So, What Has the Trudeau Government Done Since Its Election?

My son, a Tory by sentiment if not actually a card-carrying member of the party, is always asking, “What has the Liberal government actually done since they were elected?” I thought he was well-informed about Canadian politics but, on the assumption that he has been preoccupied with other things for the past eight months, I am happy to provide a catalogue of what I consider major initiatives by the new government. All their promises may not have been kept, their actions may contradict what they said they would do, and many may be dissatisfied by what they have done. That is to be expected. They still enjoy an unusually prolonged honeymoon. Given the accolades he received from President Obama in his speech to Parliament last week, and the equally enthusiastic cheers on the first appearance of any Canadian Prime Minister in a Toronto Pride parade on Sunday, there are no indications that Prime Minister Trudeau’s popularity is going to wane any time soon.

So, what has the Trudeau government done? Off the top of my head, let me list 40 ACHIEVEMENTS, in no particular order (and two other pressing matters, still outstanding).

  1. Appointed a Cabinet made up equally of men and women, of diverse ethnic and religious origins, thereby creating the critical mass necessary for permanent change.
  2. Appointed Canada’s first Minister of Health who is actually a doctor.
  3. Appointed Canada’s first Minister of Justice and Attorney General who is a woman, a former Crown Prosecutor in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, and a Kwakwaka’wakw who was once B.C. Regional Chief with the Assembly of First Nations.
  4. Appointed Canada’s first Minister of National Defence who is a Sikh, a Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Reserves, a veteran from Afghanistan, and a professional police officer.
     
