The Trudeau government has been elected at a time of economic crisis globally, where capital internationally is on the offensive to drive down wages and living standards, spread imperialist war, and expand environmental destruction. Despite changes in style and rhetoric, there is every reason to believe that the Trudeau Liberals will continue down this path. Here are seven big reasons…
1) Austerity & Infrastructure Spending
Trudeau’s campaign managed to project itself as Keynesian, a feat made easier due to the NDPs attempt to outflank the Liberals from the neoliberal right. But the Liberal ‘anti-austerity’ rhetoric was tied to running deficits for infrastructure spending, most of which will end up in the hands of capitalists through the usual Liberal strategy of public-private partnerships (P3s). In fact, a year ago, Trudeau declared himself a major supporter of P3s at the annual Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships National Conference.
The Liberal government’s recovery agenda is designed to benefit capitalism, not the people. Just after the election, the head of the Canadian Council of CEOs wrote an open letter to Trudeau, endorsing his infrastructure, spending plan, provided that federal debt continues to be reduced in the long run. Monopoly capital in Canada supports continued austerity and privatization when it comes to health, education and social services, but it will take money to build infrastructure that will benefit it in the long run. This is far from a real break with austerity that puts people and nature before profits. And who is the head of the Council of CEOs anyway? Why its ex-Liberal cabinet Minister John Manley! His career in government spanned the last string of Liberal governments that were responsible for major cuts in the 1990s, radically reducing social transfers to the provinces, and completely ending longstanding federal support for programs such as public housing. They restricted access to Employment Insurance and stole the funds to pay for lower corporate taxes, a trick that the Tories learnt from and continued.
Trudeau’s new cabinet shows more signs of the same. Newly picked Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, a multi-millionaire capitalist and former Chair of the neoliberal CD Howe think tank, is hardly an appointee that inspires hope in #realchange.
Trudeau has been praised for improving representation of women and racialized people in his new cabinet. It is certainly refreshing for most progressives to see the end of the Harper government’s extreme anti-women, anti-immigrant bigotry. Unfortunately not much ink has been spilled discussing how the Liberal’s economic policies will continue to deepen systemic racist and sexist inequality in Canada. Austerity will continue to hurt the working class the most. In fact, that’s the goal of these policies. The most vulnerable sections of the working class are women, new immigrants, racialized communities, Indigenous peoples, trans and queer communities, and youth and students. Continuing down the path of austerity means deepening inequality and creating a fertile breeding ground for growing sexism and racism.
2) Free Trade
We cannot ignore history. The last time the Liberal government won such a sweeping majority from the Conservatives in 1993 they campaigned on eliminating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but once elected they not only continued NAFTA, but sought out other pro-corporate international agreements. The Liberals more recently have said they are in favor of the Trans Pacific Partnership, and recently voted with the Harper Conservatives to sign on to a Free Trade Agreement with fascist Colombia. There is little doubt they will also support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU as well. At least without a massive public outcry to stop the assault on what’s left of our sovereignty and democracy.
3) First Nations
Trudeau campaigned on a new ‘nation-to-nation’ relationship with First Nations. But historically it has been the Liberal government implementing genocidal policies towards Indigenous peoples. It was the Liberals who instituted the 2 percent cap on Indigenous Education in the 1990s that has led to the current crisis that Trudeau has said he will deal with. The current government has strong ties to the same oil and gas corporations that are continuing the colonial theft from First Nations and poisoning Indigenous communities. When a First Nation’s right to consent to any development that affects them, can we expect the Liberals to take a stand against Big Oil? This is necessary in order to live up to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which include full acceptance of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration states “Indigenous Peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired”. Trudeau has said he will revisit any laws that were passed without consultation of Indigenous peoples, but what about Bill C-51 which is overwhelmingly opposed by Indigenous peoples who correctly identify it as an attack on their rights?
4) Climate Change
The Liberal Party has no plan to implement greenhouse gas emission targets federally, and they helped to build Canada’s reliance on fossil fuels. They are pro-tar sands and pro-pipeline. In fact, many in the oil and gas industry think that Trudeau will be a better Prime Minister for them, because the Harper government was too confrontational in dealing with communities resisting pipeline development. They hope that this friendlier face will push the same climate criminal agenda. Trudeau is bringing the same emission targets to Paris as Harper had endorsed. Fortunately, activists from several organizations are holding a 4 day sit-in outside 24 Sussex as Trudeau takes office. They are demanding the new government commits to stopping the expansion of the Tar Sands, 85% of which must remain in the ground if there is any hope in meeting a two degree target for global warming.
5) War & Occupation
The Liberals may be less militaristic than the Tories in terms of rhetoric, but their commitment to war remains strong. Immediately following the election, Trudeau promised to end Canada’s illegal bombing in Iraq and Syria, however he also pledged to continue military training. This means continued participation in the US and NATO’s fifteen year-old “war on terror” which has led to 1-2 million deaths in the region. While saying that they will cancel the purchase of the F-35 fighter jets, the Liberals have promised to use most of that money on new hardware for the Navy. Instead of pledging “housing not jets”, the Liberals settled for “war boats, not jets”. For the Israeli Apartheid government there is no reason to fear an interruption in Canada’s support for their ongoing occupation of Palestine. Trudeau has publicly repeated lies about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks justice for Palestine. Trudeau’s new Trade Minister, MP Chrystia Freeland, has close ties to the fascist coup regime in Ukraine, a sign that Canada’s support for NATO’s encirclement of Russia will continue. This is the same party that actively participated in the destruction of Yugoslavia, the invasion of Afghanistan, the coup in Haiti, and very recently voted for the bombing of Libya and the creation of a failed state in that country.
Perhaps the Harper government’s most dangerous trait was its blatant disregard for civil liberties and democratic rights. Here there may be room to organize to win back some rights. But we in the Young Communist League of Canada remember that it was a Liberal government in the 1940s that banned our organization. It was the Liberal government that responded to the September 11th attacks in the US in a similar way as George W Bush, by expanding Canada’s police state and creating ‘Security Certificates’ that have shattered the lives of innocent people. Bill C-51, Canada’s most anti-democratic legislation since the War Measures Act, is supported by the new Liberal government. Although, Trudeau's promise to amend the legislation gives the movement against C-51 an opening to demand its repeal. This is an urgent priority.
Another high profile Liberal, ex-Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, was one of the higher-ups responsible for the largest mass arrest in Canadian history during the G20, also responsible for overseeing Toronto’s racist ‘carding’ policy that continues to criminalize racialized communities in Toronto. He is still a defender of this practice, even though the provincial Liberals have faced enough pressure to call for carding to be banned as a police practice in Ontario.
The Liberals are often seen as gentler when it comes to immigrant rights, however it can’t be forgotten that they created the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, that the Tories then expanded, and the Canadian Border Services Agency, which the Tories used to help deport 100,000 people. In fact, the Tories did not have a monopoly on Islamophobia in the last Parliament. The Liberals opted to vote for their absurd “Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” only a few months ago.
Got more reasons to cancel the honeymoon with the Liberals? Write them in the comments and we’ll publish them!