Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government sworn in; Hopes rising that Canadian values are back

On Wednesday in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister. The son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, regarded as one of the greatest statesmen in Canadian history, the handsome, 43-year-old Trudeau is the country’s second youngest prime minister. There is a growing sense of hope that Canadian-ness is returning to Canada.

Trudeau as the prime-minister-designate last week was picking young capable politicians, rather than veterans, and Liberals who represent better the diversity of Canadian population and multicultural society. (Globe and Mail, November 1)

In the October 19 federal election, the Liberals defeated Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives with a landslide victory foiling Harper’s attempt at his fourth term and ending the almost 10 years of Conservative rule. They won 184 seats, 14 more than they needed to win a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons, where the Liberals had only 34 seats before the election.

Harper’s Conservatives shed 60 seats to 99 seats to become the official opposition. The New Democratic Party shed 59 to 44 seats. As recent as a few days before the election day, the Liberals were leading the Conservatives by several points but most pollsters predicted neither of them would win a simple majority and that either party, with a plurality, would have to form a minority government. The results were an overwhelming victory for the Liberals that nobody dared to predict or imagined.

“Trudeau won partly because he is not Harper but also because his commitment to Canadian values of compassionate, peaceful, pluralist society (is) probably genuine. He will not be perfect but he speaks our Canadian-ness profoundly,” a reader from Canada wrote in response to an op-ed article published in the New York Times. (October 26.)

In the op-ed, Heather Mallick, a Canadian columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote that “[Mr. Trudeau] is a better match for Canadians’ vision of themselves: peaceable, educated, emotionally stable, multicultural.” (New York Times, October 22)

In his victory speech in Montreal, where he lives with his family, Trudeau cited “Sunny Ways” a Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier used to talk about over a century ago, and said that “sunny ways” is his ways (in a reference to an Aesop episode of the north wind and the sun trying to get a traveler off his coat). He was thereby indirectly criticizing Harper’s harsh, iron-fist approach. “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways: this is what positive politics can do. …A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naïve dream – it can be a powerful force for change.” (New Yorker, October 20, New York Times, October 20) “Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight: It’s time for change in this country, my friends, real change,” he told his supporters.

In the same victory speech, Trudeau said definitively “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” – referring to Harper’s derogatory and discriminatory reference to immigrants, refugees, aboriginals and Muslims. He thus called for unity and solidarity of all Canadians.

U.S. and European media have shown strong (and very rare) interest in the news of the Canadian election and Trudeau’s landslide victory, as the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the New Yorker, to name just a few, covered the new with many analysis and opinion pieces. “It’s not often a Canadian poll garners this much attention,” an FT editorial said. (October 20).

Their particular interest is in Trudeau’s economic policy – whether his campaign promise to jump-start the Canadian economy through investment in infrastructure, by taking advantage of historically low interest rates to embark on a C$60 billion infrastructure program, while running “modest” budget deficits of C$25 billion in the next three years.

“When you want to buy a new house … you take out a bank loan. You know that you can invest in your future because that’s what confident, optimistic countries do,” he said in an election debate. (Financial Times, October 20)

This could have some impact on the ongoing debate in the U.S., EU and elsewhere about how to revive their sluggish economies when their economic managers were trapped by the debate of austerity to cut deficits and balance the budget.

Trudeau and his Liberals have won a landslide with their Keynesian program to finance their fiscal stimulus with deficit-spending, plus a promise to cut income tax for the middle-income people by imposing higher taxes on the very wealthy people.

Paul Krugman, Princeton professor and New York Times columnist, and Larry Summers, a Harvard professor and former treasury secretary and director of the National Economic Council in the Obama White House – well-known for their Keynesian policy recommendations – hailed the Trudeau economic program, with Krugman saying “[Mr. Trudeau] has an opportunity to show the world what truly responsible fiscal policy looks like.”
(New York Times, October 23).

Summers said in his column for the Washington Post that “Let us hope that American presidential candidates get the world!” (October 20) By the way, Summers has been reported to be advising Trudeau on his economic policy, while Krugman has strongly supported Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive fiscal stimulus policy, one of the “three arrows” of the so-called “Abenomics”.

Without much time to rest or test the air at home, or even to get to know each other with many newly elected colleagues in the party, the just installed Prime Minister Trudeau will have a crowded schedule to make his debut on the world stage: He will be making the very first debut at the G20 summit meeting in Turkey on November 15-16, and then the APEC meeting in the Philippines on November 18-19, followed by the Nov. 27-29 Commonwealth head of government conference in Malta and then, the climate change conference in Paris (COP21) beginning Nov. 30. A new Canada is coming back.

By Yoshikazu Ishizuka, senior consultant, TOCS

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