Prior to his election as the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau had been hailed both domestically and internationally as a champion of the left, a beacon of progressive ideals and values. The election of Donald Trump only furthered this narrative. Many quickly drew comparisons between the two leaders, and several citizens in the United States considered relocating to the northern country. Ahead of Trump’s inauguration, Joe Biden hailed Trudeau as one of the last remaining liberal bastions of the world. Yet, Trudeau’s domestic popularity has dwindled in recent times, even among millennials and left-wing supporters. As such, it may be time to reflect upon Trudeau’s actions thus far and reconsider his position on the political spectrum.
In many aspects, Justin Trudeau has already lived up to the progressive hype just two years into his first term. In particular, Trudeau has been notably compassionate towards issues of social justice and equality. For instance, one of Trudeau’s earliest headlines was his selection of members for his cabinet. A renown feminist, his cabinet is equally balanced between men and women. Furthermore, his cabinet is one of the most ethnically diverse in the country’s history and consists mostly of younger figures. For instance, among the members was Maryam Monsef, a refugee from Afghanistan, who was faced with tackling democratic reform portfolio but has since been replaced by Karina Gould. When asked to explain his choice for a diversified cabinet, he famously responded at the time: “Because it's 2015.”
Since Trudeau became Prime Minister, Canada has also moved towards a more progressive tax system. Notably, the tax rate on the middle class shrunk from 22 percent to 20.5 percent, while the rate on the highest income earners rose to 33 percent, compared to the previous top rate of 29 percent. Additionally, Trudeau has renovated Canada’s federal student aid to benefit postsecondary education access. Federal student grants increased 50 percent for low- and middle-income families, and allowed low-earning students to delay their repayment of government loans.
Furthermore, in light of the Syrian refugee crisis, Canada has been openly welcome to refugees. The country has admitted the second-most refugees of any country, resettling over 46,000 refugees in 2016 alone. Moreover, Canada has contributed over $1 billion to provide for refugees in Syria and neighboring areas.
Indeed, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau have contrasting perspectives on a variety of topics. For example, the former has waged his war on the credibility and importance of science, while Trudeau has embraced it and created new opportunities for Canadian scientists. Trudeau’s predecessor, the conservative Stephen Harper, had imposed strict censorship rules on scientists, prohibiting them from discussing their research with members of the media. In fact, any research resulting in criticism of the Conservative government could result in reductions in government funding. Trudeau quickly reversed those rules, granting Canadian scientists the opportunity to promote their work and perform research without fear of financial consequences. In addition, Trudeau recently named cardiologist Mona Nemer to the newly formed post of Chief Science Advisor. Her role will include providing scientific advice to the government and protecting Canadian scientists while ensure funding for science is accessible.
However, as mentioned earlier, Trudeau’s approval ratings among Canadians has been in decline. While that may be attributed to the multitude of campaign promises left unfulfilled, Trudeau has still only been in office for two years. But in these two years, not only has Trudeau left several key missions unaccomplished, but he has also taken measures divergent from left-wing values that have upset his supporters.
For instance, contrarian to the environmentalist ideals that got him elected, Trudeau approved a C$6.08bn mega fossil fuel project coursing from Alberta to the Pacific coast. The new pipeline will triple capacity in the region to around 890,000 barrels of oil a day, equivalent to 23 to 28 megatons of carbon pollution every year. Beyond dashing Trudeau’s campaign promises of greener Canadian energy, the new pipeline threatens to create additional environmental harms. The number of tankers traveling through the area is estimated to increase sevenfold, risking to push orca whales there to extinction.
Trudeau has ignited criticism for continuing forward with conservative policies set in place by his predecessor Stephen Harper. For example, he approved a $12bn sale of military vehicles to the Saudi Arabian regime that was originally drafted before he took office. Saudi Arabia also purchased over $142m worth of arms and weapons from the Canadian government in 2016, making them the largest buyer of Canadian arms excluding the United States. Saudi Arabia has been locked in a war with Yemen, which has caused thousands of civilian deaths every year. Trudeau also announced reductions in healthcare funding for twelve of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories. Under the new revenue format, funding for healthcare will increase at a minimum of 3% a year, down from a minimum of 6%. This will result in an estimated $31B to $43B loss over the course of a decade, and total healthcare spending is expected to drop 14.3 percent over the next twenty years. Notably, this formula is effectively identical to the one the preceding conservative government had proposed. Ultimately, this means lower quality healthcare for Canadians across the nation and a blemish on Canada’s proud claim of universal healthcare.
Additionally, just like Trump, Trudeau has had to deal with a multitude of personal scandals. Trudeau had to close out 2017 with an apology, as he combats claims of ethics violations for a lengthy vacation he had with the Aga Khan that cost taxpayers over $215,000.
To the liberal voters that carried Justin Trudeau to the highest elected office in Canada, his resume thus far can be described as a mixed bag of successes and missteps. While he has continued to grow his popularity in many social groups, where he has been particularly friendly towards the LGBTQ community, he seems to have lost the favor of environmentalists due to his continued support towards fossil fuels. Moreover, Trudeau’s youth and inexperience shine just as much as his charm and charisma. While he attracts the youth and millennial generation of Canadians, his brashness and personal mistakes cost him in other demographics.
Certainly, it must be said that Justin Trudeau is a young Prime Minister with immense potential to grow into an even more prominent and influential world leader. Just two years into his first term of, in all likelihood, many to come, Trudeau has already made a significant and long-lasting impact on Canada. Not only in his policy decisions, but he has electrified the Canadian atmosphere with his youth and vigor.
Nevertheless, it has become clear that the buzz about Trudeau has one of the liberal bastions of the world, as Biden put it, is over-sensationalized. His actions as Prime Minister have demonstrated that he is much more center than far-left. Liberals in Canada have come to this realization; it’s nigh time for the rest of the world follow suit.
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