Keeping promises and facing change

As Ontarians get ready to go to the polls June 7, all bets are off on the outcome of the provincial election. What looked like a slam dunk for the PCs less than a month ago has morphed into a horserace with the NDP, while the Liberals limp along in third place. Voters fed up with the status quo, but fearful of handing the reins to Doug Ford’s Tories, are betting on the NDP, which, if trends continue, will form the official opposition — if not the government — once the ballots are counted.

Populism, anti-elitism, throw-the-bums-out-ism; whatever you call it, Revenge of the Masses has become the theme of elections from the Brexit breakaway to Trump’s triumph to the ascension of Emmanuel Macron in France. To an extent, it also shaped Canadian federal politics in 2015: a long-in-the-tooth Conservative government got tossed in favour of Trudeau’s new-born Liberals. Transparency, doing politics differently, and promises for everybody won the day.

Those promises could now prove to be Trudeau’s undoing. While he kept several in the months after taking office — most notably on family benefits and tax changes — many big-ticket items still languish at various stages of completion and others have been abandoned. The Liberals’ much-vaunted amendments to the Access to Information Act were panned by the federal information commissioner.

Electoral reform collapsed when consultations yielded recommendations the Prime Minister didn’t want to hear. The Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls remains mired in miscommunication and multiple resignations. Marijuana legislation is stuck in the Senate, which is now sitting into the summer in the hopes of passing the bill.

This is due in large part to Trudeau’s style of government, which involved a lot of talk and collaboration – with interest groups, with the public, with provinces – producing a lot of “busy-ness” but also a lot of pushback. Trudeau appears to have underestimated the provinces’ resistance on key files, including the carbon tax, legal pot, and now the Trans Mountain pipeline. The latter is morphing into a full-blown constitutional crisis, with B.C. suing Alberta over Bill 12, legislation that would cut off energy exports from Alberta to force B.C. to permit pipeline construction. Trudeau’s response has been to throw taxpayers’ money at the problem, to “compensate” Kinder Morgan for political delays – and task Finance Minister Bill Morneau with the unpleasant task of selling this non-solution to the Canadian public.

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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