It has been quite a month, both in terms of Canadian politics and world events. In Canada there has been much celebration over the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he has been treated as some sort of a rock star at the various international events he has recently attended. Trudeaumania all over again! But at some point, the lights dim, the selfies become less important, the love affair with the media cools and in the cold light of dawn, tough decisions have to be faced.
In Canada, our political system encourages opposition. Accountability and critical comment are an important part of the democratic structure. When governments change, no matter the honeymoon, the critical become the criticized. It may take the media a while to catch up, but that is the way it works.
And so, while many Canadians continue to bask in the wake of Sunny Days and a new government, let’s step back and look at some of the cracks that are already appearing in the early days of Camelot.
During the election campaign, the Liberal Party, quite correctly treated the environment and climate change as a major priority. They dined out on it with many promises and in part, it helped them to be elected. Yet within days of gaining power, the Trudeau Government authorized the City of Montreal to dump eight billion litres of raw, untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence River. That river is an international waterway and some environmental critics have said that this dump was comparable, in terms of potential damage, to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it was disgusting, with pictures of used condoms and other unspeakable debris floating in what was once a majestic river.
There is no doubt that the sewage system in Montreal was and still is in crisis. That is because municipal officials, over a number of years, had ignored the problem. They should be held accountable for that, not rewarded by being allowed to pollute our environment. Apologists will say that the Trudeau Government had no choice. I harken back to those famous words uttered by Brian Mulroney in a debate with John Turner: “You had a choice, sir, you could have said no!” At least the oil spill in the Gulf was an accident. The Montreal dump was intentional. If the environment is really such a top priority for his government, Mr. Trudeau could simply have said “NO” and had his government work with the City of Montreal to find another solution to their sewage neglect. So much for environmental integrity.
Gender equality in Cabinet was another election promise made by Justin Trudeau. In appearance, it is a promise kept. In substance, it is a farce. It is accurate to say that the Prime Minister appointed an equal number of women and men to his Cabinet, but the equality stops there. While they may all have a seat at the cabinet table, they are not equal. No matter how you cut it, five women are junior ministers, who report to other ministers and are without departments of their own. Further, the two primary Cabinet Committees, where the most serious decisions affecting Canadians are hammered out, are dominated by men. This is not gender equality, this is window dressing and no one, especially women, should be fooled by it.
And then there is the issue of Her Majesty the Queen. Within days of every single member of Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, swearing an oath of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth, her portrait was unceremoniously removed from a place of honour in the Foreign Affairs building, a landmark in Ottawa. Now I know that there are mixed feelings about the monarchy in Canada, especially in Quebec. But to me, this was done with unseemly haste and hopefully with little thought. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs, or whatever they call it now, himself a Quebecer, removed the Queen’s portrait in one of his first moves, and replaced it with art that was previously hung there, by a Quebec artist. Under these circumstances, one cannot help but wonder what the message is here and to whom it is directed. Quebec?
Finally, during the election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised Canadians he would listen to them. His position was clear. In his view, Prime Minister Harper did not listen to Canadians but he would.
Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to bring 25,000 refugees, from the war torn Middle East to Canada. Most Canadians, including this one, agree with that goal. It is the right thing to do. However, Mr. Trudeau has also pledged to complete this transition by the end of next month and in light of events in Paris and elsewhere since the election, many Canadians have become cautious about that. ISIS has boasted about using the refugee surge to infiltrate terrorists into western countries. There is no doubt that countries including Canada are under threat.
If the Prime Minister really wants to listen to Canadians, he should read the polls that have been taken in the last week or so. It clearly shows that Canadians now want to balance compassion with caution. They want the refugees here as quickly as possible but they also want assurances that their safety is not compromised. That is why the majority of Canadians along with almost every professional involved in the immigration process are in favour of Mr. Trudeau pushing back his self-imposed deadline of December 31st. There is no shame in doing so. Circumstances have changed since the election. The question now is whether the Prime Minister will do what he said he would do and listen to Canadians, or will he just play ‘Father Knows Best’ and push ahead, simply because he can? It is a moment of truth.
AND A WORD ABOUT RACISM
In a world that is changing and under constant threat, it is one thing to be cautious and concerned about security. It is quite another thing to be racist and to paint people who don’t deserve it with the same brush that we paint people who do. Attacks on people in Toronto, simply because they are Muslim are unacceptable. Destruction of a Mosque in Peterborough as revenge for other people’s actions is not the Canadian way. And ludicrous suggestions from the Trumps of this world to track all Muslims on a database are reminiscent of the worst of times past. It has been sad to see signs of racism here and abroad, raise its ugly head in recent weeks. There is no excuse for it. It should not be tolerated. The bad guys win when we do.
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