Justin Trudeau's progressive poppycock
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- Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau used government funds to buy Kinder Morgan's Canadian pipeline assets, influriating many environmentally minded voters.MATT BARNES
Here are 12 things on the minds of many progressive Canadians as the election approaches:
* mass extinctions of species, including the possibility of losing endangered southern resident orcas;
* climate feedback loops that threaten the very future of humanity on Earth;
* grinding poverty that disproportionately affects people of colour, Indigenous people, the young, and senior women;
* an opioid crisis killing thousands of Canadians because of a dirty drug supply;
* Indigenous children and youths on reserves being denied basic human rights and a recognition that a distinctly Canadian genocide occurred;
* sky-high home prices that make young people feel that they'll never get into the housing market unless they have rich parents;
* unaffordable rents;
* rising food prices;
* brutally expensive postsecondary education, which is saddling young people with debt, sometimes for longer than a decade after graduation;
* fair treatment for the LGBT community;
* fair treatment for immigrants and refugees;
* and the rise of violent far-right extremists who attack and sometimes murder minorities.
In this election, those who feel that these issues aren't being adequately addressed are gravitating to the NDP or the Greens in English-speaking Canada.
And I'm betting that some of them are ticked off that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is trying to don the mantle of being a progressive—rather than apologizing for his failures to address some of these issues—as the final campaign week approaches.
Trudeau is desperately trying to convince NDP and Green voters that the only way to stop Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer from becoming prime minister is by casting ballots for the Liberals. The Liberals are the only "progressive choice", in his view, to thwart the return of a Stephen Harper–style government.
But here's the problem.
In four years in office, the Trudeau government has done little to address mass extinctions.
Trudeau almost never raises this issue in any of his speeches or in responding to MPs in the House of Commons.
Instead, his government has approved megaprojects, including two pipelines, that will only exacerbate this situation.
Sure, his government extended the distance that whale-watching vessels needed to be from orcas. But the cabinet and the energy regulator didn't initially even take into account the effect of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on the very survival of those animals.
Let's move on to climate feedback loops. These include the risk of large-scale methane releases from the Arctic and carbon dioxide releases from the oceans, not to mention massive ice melts in Greenland and carbon releases from the soil and the Amazon rainforest.
Then there's the question about how warming can disrupt the great ocean conveyor belt bringing warm water north and cold water south. It's already slowed by about 15 percent in the Atlantic Ocean, according to research published last year by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact.
The main reason is rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Levke Caesar and Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research discuss the links between the ocean's conveyor belt and the climate.
Trudeau rarely discussed any of these issues in his first term. He's sat by idly as oilsands production is slated to increase substantially in the coming years.
Instead, he bragged about an oceans protection plan that would prevent supertankers from dumping oil in Burrard Inlet or the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
But the consequences of all those downstream emissions from pipelines and the LNG Canada plant largely remained off his political radar until he suddenly got religion about the climate when Greta Thunberg visited Canada during an election campaign.
Now, Trudeau claims the only way to afford to make the economy greener is by exporting fossil fuels.
To Trudeau's credit, he has tackled grinding poverty to a certain extent by increasing the Canada Child Benefit for lower- and middle-income families.
But the Liberal government did nothing to seriously redistribute wealth by steadfastly avoiding addressing the preferential tax treatment for investors over those who go to work for a living.
The Liberals also oppose taxing the assets of the super rich, unlike the NDP, or bringing in a guaranteed basic income, unlike the Greens.
Trudeau and his multimillionaire finance minister, Bill Morneau, were never ones to upset the capitalist applecart.
As for the opioid crisis, the Liberals are adamantly opposed to the government creating a safe drug supply. While the Trudeau government has spent significant sums on other harm-reduction measures and the Liberals are promising more for treatment, they're not addressing the root cause of these deaths, which is contaminated illicit street drugs.
When it comes to Indigenous children and youths on reserves being denied basic human rights, the Trudeau government chose to appeal a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision. It ordered that billions in compensation be paid to First Nations kids and their families.
In their favour, the Liberals have made progress in reducing boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves. But there isn't any eagerness to educate the country about a Canadian genocide.
With regard to high housing prices, the Liberals introduced a first-time homebuyer incentive in the last budget. It enabled people to withdraw $35,000 from an RRSP, rather than the earlier cap of $25,000.
The budget also included a $100-million fund for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to help eligible Canadians buy their first homes.
While these seem significant, they're fairly small potatoes in the context of a $355.6-billion federal budget.
In the meantime, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions continues to require mortgage borrowers to adhere to the hated B-20 rule. This requires them to be able to repay loans at two percent higher than the contracted rate.
The one area where Trudeau can truly claim to be progressive is in his dealings with the LGBT community. The Liberal record vastly surpasses any other government in Canadian history.
Trudeau also deserves credit for inviting 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada within a month. But the Canadian government's response to this humanitarian crisis wasn't nearly as generous as that of Germany.
Add it all up, though, and it's highly questionable whether Trudeau can truly claim to be a "progressive". Especially if anyone takes a close look at the government's doctor-assisted death law, which fell far short of the recommendations of the Supreme Court of Canada. Even Trudeau's current justice minister voted against it.
In fact, by pushing this line that Trudeau is a progressive—and suggesting that his party and the NDP and Greens are all on the same page—the Liberals risk triggering a voter backlash.
It has the potential drive even more progressives into the NDP and Green camps.
This would be their way of giving the finger to Trudeau, in the same way that many Americans gave the finger to the Democratic Party establishment by voting for Donald Trump in 2016.
A more honest approach would be for Trudeau to stick to bragging about his government's economic accomplishments. Then he could emphasize how a Conservative victory would put that in jeopardy.
That would appeal to blue Liberals who will never vote NDP or Green but who could be tempted switch to the Conservatives because of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and all this talk of Trudeau being a progressive.