  5. Appointed as Minister of Democratic Reform a young woman, in her early 30s, who is a refugee from Afghanistan and already an experienced municipal politician.
  6. Appointed as Heritage Minister a prominent media personality from Montreal who pulled together young Canada Day performers, unknown to me before, who clearly show that there is a “sesquicentennial generation” as talented, inspiring and full of hope as the “centennial” generation thinks we were.
  7. Appointed a Minister of Finance with experience in business and in a policy-oriented think tank, respected by Bay Street and all who know him.
  8. You get the idea… the quality of Trudeau’s first cabinet is outstanding. The only one to fall so far left with grace and without scandal or breach of privacy.
  9. The swearing-in of the new government at Rideau Hall was a totally memorable event: open, accessible, charming, responsive and full of energy, symbolic of a new era in Ottawa.
  10. To all his Cabinet Ministers, Prime Minister Trudeau sent out public “Mandate Letters” setting forth his priorities for their work.
  11. Trudeau has reasserted the principle of Ministerial Responsibility. The Cabinet is a team and each Minister speaks on the policies they administer. Press conferences are on again.
  12. Government scientists are again free to speak on the research they do which is funded from the public purse.
  13. Statistics Canada restored the Long Form Census, much to the acclaim of policy makers, governments, and businesses across the country. The public greeted the 2016 Census with remarkable enthusiasm.
  14. The new government is committed to fighting climate change, attended the Paris Conference on Climate Change in December with a large delegation and promised to promote stringent new carbon reduction goals. The conversation about renewables and ‘going green’ has a new cachet.
  15. Federal-provincial conferences are being held again. At the premiers’ summit in Whitehorse later this month, expect a deal on internal free trade.
  16. Meeting with the provinces, the process towards implementing climate change goals is underway.
  17. Meeting with the provinces, the Canada Pension Plan has been expanded and renewed, thereby making a new Ontario Pension Plan unnecessary.
  18. A new Committee to vet and recommend non-partisan appointments to the Senate led to the appointment in March of seven new senators, the first from the new process. This initiative may well be sufficient reform of the Senate to allow it to re-establish its role and reputation as a ‘house of sober second thought.’
  19. Bill C-14, The Assisted Dying Legislation, has been passed as required by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Carter. The government’s position is more restrictive than that set out by the Supreme Court, but the Liberals say it is constitutional and reflects the current state of public opinion. A court challenge to the new legislation has already begun and eventually we will learn whether the Trudeau government is right or not. Whatever the result, the government has at least dealt with this very difficult issue.
  20. The ‘reformed Senate’ addressed Bill C-14, reviewed it, sent it back to the Commons with recommendations for change, and, as an unelected body properly should, acquiesced when their proposed amendments were rejected by the House.
  21. The Liberals supported the Private Member’s bill amending the English words of the national anthem from “in all our sons command” to the gender-neutral “in all of us command.”
  22. They have set up a Commission to examine and recommend how to regulate marijuana.
  23. They have begun preparations for the National Inquiry into Canada’s 1,181 missing and murdered indigenous women. 
  24. They have begun the process of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people. Did you notice on Canada Day that the formalities included a smudging ceremony and acknowledgement that the celebrations were occurring on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people? These are symbolic gestures, but they herald a significant shift in attitude.
  25. Canada’s relationship with the United States, for the moment, has never been better. The bromance between Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama led to a state dinner for Trudeau in Washington, another visit by Obama to Ottawa, and Obama’s most memorable speech to the Canadian Parliament last Wednesday. In the wake of Brexit, it is nice to hear Obama praising Canada as a champion of those values that need to be defended in the modern world: tolerance, equality, openness, pluralism, strength from diversity, support for freedom and the rule of law, multilateralism, free trade.
  26. In three months, Canada airlifted into the country over 25,000 Syrian refugees and more are coming; some government sponsored, many sponsored by private groups and individuals. This push to offer refugees a home in Canada was an example to the world.
  27. Prime Minister Trudeau hosted the ‘Three Amigos Summit’ in Ottawa last week, bringing together the presidents of Mexico and the United States to talk about joint issues. The Harper government cancelled this summit last year. The visa requirements on Mexican visitors to Canada will be lifted, and Mexico will allow entry to Canadian beef.
  28. Canada has restored its support for the United Nations and put the organization on notice that we will seek more responsibility in that forum in the future. Following the recent ceasefire after 50 years of civil war in Colombia, the government committed $57 million (an increase of $17 million) for various projects supporting the peace process there.
  29. The Liberals pulled the C-18 fighter jets out of Iraq, but have increased the number of Canadian special forces solders on the ground training the locals in the fight against ISIS.
  30. The Liberals are committing a Canadian Battle Group to head up a NATO initiative in Latvia.
  31. The government is reviewing the Criminal Code in the wake of the Tory ‘tough on crime’ agenda. Several legal appeals initiated by the previous government contesting lower court decisions which found parts of that agenda unconstitutional have been abandoned.
  32. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau has assumed the role of an ‘activist’ Prime Minister’s spouse. She does so with flair and energy even as critics complain about her need for more office help and for childcare during her unpaid state and ceremonial activities.
  33. The Liberals have relocated the controversial Monument to the Victims of Communism away from the front lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa and suggested a less grandiose design. Parks Canada has also cancelled the proposed Mother Canada statue proposed for Cape Breton.
  34. Beginning July 1, Status of Women Canada will allow groups advocating for women and girls to receive federal project funding for advocacy work, evidence-based innovative research, lobbying the government, and Charter challenges. This reverses the ban on such funding imposed by the Tories in 2006.
  35. The government has been negotiating with the provinces and territories since March for federal infrastructure monies. In June, B.C. announced a deal for rapid transit projects in Metro Vancouver, and Yukon secured federal money for waste water projects. An announcement today was for $1.3 billion in federal funds for public transit and water projects in Quebec over the next three years. Funds are already committed in Toronto for SmartTrack, GO regional express rail electrification, the Scarborough subway, and other LRT projects around the GTA and in Hamilton. Similarly in Calgary for flood mitigation and public transit, and in Edmonton and Ottawa for LRT expansion. Also federal funding for the $2.1 billion Gordie Howe Bridge linking Windsor and Detroit. According to the Globe and Mail today, $11.9 billion in federal funds is being allocated for shovel-ready ‘first phase’ infrastructure funding. More is to follow as plans are defined. The March federal budget committed a total of $120 billion over ten years: double the previous funding.
  36. Beginning July 20, 2016, the new tax-free Canada Child Benefit becomes payable to all eligible families.
  37. Although the deficit projected in the government’s first budget was three times higher than promised, deficit financing in a period when interest rates are low and the economy can be stimulated by government spending is a reasonable strategy to many. Predictable opposition to the Budget seemed remarkably short-lived. The proof will be in the pudding, down the road.
  38. A Parliamentary Committee now exists to consult with the public and recommend reform of Canada’s voting system. After public criticism, the Liberals gave up their majority on that Committee and included representatives from the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party.
  39. In the face of much criticism, the government approved the 2014 agreement which gives General Dynamics Land Systems in Canada a 15-year contract worth about $15 billion to make military vehicles for Saudi Arabia.
  40. In June, fifteen new s.96 federal judges were appointed to superior and appeal courts primarily in Alberta and Quebec. More vacancies are to be filled when the review of the existing appointment process is completed.

