The upcoming Canadian election campaign, with the vote set by legislation for Oct. 21, 2019, has unofficially already begun.
To win a second term, prime minister Justin Trudeau will have to convince Canadians that he has done more good than harm. The first includes creating gender equality in his cabinet and enhancing Canadian values in our foreign policy. A notable instance of the second was abandoning his commitment in the 2015 campaign to adopt proportional representation as used today by most of the world’s successful democracies.
Probably most important of all is how Canada’s new trade relationship with the United States, after many months of negotiation, will be perceived by voters. The 23-year-old NAFTA governed $2-billion worth of trade daily among the three participating countries. Under it, almost two million Canadian livelihoods depend on continental trade in services and goods.
Canadians reluctantly accepted renegotiating NAFTA, well knowing that the Trump administration would insist on changing it as much as it could to favor Americans. For example, most Canadians strongly favor the existing independent dispute resolution mechanism; Trump wants disputes settled in American courts under U.S. law.
Trudeau and all national political party leaders want to protect Canada’s 11,000 dairy farmers and their $21 billion domestic market, which operates under a supply management system, featuring planned production, administered pricing, and tariff walls. Trump wants to break down the walls of the system under which they operate and gain greater access to Canada for American dairy products.
Among other major problems for Trudeau is a recent finding by the federal appeal court on the Trans Mountain pipeline, which Trudeau’s government bought from U.S-based Kinder Morgan last May for an astonishing $4.5 billion. The court held that for the government to build its proposed expansion to the west coast it must return to the consultation table with indigenous communities. The pipeline problem also affected negatively the prime minister’s plans to have the provinces impose carbon taxes on Ottawa’s behalf— Saskatchewan and Ontario are already opposed, and Alberta is now balking as well.
Ontario’s new government is demanding federal compensation for the tens of thousands of asylum seekers arriving after crossing the Canada-U.S. border at unofficial entry points. If only about half of them are genuine refugees, as alleged, public confidence in Canada’s generally excellent immigration system is likely to drop.
By the next election, the Trudeau government’s continuous deficits will have added approximately $100 billion to Canada’s national debt, bringing more inflation and pain for Canadians on fixed incomes. Three other Liberal prime ministers who similarly did not face a world war or recession—Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Lester Pearson—reduced per person federal debt while in office.
A talented Liberal Member of Parliament from the Toronto region, Leona Alleslev, recently crossed the House of Commons floor to join the Conservatives—the first defection the Liberals have faced since Trudeau assumed party leadership in 2014.
The Trudeau government has also received some good news. The mid-July respected Ipsos poll reported that 55 per cent of respondents approve of the government—perhaps due to Trudeau’s response to the trade tariffs spat with President Donald Trump. When Trump imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports, basing it unreasonably on claimed national security, Trudeau slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods worth $16 billion.
Trudeau can also point to a successful economy which has operated near capacity for the past year—the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008. Since January, however, employment has registered a loss of 48,000 private-sector jobs and unemployment rose to six per cent. Liberals respond that half a million more Canadians are employed now than when their government took office in 2015.
While the risks and complexities of the fast-approaching legalization of recreational marijuana are worrying to many Canadians, especially if it is laced with street drugs, including fentanyl, Trudeau is seen by others as delivering on an election promise.
Trudeau believes that the core of NATO as history’s most successful defense alliance is shared values amongst members. On climate change, many voters agree with him that governments around the world must act in concert to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Informed and engaged electorates are democracies’ best defenses against political extremism and social discord. This responsibility is no longer something that can be restricted to a few weeks of close attention every election year. With politicians and interest groups already maneuvering toward next year’s election, it’s time for all Canadian voters to engage seriously.
David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chrétien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Latin America and Africa) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.