Is Justin Trudeau Canada’s first New Democratic prime minister?
Former Jean Chretien advisor, and fellow Loonie Politics columnist, Warren Kinsella, seems to think so.
Kinsella doesn’t believe that Trudeau has always been a Dipper. But his “transformation” into one was made complete last week after Trudeau played musical chairs with his cabinet and appointed the “radical” climate activist Steven Guilbeault as his new environment minister.
Kinsella, like other business-oriented Liberals, are “apoplectic” over Guilbeault’s promotion and the demotion of cabinet centrists like Marc Garneau and Jim Carr. They think that Trudeau is guilty of “vandalizing the economy” and fear that, left unchecked, he and his team will “slay our energy sector.”
After spewing so much hysteria and hyperbole, Kinsella and the rest of his Blue Liberal pals really need to get a grip. The fears that they have are completely overblown and the comparisons that they’ve made, overstated.
To begin with, lets state the obvious: the Canadian government has not been taken over by radicals. The same group of men and women that sat in cabinet with Trudeau a few months ago are still, by and large, the same team they are today, and none of them are extremists, Guilbeault included. In fact, I think there is a strong case to be made that Guilbeault is far more clear-eyed than most when it comes to tackling climate change. Whether obstructionists in the Liberal Party agree with him or not is another story.
As for Justin Trudeau, let me categorically state that he is not Canada’s first New Democratic prime minister. How could he be when he’s not a social democrat? He never has been. Liberal blood flows through his veins, just as it flowed through the veins of both his father and his mother’s father, James Sinclair, an MP under the Liberal Mackenzie King, and a cabinet minister under another Liberal, Louis St. Laurent.
Of course, blood and familial ties are more anecdotal than anything.
Policy, and one’s vision for society, are what really determines one’s political and ideological identities.
And in this regard again, Trudeau is as Liberal as they come.
On his better days, he is an activist, deficit-spending, diversity-promoting Liberal, but a status-quo Liberal no less.
If anything, the closest Canada has ever come to a New Democrat prime minister is Justin’s dad. Pierre was at least a supporter of the New Democrats, prior to his entry into electoral politics as a Liberal Party candidate. But even he, with his anti-American foreign views and nationalist, economic policies, was still just a left-leaning Liberal. While transformational on constitutional change and language policy, Pierre failed to move the dial substantially on labour, income inequality and countless other socio-economic issues.
Justin, in comparison, is viewed by many on the right as a bold progressive. But he’s really just a more centrist version of the neoliberal Jean Chretien/Paul Martin Liberals that came before him. That’s why in this year’s federal election, establishment Democrats in the United States like Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama backed him, while social democrats Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib, endorsed Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.
For anyone that still questions Trudeau’s placement on the ideological spectrum, ask yourself the following questions:
a) Would a social democrat criticize the idea of increasing taxes on the very wealthiest in society, as Trudeau did at a campaign stop in La Prairie, Quebec?
b) Similarly, would a social democrat renege on their promise to expand the country’s social safety net and implement a national pharmacare system?
d) Would they continue to sign and ratify free trade agreements that cement investor rights while only paying lip service to their environmental and labor commitments?
The answer is of course not. These are the flawed, detrimental policies of Conservatives and establishment Liberals. Not equality-seeking, transformational-minded social democrats.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I don’t mean to say that Liberals – especially this current crop in Ottawa – are all bad.
The Trudeau government’s acceptance of tens of thousands Syrian refugees was admirable (though not quite as deserving as all the praise it received when compared to the refugee intake of states like Germany), as is the Prime Minister’s promotion of multiculturalism, the LGBTQ+ community, and women’s reproductive rights. Furthermore, Trudeau’s apparent resolve to address the climate crisis and implement a national childcare program, is similarly commendable.
But that alone does not earn him the title or the praise (unintended as it may be from folks like Kinsella) of being named Canada’s first social democratic Prime Minister.
Only once Canadians have an administration that makes the necessary, structural changes to Canada’s economic, social and tax systems to strengthen society and eliminate inequality, will we be able to finally say that social democracy has arrived in Ottawa.
In the meantime, Kinsella and all the other blue, business-friendly Liberals should really stop with their fallacious fearmongering.