What they HAVE NOT DONE:

  1. They have NOT announced a new transparent and non-partisan process for making new appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  2. They have NOT announced their choice to replace Mr. Justice Cromwell who is retiring from the Supreme Court of Canada on August 31, 2016.

On balance, the Trudeau track record to date seems remarkably ambitious and highly energetic. It’s time for a vacation.

***** For an update of this list to December 2016, see my later post at https://effervescentbubble.ca/2017/01/05/what-has-the-trudeau-government-done-july-december-2016/

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19 comments

  1. Sharon

    You might find this interesting. On 5 Jul 2016 10:42 pm, “The Effervescent Bubble” wrote:

    > Marion Lane posted: “My son, a Tory by sentiment if not actually a > card-carrying member of the party, is always asking, “What has the Liberal > government actually done since they were elected?” I thought he was > well-informed about Canadian politics but, on the assumption that ” >

  2. Frances

    Marion, this is a great blog today!! Very good to remind us what the government has done.
    Thanks!
    Frances Combs

    • Marion

      Glad you liked it. There is more news daily. Since I wrote the post, there has been news: 1) about a repopulation pilot project in the Maritimes, 2) about $382 million to implement Jordan’s Principle, that First Nations children on reserves will have in a timely fashion the same health and social welfare supports as non-indigenous children. The previous disputes over who had jurisdiction and who should fund these services has now ended; the federal government will fund the costs. 3) about Trudeau attending the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, called “the summer camp for billionaires” to build relationships and speak to Fortune 500 CEOs about investing in Canada. Those attending include Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard and Mary Bana of General Motors. The last Canadian politician invited to this event was Minister of Finance Paul Martin in 2004. Trudeau also attended the Davos Conference in Switzerland last winter for the same purpose.

  3. Marlene

    On the done side:
    The consultation process to develop a National Housing Strategy was also announced at the end of June.

  4. Justus

    The very best thing the Liberals have done is to fundamentally change the tone of the public discourse. I hardly ever grind my teeth these days while our federal government is being parsed…and I’m not even a Liberal! (Even the Conservatives are singing from a different songbook, eg: how many Conservatives were prominent participants in last year’s Toronto pride parade? Just saying.)
    –Justus

  5. Doug and Cheryl

    We both really appreciate reading your blog. In this post you gave us a chance to reflect on the government’s actions over the past 8 months. Thanks for the summary.Cheers, Doug and Cheryl

    • Marion

      I see that the government has just appointed eight new provincial representatives to the Senate Appointments Advisory Committee and also publicized a procedure anyone can use to have their name considered to become a Senator.

  6. Bob

    Let’s consider some of those “achievements”.

    1. The first 8 are not achievements in any meaningful sense of the word, it’s a listing of select members of his cabinet. Yeah, he appointed a new and unique cabinet minister, just like every new and unique cabinet minister before them. Appointed a “Minister of Fiance with experience in business” That’s an achievement? What, unlike, Joe Oliver (investment banker), Jim Flaherty (lawyer), Ralph Goodale (worked in insurance), John Manley (tax lawyer), Paul Martin (shipping magnate)…. want me to go on? I suppose it’s an improvement over the long-forgotten Gilles Loiselle, a civil servant who was a finance minister for a blink of an eye during the Campbell inter-regnum. It would be an achievement, or at least a change, if he appointed a finance minister who didn’t have experience in business.

    2. But wait, there’s more. He had a nice swearing-in ceremony. Well, that’s quite an accomplishment if Trudeau were an event planner – a job which, admittedly, he might be actually qualified for. I’ll concede this much, his swearing-in is likely to be the high point of his ministry, so I’ll give you that one.

    3. Let’s see, there’s his commitment to fight climate change. Which sounds an awful lot like the commitment of the Chretien government to fight climate change almost 20 years ago. Can you list the actual actions that government took to give effect to it’s commitment…. no, no, I’ll wait….. This is what we count as an “accomplishment” these days? Saying you’ll do something? I’m going to give a million dollars to the poor, wow, aren’t I a saint. Talk is cheap, maybe you hold off your laurels until the Dauphin actually does something (and, aside, let’s see how popular he’ll be if he does).

    4. Ooh, an expanded Canada pension plan. Well, not immediately, like in 40 years time (since the increased benefits don’t get phased in for 40 years), although we get to start paying for them. Well, it’s good thing that the Trudeau government has addressed the problem of inadequate pensions for the middle class, admittedly a problem that most experts, including his own Finance Minister (who, literally, wrote the book on the topic), say doesn’t exist (see: https://savewithspp.com/2014/08/07/book-review-the-real-retirement-why-you-could-be-better-off-than-you-think/). So much for evidence based policy making.

