Friday, October 30, 2015

Prime Minister-designate, Justin Trudeau, invokes former Prime Minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier

“Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways!”

Evoking the words of history, those specifically of Prime Minister Sir
Wilfred Laurier, Justin Trudeau celebrated his electoral victory on Monday night, October 19, 2015.

Like a glass of milk for a bleeding ulcer, a gin and tonic for an alcoholic, a drop of Zoloft for one seriously depressed, a lottery cheque for the homeless, and a job for the unemployed, “sunny ways” sounds like the political version of “Pacabel’s Canon” to the factory worker who spends all day among jammering and screeching gears grinding out the metal parts of other machines.

There are certainly storm warnings on the horizon, clearly detectable without GPS, without radar, without Early Warning Systems and without much intimate knowledge of the intricacies of diplomacy. Unless one has been living under a rock for the last two or three decades, the rise of military, intelligence, pharmaceutical, insurance and security apparatus(es), twinned with the accompanying sacralising of the money and the transactions that provide the oceanic tide that keeps all of those boats afloat, and not merely afloat but steaming along in growing numbers and larger editions, cannot be missed or ignored. We now learn that the Koch brothers will spend one BILLION dollars in their assault on the American electorate, just to elect a presidential dummy fit to their liking, and obedient to their commands.

We are not comparing Justin Trudeau to the Koch brothers; we are, however, attempting to describe the political and cultural context in which Trudeau’s “sunny” disposition, and rhetoric were delivered. And the ease with which the Canadian electorate was wooed by both of them. Some pundits describe Trudeau’s victory as one of the “left” of centre, compared with the austerity and coldness of the Harper decade. And there is some validity in that thesis. Others compare Trudeau to Mulcair, hoisted on the petard of his party’s stereotypical reputation (unwarranted) as spendthrift and profligate. Deficit budgets, depending on the manner by which they are presented, are similar to the “wage and price controls” predicted and promised by then Progressive Conservative leader Stanfield, and condemned by his Liberal opponent Trudeau 1, only to be implemented by none other than that same Trudeau following his electoral victory. Deficit, wage and price controls, a specific tax proposal, like a specific benefit proposal... all of them are offered or disdained depending on the campaign strategy adopted, and then potentially relinquished once the full picture of the nation’s books is known.

It was a Greek rescuer in Lesbos, caught on camera, shouting “where are the leaders?” in the midst of the largest refugee migration since the second war, who expressed the angst of his community about the failure to end the savagery in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, given the ubiquity of the terrorism and its many faces. We all have little confidence that the meetings in Vienna will come to any meaningful resolution on the Syrian conflict. We also have little confidence that the upcoming meeting in Paris, to attempt to confront the global warming and climate change crisis will come to any meaningful resolution notwithstanding the United Nations cautiously optimistic report from some 150 countries today. And we also have little hope that the growing gap between the rich and the have-not’s both in Canada and in the rest of the world will be closed, even with Trudeau’s tax hike for the wealthiest Canadians.

“Sunny days!” may sound like someone in your family suggesting we all watch a sitcom, as we attempt to ameliorate the stress from watching the news. Sunny days may also sound like a trip to the ice cream parlour after completing some extended project, for a simple reward of self-indulgence. Sunny days may also sound like a “take five” on Julie Nisralla’s Tempo on CBC Radio 2, a feature that includes a specially selected and especially calming piece of classical music, as an antidote for all the stresses in everyone’s day.

Some political pundits have commented that even if Trudeau continues to set a “different tone”, he will have gone a long way to meeting the expectations of the Canadian electorate. “Not so fast!” it says here.

Trudeau’s sunny ways has to go much farther than a new tone. He has to meet many expectations he himself has set, including the following:

·       a specific target for carbon emissions,

·       select and appoint a Royal Commission to investigate and report on missing and murdered aboriginal women,*

·       appoint a blue ribbon committee to craft a response to the Supreme Court’s opening the door to doctor assisted suicide,

·       craft a budget to implement his promised tax cuts, and tax hikes, his enhancement of child support and seniors’ support,

·        make good on his commitment to a $2 billion energy innovation fund,

·       Make good on his commitment to enhanced transit and infrastructure funding....

Sunny ways may well be a poetic aphorism that evokes happy times; nevertheless, in the face of the last decade, both at home and around the world, Trudeau’s time on the world stage, while it may be brief,  has the window of opportunity to shift the balance of power from the richest people, corporations and nations to the less advantaged, including both citizens of Canada, as well as the impoverished and refugees whose numbers threaten the peace and stability of the world.

It was only this week that a leader of the European Union issued a very dire prediction: If the EU does not find a way to manage the refugee crisis, it could spell the beginning of the end of the EU. It was also this week when Prince Charles (don’t double over in derisive laughter) warned that even a two degree rise in  temperature could be catastrophic...and the UN is already forecasting a 2.7 degree rise by the end of this century.

Sunny ways, in the middle of a cloudy decade, are both welcome and more than a little tantalizingly seductive. While the Canadian people have offered Trudeau four years, just like his predecessor, he will be monitored carefully, and hopefully fairly by the Canadian people, the Canadian media and the parliamentary opposition. Our dauphin is not really a member of any royalty, except perhaps in social terms. Politically, and in the long light of history, Trudeau 2.0, will be judged not only on his highly successful campaign and sunny rhetoric. He will also have to prove his “chops” as a visionary and compassionate and detail-dedicated leader of a political party whose recent past still leaves some bitter taste in the mouths of many Canadians.

And, by the way, the next pundit from outside Canada (read The United States) who calls him “hot” ought to have her press credentials cancelled. There is no excuse for such sexual objectification and were it reversed on a female candidate, the male reporter would be pilloried!

* Today’s report from Sudbury about people there selling and buying Hallowe’en costumes depicting First Nations people is more than a little unsettling, to many of us, not to mention to the First Nations people themselves. Another similarly disturbing report aired today on a piece of public art at a university in the maritimes, in which one dozen red dresses were hung from tree only to find many of those dresses have been stolen or attacked. The art was to commemorate the many missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

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