Canadians will vote federally on October 21,Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
Canadians will vote federally on October 21 to decide which political party will form the government and lead them for the next four years.
When Canadians went to the polls in 2015 the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau trailed in the polls. Trudeau’s father Pierre Elliott Trudeau had been one of Canada’s most charismatic leaders, a controversial but respected world figure like former Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.
But Justin Trudeau displayed little interest in politics or evidence of his father’s formidable intellect and debating skills. After studying humanities and literature he taught mathematics, humanities and drama at public and private schools. Later, he won public attention by challenging a formidable opponent at a boxing match and winning and by his moving expressions of love as he wept besides his father’s casket.
Nothing suggested that he was deeply interested in politics or that he would emulate his father by seeking to lead the Canadian Liberal party.
But ten years of authoritarian rule by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper had alienated the people. The Liberals were in a disarray too. Respected academics Stephen Dion and Michael Ignatieff were chosen leader one after the other but proved ineffective.
The New Democratic party was another alternative to the Tories, but Canadians have never elected the NDP to lead them federally. So many again looked to the Liberal party to lead them federally. Trudeau gave up his teaching job in British Columbia and sought to put on his father’s former mantle in the federal capital.
His Liberals trailed the ruling Conservatives and the NDP in the polls four years ago. But on the voting day Canadians chose the inexperienced but articulate younger Trudeau to be their leader. Now Trudeau, after four years in office, is seeking a new term on his own record rather than as the son of a charismatic leader.
Trudeau, who became Canada’s youngest prime minister at the age of 43, has performed well on the whole. As he says: “Our shared efforts have lowered taxes for nine million middle class Canadians and helped lift more than 825,000 out of poverty. Canadians have created more than 1,000,000 new jobs since 2015, the uemployment rate is at an historic 40-year low, and we’e taking real action to fight climate changed while growing our economy — including by putting a price on pollution….”
He has also pledged to continue investing in affordable housing and support for first-time homebuyers, implement national pharmacare, provide more skills training for jobs in new and challenging technologies and support a clean-growth economy to prevent increased pollution. The Liberals are touting achievements like their child benefits programme, which helped pull some 278,000 children from poverty in 2017, according to federal statistics.
The Liberals are touting achievements like their child benefits programme, which helped pull some 278,000 children from poverty in 2017, according to federal statistics.
He has legalized recreational cannabis and brought in a means-tested child benefit program. But he did not overhaul Canada’s electoral system, as he had pledged, explaining that it did not need tinkering. Nor did he balance the budget. Continued borrowing by the government burdens Canadians with ever-increasing debts. In 2018, the average Canadian owed $1.74 for every dollar that was earned – the highest debt to income ratio in the G7.
Trudeau has been criticized by the federal ethics commissioner for taking a free vacation in 2016 to an island owned by the Aga Khan. His trip to India in 2018 was also ridiculed because it produced photos of the prime minister and his wife in Indian dresses but nothing substantial. Some Indian leaders protested when an alleged Canadian Sikh separatist was invited to official functions.
Now attention is focused on what is known as the SNC-Lavalin affair, a political crisis emerging from Trudeau’s attempts to pressure his attorney general to cut a deal for a firm facing a corruption trial. The attorney general resigned while Trudeau stated that he was only trying to protect Canadian jobs.
Trudeau was also hurt by the media publizing three instances of Trudeau wearing blackface or brownface. Trudeau apologized saying this happened between the 1980s and 2001 when he was inexperienced. Polls suggest that this disclosure won’t hurt him in the polls.
So the expectation is that Trudeau will be back in power after the elections, but with less support and lustre.
That seems to be good enough for Canadians this time.
(Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired journalist, public servant and refugee judge in Canada)
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan, C.M., O. Ont.