Justin Trudeau’s turn to face the weight of expectations
Stephen Harper is a goner, and humiliated, too, to the near-erotic ecstasy of Canada’s chattering classes, who loathed him with such intensity it’s hard to think of a comparison in modern politics.
Well, maybe Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s Darth Vader.
Suddenly, in Justin Trudeau we have a prime minister-designate who’s banging on about hope and trust and inclusiveness and believing in yourself and being better and listening to everyone and diversity and all sorts of other happy thoughts. He even threw in tolerance for hijabs.
Last week, Harper tried to say this wasn’t about him, but it was. All those Conservative candidates he muzzled and controlled are probably wishing they’d grown some spine and stood up to those PMO staffers who’ve been ordering them around for years.
The smile that spread across the lips of the Canadian elites during the last week of this election, when Harper was reduced to posing with Rob Ford and his brother in an attempt to shore up what amounts to the Canadian Tea Party vote, was almost wolfish.
It won’t be hard for Trudeau to keep his most prominent promise — to run a deficit for a few years. Spending more than you earn is always easy. He may already be inheriting a deficit.
But he’s taking power at a time of tremendous transformation. A housing correction may be coming. Younger generations are struggling with debt.
At the same time, entire cohorts of baby boomers are retiring. Try to trim their entitlements, which will almost certainly be necessary, and see what happens.
Or try to force some competition into the Canadian banking sector. Or the almost closed-shop telecommunications sector. Or try to cut red tape at the border, and encourage true free trade with the Americans.
Trudeau will need revenue to fulfill his agenda, but even Liberals won’t be keen on restoring the taxes Stephen Harper cut. They may not even really want a larger federal government.
What Trudeau can do, of course, is change the tone. That costs nothing, and a lot of Canadians want it to happen.
He can make Canada’s positions abroad more nuanced, less absolutist and replace Canada’s swagger at the UN with some actual diplomacy.
He can walk back the talk about how terrorists threaten us daily in our very homes, and perhaps speak honestly about the effectiveness of our combat mission in Iraq and Syria.
He may end up joining the rest of the Western world in supporting the nuclear deal with Iran, and perhaps even recognize that there are two sides to the question of Israel and the Palestinians.
But sweeping reversals of Stephen Harper’s legacy? It’s been almost a decade, and Harper changed the status quo. Even Trudeau himself seems to understand that. (Continued: CBC News)