Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Government. New faces.

Already I am beginning to get tired of Justin Trudeau's voice and image.  But that is not his fault, just the overkill of broadcast journalism.  He ran a good campaign and the Liberals deserved to win, although they got some fortunate help from what turned out to be blunders by opposing parties.

The NDP were outflanked on the left by the Liberals.  Thomas Mulcair in his campaign tried too hard to reassure voters that things wouldn't change too much, at least on the economic front.  He wanted to convince voters, especially in Ontario, that the NDP were not a 'tax and spend' party, and that they wouldn't run deficits the way Bob Rae's NDP government in Ontario had done.  So right from the early days of the campaign he promised to balance the budget. I think most voters realized that if he were to keep this promise then he would have little room for any of the programs he wanted to introduce e.g. universal child care.  That meant his credibility was open to question, especially after the Conservatives tried to play up how he had switched parties - from a Quebec Liberal to the NDP - and how he had publicly expressed admiration for Margaret Thatcher.  

The Conservative blunder was over the niquab issue.  It backfired, not so much because it wasn't successful in Quebec, but rather because it was too successful.  It pulled a lot of support from the NDP - Quebec was the party's base in the last election - and when this started showing up in the polls, the Anyone-But-Harper voters in the country at large, saw that the best way to defeat Harper was to go with the Liberals.  The Liberals too opposed Harper on the niquab ban, but unlike the NDP did not lose support in Quebec over it - mainly because they didn't have a lot of support there to begin with, but also because what support they did have was concentrated in the greater Montreal area, with urban voters more used to, and tolerant of, differences than many in other parts of the province where the NDP had its support. Harper also probably overegged the pudding when he went on to describe setting up a snitch line for reporting "barbaric cultural practices".  Perhaps this generated a revulsion among Canadians at large who didn't like the idea of the government trying to police cultural standards.  I can see why many Canadians from ethnic backgrounds would have been seriously turned off of the Conservatives by this action, not to mention those among what Harper had called "old stock Canadians" of a more liberal and tolerant nature.

So much for the post mortem.  What about the future? In jest I have been saying that the Liberals should create a Ministry for the Repeal of Odious Legislation of the Harper Government.  There would certainly be enough to keep them busy for a good long while.  They could start with the Fair Elections Act, which was anything but.  While at that task they could consider alternative electoral systems.  My favourite, which would not require too radical a change, is to consider preferential ballots in the way they do in Australia.  Apparently this system has been used in Canada before - it was used in BC until being abolished by WAC Bennett, in the sixties.  An interesting aside on this system is that it was proposed by the Victorian-era Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll.

Other targets for the Ministry for Repeal would include the bills, passed by the Harper government, as it liked to be called, which loosened environmental standards;  muzzled Government scientists; and the vindicative criminal justice bills including those involving mandatory sentencing.   

A further bill outlawing the practice of hiding legislation in thousand page budget bills should be passed.  Perhaps a first task would be to read through all these pages of verbiage and find out what is actually in them!

Such an act prohibiting omnibus legislation wouldn't normally be necessary with honourable people running the show, but this deceptive practice became common under the secretive and paranoid Conservative government.   

When it comes to external affairs Trudeau has already begun to move. Apparently he has told Obama that Canada will cease participating in the bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.  Also cancellation of the F35 fighter jets is on the cards.  He wants to improve relations with Iran, presumably with a reopening of embassies.  

Of course a big issue for the new government is climate change policy. It is perhaps too soon for Trudeau to announce a new policy at the upcoming meeting in Paris, but he could at least announce an ambition to do at least as much, or more than, whatever the US offers.

There is a lot to do!  Certainly much bad stuff that Harper brought in needs to be rolled back.  Justin Trudeau promised a lot in general terms on election night.  Let's hope he is able to translate those good intentions into practical policy.  

PS. One good result of the election was that several of the more obnoxious Conservative members lost their seats, and we won't have to see them on TV any more.  Specifically:  PM Spokesman Paul Calendra;  Minister for Immigration Alexander;  Finance Minister Joe Oliver (he was more insufferable in his previous role as Natural Resources Minister).  Its too bad that the champion of contemptuous bad manners, Pierre Pollievre retained his seat, along with the parliamentary thug, Peter van Loan.  Also gone (to jail) is Dean del Mastro.

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