As we Yanks have learned from the Obama presidency, campaign promises are one thing, performance in office quite another. Yet the slate of promises young Justin Trudeau made to the electorate in Canada en route to a landslide election victory last week merits close scrutiny by those who aspire to high office here.
Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, began the race in third place in the polls. Many of the things he espoused were considered to be politically suicidal. But he persisted and he won big. While his anti-austerity economic plans received the most attention down here, he also proposes to, for example, restore home delivery of mail, and require the government revenue office to pro-actively inform Canadians who have failed to apply for government benefits of their right to do so.
Pledges to end government secrecy are nothing new, and few candidates have ever failed more spectacularly than Obama to deliver on them. Yet here is Trudeau vowing that Canada’s “access to information law” will apply to the offices of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. That cabinet, by the way, is to be made up of equal numbers of men and women in the Trudeau government.
Trudeau said he wants to establish real Parliamentary oversight, with all political parties participating, of Canada’s national security agencies. He also wants to end the Stephen Harper administration’s war on science, appoint an independent commission to assure that all government advertising is non-partisan and have all Parliamentary committee chairs elected by the full House by secret ballot. (They are now appointed by the ruling party, as in the United States.)
Trudeau has promised to appoint a commission on electoral reform whose task will be to produce, within 18 months, legislation to change the present unfair and unrepresentative electoral system. Even within his own Liberal Party the real pros of politics are dead set against this. Time will tell.
Trudeau wants to reinstitute family reunification as part of government immigration policy. This would enable, for example, elderly parents to join their families in Canada as permanent residents, eligible for full health care and other government benefits.
Stuffing pork, or odious deregulation, into omnibus spending bills became common practice in Parliament under the conservative Harper government, just as it is common practice in Washington. Trudeau promises to end the practice in Canada.
Reversing the Harper government’s draconian meanness, Trudeau proposes to invest heavily in education improvements for Canada’s First Nations indigenous people.
He wants to restore funding for public broadcasting in Canada, no strings attached.
And he wants to address climate change. He has promised to work with the governments of the provinces to achieve consensus on meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He has said he is committed to having Canada take a leading role in the global efforts to deal with climate change. The upcoming world climate talks in Paris will offer the first test of his commitment.
He has already delivered on one campaign promise: pulling Canada’s combat aircraft out of war-stricken Syria.
A promising start to one of the most ambitious political agendas this sorry old world has seen in a long, long time.