One month since the election: How's Trudeau doing?

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Photo: flickr/ Premier ministre du Canada

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It has been one month since the 2015 federal election and we are now into the reign of our new political overlords Justin Trudeau and his Liberals. It has never felt so good.

Trudeau won riding a wave of anti-Harper sentiment that swept Canada. As terrorism dominates headlines, I can't help but feel thankful that Harper is no longer prime minister.

However, the euphoria of having a PM who isn't an openly xenophobic war monger does get in the way of sober thought. So it's time to take stock: how has Trudeau done in his first month on the job?

The website helps maintain the necessary sobriety. It says Trudeau has already achieved three of the 184 promises he made during the election: 

  • unmuzzling federal scientists;
  • undoing Harper's cuts to the long-form census;
  • and, having a cabinet that has an equal number of men and women.

Trudeau has 10 promises in progress including cancelling the Northen Gateway Pipeline, reverting the plan to end door-to-door delivery and welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees by April 2016.

He has also confirmed that he will repeal two anti-union bills, C-377 and C-525, as well as other laws enacted by the Conservatives that are likely unconstitutional, including parts of Bill C-51. The Canadian Press published a list of these laws.

So far, Trudeau has made good on his promise for a more open and transparent government. His press conferences have been more open than Harper's, and he made his ministerial directive letters public.

In these letters, Trudeau outlined the full range of his intentions. While the directives don't amount to promises kept, they help Canadians follow his priorities and hold him to account.

Let's see how Trudeau is doing so far.

The good:

  • Trudeau has directed Dominic Leblanc, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, to ensure more collaboration with the other parties, fewer omnibus bills and whipped votes, and to create an environment that is "family friendly" and "free from harassment and sexual violence."
  • Trudeau has directed Mélanie Joly, Minister of Heritage, to restore and increase funding to CBC/Radio-Canada, provide funding to promote Indigenous languages and cultures and to work with the Ministry of Infrastructure to make "significant" cultural investments.
  • Trudeau has directed Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, to make the necessary changes to eventually legalize marijuana, and develop a new, multi-year Canada Health Accord.
  • Trudeau has directed Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, to invest in national affordable housing, transitional housing for women fleeing violence, transit infrastructure and other projects that will facilitate trade and moving goods across Canada. The program will be 10 years and does not define which projects will start sooner and which will wait until later.
  • Trudeau intends to hold an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, implement the recommendations that came from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, restore a "modern" court challenges program (one of the first things that Harper cut), and find ways to address the proliferation of Indigenous people in Canada's prison system.
  • There are also tax cuts promised, paid for by a tax hike on the one percent highest earners and an end to the two per cent cap on the Post-Secondary Student Support Program, the money that is intended to fund Indigenous students.

The bad

  • Trudeau seems to be as supportive of free trade deals as the Conservatives were. The Liberals have indicated that they will not oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Minister of Trade is expected to implement CETA. Trudeau also directed Chrystia Freeland to negotiate free trade agreements with Israel, Ukraine and Chile.

The ugly

  • Trudeau announced that his government would end Canada's participation in the coalition that is bombing Iraq and Syria. Since Trudeau was elected, Canadian soldiers have engaged in 13 bombing campaigns. On Oct. 28, the Iraqis seized a Canadian plane and held it for several days. The plane was full of weapons that were supposed to supply Kurdish forces. With that mission's end set for April 2016, Trudeau will have to act soon to deliver on this promise, a decision that seems unlikely considering the cries of war from Canada's NATO allies.

Free trade and war have enormous implications on Canadians and the lives of others around the world. A sketchy Liberal approach on both is hardly outweighed by positive social developments, but for average people, having their basic needs met is important. To have a Prime Minister who does not use terror attacks in Paris as a platform to justify his party's xenophobia, is undeniably important.

However, the Liberals have a tendency to overstate their progressive policy to distract from the more conservative elements.

The ministerial letters will be important tools for average people to help hold Trudeau and his government to account, especially as these promises are given funding and are made more clear through the Throne Speech and his government's first budget.

Enjoy the good times while they last.

Photo: flickr/ Premier ministre du Canada

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