Political profiles: Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau seems like a dream. A leader who is young, charismatic and professional, who roots for ordinary people and equality. On his website, he cites “diversity” as “Canada’s strength” (echoing his tweet from January 2017, welcoming refugees with #WelcomeToCanada) and we learn that Trudeau is a “proud feminist”. In a period where right-wing governments dominate much of the world, Trudeau is a clear win for the liberals. However, is Trudeau as ideal as he seems? 

Trudeau was elected as Canada’s prime minister in 2015, winning an overwhelming majority (winning seats in every province and territory). His plans were to create a national movement of progressives, to open up politics to the majority, strengthen and expand the middle class and create jobs. His values emphasised equality, freedom and diversity. 

There is still not gender parity in the House of Commons, and if it wanted achieve this, it would take 89 years at the rate at which female MPs are elected.

Trudeau’s claim of being a “proud feminist” is echoed in his political achievements. He created Canada’s first gender-balanced federal cabinet, legislated pay equity in the federal sector and sought to protect trans people legally. The national anthem was adapted to become gender neutral and spending was increased for women’s health and aid internationally. The department for Women and Gender Equality was also established. These changes are said to have been echoed across different sectors in Canada, encouraging gender equality “in corporate Canada, in Canada writ-large” (Susan Smith, Principal at Bluesky Strategy Group). 

Trudeau and his cabinet encouraged employers and organisations to reorganise in favour of gender equality, by setting a good example, without the need to enforce or dictate. This is a prime example of a liberal approach to wide-spread social change, created by straddling the two ideals of equality and freedom. 

Yet, all is not fixed. There is still not gender parity in the House of Commons, and if it wanted to achieve this, it would take 89 years at the rate at which female MPs are elected. Feminist organisations, such as Equal Voice, have criticised the progress as too slow, too “incremental”. 

The other main focus of Trudeau’s government has been climate change. Canada signed the Paris agreement in 2015 along with 195 other countries.

The legalisation of cannabis has been a controversial element of Trudeau’s policy. Whilst it was an attempt to protect young people and get rid of the black market, there are some issues with the new system. Each province and territory has a different system in place and in some areas there have been reports of high cost and low supply. 

Trudeau has also focused on settling refugees in Canada, making Canada a welcoming and successful place of asylum for more than 40,000 Syrian refugees. This policy has greatly distinguished Canada from Trump’s closed-off borders in the US. The UN reported that Canada settled more refugees in 2018 than any other country, and, as Melanie Grant of the UNHCR says, “the Canadian experience… has shown how welcoming refugees really contributes to Canada’s economy and communities”.

The other main focus of Trudeau’s government has been climate change. Canada signed the Paris agreement in 2015 along with 195 other countries. Since then, the Liberal Party have initiated a carbon tax (price on pollution) and funded low carbon infrastructure. However, it appears that the Liberal Party were all talk and little action in terms of climate action. 

It is doubted that Canada will actually reach the targets of the Paris agreement. The Liberals purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for C$4.5 billion, which carries oil from Alberta to British Columbia, with plans of expansion. Protestors, concerned about the environmental impact of expanding a crude oil pipeline – which already delivers about 300,000 barrels of petroleum each day – have been arrested, and some even incarcerated.

In a world where incompetent, aggressively right-wing leaders are rife, Trudeau seems like one of the better leaders, dedicated to creating a welcoming and fair Canada. However, one must remain sceptical of a government with a pristine veneer but an ugly under-belly, a government that is all talk while doing little.

By April Howard

Image: by Alex Guibord via Flickr

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