by Barry Weisleder
Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears to be counting on his waning skills of distraction, plus the disarray in Conservative ranks, to keep his minority government in power for at least two years. That much is evident in the Throne Speech, the Fiscal Update, the new NAFTA, and the prominent role of Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland – as feckless Tory Leader Andrew Scheer heads for the exits.
While the deposed Scheer faces an internal audit over the use of party funds to pay his children’s private school tuition, an array of Tories is lining up to run for his job. Thus, the Conservative Party is in no hurry to force a general election.
Trudeau is also secure in the knowledge that the Bloc Quebecois will vote for the Throne Speech. The PM craftily omitted the word “pipeline” from the text, and he made vague references to tackling climate change, cost of living issues, gun control and health transfers – just enough to satisfy BQ leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.
Liberal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s December 16 Fiscal Update gives New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh reason to act on his threat to vote non-confidence in the new minority government. Only one Liberal election promise appears to be funded – an income tax cut that will cost $6 billion a year when it’s fully implemented in 2023-24. That leaves un-budgeted several Liberal promises including: enhancement of the Canada Child Benefit for new parents, provision of more money for health care, plus funds to set up national pharma care, increase Old Age Security benefits for people over 75, and retrofit homes.
Should the NDP vote against the government for any reason, for example, the Liberal Party’s refusal to tax corporations and the rich significantly, the NDP will not cause the government to fall, unless the BQ and the Tories also vote No confidence.
This situation permits Trudeau to continue on course with his 2015-2019 corporate agenda, plus window dressing. The ever-fiercely-smiling Chrystia Freeland, who appears more like a PM-in-waiting than a mere Minister of Inter-Governmental Affairs, is increasingly Trudeau’s public face and implementer-in-chief. She meets with disgruntled western provincial premiers to assure them that oil and gas pipelines will be built, regardless indigenous and environmentalist objections. She pushes ratification of the new North America ‘free’ trade deal. She continues to promote the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, even though U.S. President Trump has cut loose his discredited puppet Juan Guaido.
Toronto Star columnist Tom Walkom calls the new NAFTA (also known as the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement) “a bad deal.” It effectively bars Canada from entering into a trade agreement with a ‘non-market’ country like China without Washington’s agreement. It undermines the supply management system for Canada’s dairy farmers, and grants lengthy patent privileges that allow Big Pharma to gouge consumers. While Chapter 11, which was often used by U.S. firms to override Canadian environmental laws, is mostly gone, the new deal enables Washington to ignore and override the pact whenever it pleases, as it did when it excluded Canadian steel and aluminum from the U.S. market. As Walkom points out, NAFTA has never been about free trade. It is, despite a little backtracking, about reducing wages and environmental standards.
When Trump chastised Trudeau at the White House on December 3 for Ottawa’s failure to pump the equivalent of 2 per cent of GDP into NATO coffers, Trudeau proudly insisted that he increased military spending 70 per cent over his Tory predecessor Stephen Harper, expanded the presence of Canadian troops overseas, and pledged to bump up Ottawa’s funding of the imperialist alliance, which is a major cause of social de-stabilization, waste and pollution.
Trudeau’s pride is Canada’s shame. Shameful too is Jagmeet Singh’s near silence on foreign policy, his hesitance to oppose the new trade deal, and his cancellation of the NDP federal convention.
Trudeau is remorseless. He tried to shield the corrupt giant engineering firm SNC Lavalin by pressing his Justice Minister for a Deferred Prosecution. SNC on December 18 pleaded guilty on a charge of fraud. It was ordered by a judge to pay $280 million in fines and is now on probation for three years.
No thanks to the capitalist parties in opposition, the Liberals comfortably carry on serving the ruling rich. Is there a lesson here? Yes, indeed. In the wake of the utter failure of COP 25 in Spain, and a deepening climate crisis, the Canadian Labour Congress and ‘strategic voting’ unions like UNIFOR should wake up, break politically with Trudeau, push the NDP to the left, and fight for a Workers’ Eco-socialist and Feminist Government. That will happen only with a big push from below.