, and another for vacationing with the Aga Khan over the winter, which included the acceptance of gifts from the religious leader.
One of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Toronto called Justin a “white supremacist and a terrorist.” The latter accusation is assumed to be in regards to his completion of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia for military equipment.
Lastly and debatably most importantly, is the Liberal government’s complete flop on their promise to end first-past-the-post. Despite 63% of Canadians voting for parties such as the Liberals and the NDP that were promising electoral reform, all action has been completely tabled. The excuse being the results of a nation-wide survey which appeared to show that the majority of Canadians were satisfied with the current system, regardless of the fact that the methodology and phrasing of the questions were criticised as soon as the survey was able to be taken. It seems that while the Liberals were against the system when they thought it was working against them, their tune has changed in victory.
You have not won democracy when your candidate is elected, you win by remaining thoroughly engaged in the actions of the government and holding them accountable for broken promises, not celebrating their symbolic conformity to our predetermined narratives of them.