    5. Sophie Gregoire has assumed the role of an “activist” Prime Minister’s spouse? Sorry, he’s got a pretty and charming wife, this is an accomplishment? How did I end up in 1955? I don’t recall voting for her.

    6. They implemented assisted dying legislation… that the Supreme Court of Canada told them they had to implement. Bravo.

    7. They broke a campaign promise and ran a 30 billion dollar deficit? Again, this is an accomplishment? That’s like listing a “broke in to Watergate hotel” in a list of accomplishments of the Nixon presidency. And the impressive part of that $30 billion deficit is that they ran it up without spending an extra dime on infrastructure. That $120B commitment you refer to? It’s all back end loaded, it doesn’t go out the door for four years (assuming, of course, that commitments mean anything, which one might doubt in this instance, given that you’re lauding him for breaking a campaign promise. See also #3, above). I’ll give you this, what is impressive is running a $30B deficit on NOT spending a new dime on infrastructure. Tat’s actually an impressive accomplishment, albeit in much the same way that kicking yourself in the ass is impressive. It’s hard to do, but sensible people don’t.

    8. Oh, he’s all chummy with Barack Obama. Funny, I seem to recall that in the past many of his drooling followers considered Canadian Prime Ministers getting too chummy with their US counterparts to be a vice, not a virtue. When Mulroney did it with Reagan at the 1985 Shamrock summit, noted Canadian historian Jack Granetstein said that “this public display of sucking up to Reagan may have been the single most demeaning moment in the entire political history of Canada’s relations with the United States”. Until now, I guess. I guess we’re cool with it now. At least Mulroney got a free trade agreement out of it, given that Obama’s just keeping the seat warm until one of the two least likable politicians in US history wins the presidency next fall, Trudeau shouldn’t be expecting anything close.

    I could go on. I think the take away is that 9 months into the reign of Trudeau the younger he has accomplished more-or-less diddly/squat. And the sad point is that his drooling admirers apparently think so little of him that they count as accomplishments the mere fact he achieves the functional equivalent of waking up and putting on his pants in the morning without getting his dick caught in the fly. Well, maybe in his case, that IS an accomplishment.

  7. Bob

    Hmm, want to reconsider #24 “They have begun the process of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people” in light of today’s announcement that the government is breaking it’s promise to implement all the truth and reconciliation commission recommendations, starting with not implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://www.canada.com/news/national/john+ivison+first+nations+hear+hard+truth+that+indigenous+rights/12058937/story.html. Promise made, promise broken.

    Note, this was the position of the Harper government who concluded, as does the new Justice Minister (“accomplishment” #3) that the whole thing was unworkable. And given that the promise to implement both the UN Declaration and all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation commission were truly stupid promises to have made in the first instance (not that some of the latter didn’t have merit, but equally some of them were quite out to lunch and, in any event, beyond the jurisdiction of the federal government), this is the right policy to adopt. It just happens to be the policy of the hated Harper Government. So I’ll give you this as an accomplishment: Adopted the policies of the previous Conservative Government. That’s one.

  8. Bob

    OOh, and meeting with the provinces – how do you think news that they’re reducing the rate of federal health transfers increases (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-expecting-feds-to-reduce-health-transfers-1.3679454) will go over at the upcoming meeting? Funny, when the Harper government said that was their plan, Trudeau condemned it a cut in spending (Math not being his strong suit). Maybe Trudeau’s smarter than he looks or sounds or any of the best evidence indicates. He’s clearly recognized that the Harper governments policies were better than the ones he campaigned on.

    • Fred

      Bob, a promise has to be capable of actually being believed before anyone can reasonably complain that it has not been kept. As no sensible, informed person could have or would have believed that either promise concerning aboriginal policy would be (fully) kept, no such person has reason to complain. Are you saying that naive idiots have reason to complain? Maybe, but electoral promises are, as one minister in the Saint Laurent government once said, cream puff things. I think it is actually greatly to the credit of the government of Trudeau the Younger that it has broken, or on its way to breaking those two promises at such an early stage of its administration. So that should be added to Marion’s list of government accomplishments.

  9. Fred

    Bob, do you think this could be a bargaining position, with increases contingent on health-care reforms that the government considers desirable. If you agree in advance to continue increases at their current rate, your bargaining power is zilch.

  10. Pingback: What Has the Trudeau Government Done, July-December 2016? | The Effervescent Bubble

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