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Justin Trudeau campaigns during the 2015 federal elections. Photo by Wikimedia Commons, Alex Guibord

Trudeau's 'sunny ways'

Despite political optimism, there may be some clouds on the horizon

By Dennis Gruending

On Oct. 19, as Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau stood before a jubilant election night crowd in Montreal, he quoted former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, saying: “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways.”  The Liberals conducted an excellent campaign and Trudeau performed well, generally accentuating the positive. The test in the weeks and months to come will be whether Trudeau and his team attempt to keep the many promises which they have made.

For example, issues affecting Indigenous people received little attention in an election campaign where the three major parties wanted to be seen as the champions of the middle class. Trudeau and the Liberals, however, made a number of promises, including calling a national inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women; implementing all 94 recommendations from Truth and Reconciliation Commission; providing stable and predictable funding for First Nations education; and dealing with the fact that at least 400 First Nations reserves have had boil water advisories in the past 10 years.

The Canadian Medical Association recently pushed all parties on health care, particularly as it relates to seniors. The focus, the CMA says, should be upon long-term care, home care and money for “catastrophic coverage for prescription drugs.” Yet health care also received surprisingly little attention in the campaign. For his part, Trudeau promised to meet with the provinces, who actually deliver that care, to negotiate a new Health Accord.

In July, an Angus Reid poll showed that 91 per cent of Canadians supported the idea of a national pharmacare program. Canadians spend $29 billion a year on pharmaceuticals, but many people cannot afford their prescribed medications. Acknowledging this, the Liberals promised to work toward improved access to medications and to help provinces to buy pharmaceutical drugs in bulk. But no pharmacare.

The issue of Syrian and other refugees also became a campaign issue. The Conservative government had done much to discourage refugee claimants and to scapegoat them. The Liberals, on the other hand, promised to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. Indeed, that'll be quite difficult to accomplish.

What's more, there's an urgent need for all countries, including Canada, to take action on climate change. Trudeau has promised to work with the provinces and territories to set emissions targets toward an upcoming international climate conference in Paris. The NDP had promised a cap and trade system on emissions, which essentially sets a price on carbon and makes polluters pay. But the Liberals made no such promise. In fact, Trudeau’s campaign co-chair Dan Grenier was forced to resign during the campaign when it was discovered that he was — at the same time — advising pipeline companies on how best to lobby a new Liberal government should it be elected. That suggests affluent insiders and interest groups could have an undue influence with this Trudeau government, just as they have had with previous Liberal administrations.

So although sunny ways may have arrived, there are also some clouds on the horizon.

Author's photo
Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based author, blogger and a former Member of Parliament. His work will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. His Pulpit and Politics blog can be found at www.dennisgruending.ca.
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