If You're Swooning over Trudeau 2.0, Here's a Quick Breather for you
(And no, I'm not talking about the inhaler- kind of breather)
As a Canadian who has spent the majority of her formative years in Vancouver, I can say with confidence that I have long been a sworn Trudeau supporter. And who isn’t? Hailing from Canada, possessing devilishly good looks by national leader standards, and bearing the Trudeau legacy in a charming Quebecois accent, Trudeau 2.0 has made quite a name for himself, popular amongst both feminists and cannabis-smoking youth alike.
Between viral articles on chance encounters with the man himself in the Canadian wilderness and self-directed Buzzfeed videos, progressive Americans and Canadians (of all stripes and colours, it seems) are enamoured with and quick to jump on the Trudeau bandwagon. Of the many positive comments that abound, liberals are most likely to point out that Trudeau stands as a stark contrast to the current state of disappointing world leaders/ electorates, truly a shining beacon of light in the face of an increasingly insular world. When put on the spot, even the most sceptical of cynics will retort, “at least he’s better than Trump!”
Let’s stop right there and qualify this common rejoinder. When did the idea that our elected prime minister or any elected official for that matter— is at least “better than the alternative” become the benchmark for good governance?
For weeks my American friends expressed vocal ultimatums about re-locating to Canada. This started off in jest, until the imminent decision of Trump’s presidency became a horrifyingly realized reality and Canada’s immigration website actually shut down. I was just starting to become immune to this talk, when just last week, my liberal bubble was upended over a dim sum lunch with a friend from Winnipeg (yes people do live there). Jasmine, who is currently doing her master’s in indigenous studies, made the case that Trudeau 2.0 is not the poster child for a Canadian messiah—not an imposter, but certainly not a demi-god everyone makes him out to be.
Granted, you’ll find detractors from both sides of the aisle. It's also hard to hold politicians accountable for their campaign promises when they’ve merely inherited alegacy. But there are some credible reasons one should really consider before joining the ranks of fawning, diehard Trudeau fans threatening to upend even the most loyal legions of Justin Belieb-ers and Obama Girls out there.
In the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic rhetoric as of late, Trudeau’s Canada has positioned itself as a haven for Syrian refugee. And The New Yorker was right to point out that Canada granted asylum to a staggering 62% of its applicants in 2015 alone. Whereas America has long ascribed the "melting pot" analogy to its many ethnic enclaves, Canada has been heralded as the emblem of diversity, a stance that Trudeau has solidified in repeated speeches under the public eye. But peel back the layers of rhetoric, and a man can be measured by the strength of his actions. Though Trudeau has pledged to embrace refugees, he is uncharacteristically silent on how exactly this will pan out as far as healthcare, means of housing and other basic necessities are concerned. But at the very least, it seems like his heart is in the right place.
On Indigenous and First Nations Rights
There’s no doubt that Pierre Trudeau’s 1969 White Paper was premised on the violent assimilation of indigenous peoples through the elimination of the Indian status, while furthermore leading to the sale of expropriated land. Unsurprisingly, this was met with backlash among First Nations in good ol' British Columbia, and to this day, many argue that was thinly -disguised cultural genocide. To soften this injurious blow to the Trudeau legacy and turn a new leaf, young Justin pledged to eliminate the 133 boil water advisories First Nations reserves, a promise that remains unanswered. Under his watch, there have been innumerable deaths, missing and murdered aboriginal women. We can only see how things pan out.
In a different political space altogether, Jacobin Magazine notes that while Canada purports to be against the occupation, no discernable action has been taken against Netanyahu.
On the Environment
For someone who has been an avid proponent of the G20 and active condemner of fossil fuel subsidies, Trudeau’s support for the Transpacific Partnerships has raised fewer eyebrows than it should have. Trudeau's public image of a tree hugger is at odds with his pouring of $8 billion to fund the 1,900-kilometre pipeline to transport over 800,00 barrels to refineries in Texas, which is as good as a sharp stab to the side of environmentalists. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that although engaging in projects will be a boon to job creation, this is also accompanied by a side of ecological damage of enormous proportions. And this is not even to mention the dirty tar pipelines. To add fuel to the fire, Trudeau's patent support of The Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 very well calls into question his support for the First Nations, who have expressed vocal resistance against this.
On Canada’s human rights record
Those who subscribe to the notion that all Canadians are kumbaya-singing pacifists may be incredulous to find that Canada has retained its military clout as the second biggest arms dealer in the Middle East. Canada has supplied to countries with questionable- at-best track records, to the likes of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Turkey, among others. Jacobin Magazine, the source of this scoop, also notes that Trudeau’s cabinet are willing to rebuke the human rights abuses in China, but are quick to turn a blind eye to commensurate acts in Saudi Arabia.
On Failing to Keep Campaign Promises
This one isn’t new to the world on politics, where realised campaign promises are about as bleak and likely as keeping one's New Year's Resolutions. Much to the chagrin of many Canadians, Trudeau has been slow to repeal an unfair and obsolete "first past the post system." Similarly, Bill-51, more commonly known as the Anti- Tourism Act of 2015, which granted the government wide-sweeping powers (read: surveillance nation) has also reached a deadlock. Despite Trudeau’s pledge to curtail it, it has continued to mostly enjoyed the liberty of proceeding largely unchecked.
Granted, these four policy points represents only a thin sliver and barely scratches the surface of a Trudeau world. And true, we may wish to cut 2.0 some slack, just as we do for other politicians who have to navigate a complex terrain, all the while suffering from the unyielding cry of liberals to always "do more." Hell, I for one can say that I'm the first passenger to hop on the Trudeau train and toot the horn while bursting out with snippets of "O Canada." Any claims I'm leveled are matched only by my unwavering optimistic towards Canada’s trajectory under a Trudeau leadership.
But just as optimism can only carry us so far, equally important is accountability. This means doing the extra grunt work and keeping tabs on our politicians to ensure that they are delivering on their campaign promises. And to go back to my earlier point, not settling on “better than the alternative” as the standard for good governance.
And accountability, ladies and gents, is a mainstay of a healthy and robust democracy. It may arguably be even more important than having good hair and a winning smile on national television.