by Eric Walberg
The breath of fresh air that has swept the stale corridors of power in Canada. Justin Trudeau has not only surprised many with his election victory but has taken steps that are bold and imaginative. As he announced the day after his stunning election victory, "We're back!" Welcome the new, more compassionate Canada that had virtually been consigned to oblivion by the hate-filled policies of Stephen Harper.
Monday November 09, 2015, 17:47 EST
In chapter one, we saw the young hero climb the political ladder and confront the ogre in his cloud fortress. After he was killed, the jinn mysteriously disappeared from sight, as often happens in storybooks. Meanwhile, Justin and his band looked at the mess the giant had left behind.
Whew! Piles of unspent cash, papers strewn on the floor, edicts cancelling scientific research and slashing funds to Canadians helping Palestinian refugees, laws abetting toxic oilsands production, were all over. A picture of world leaders who signed the Kyoto environmental protocol lay smashed on the floor.
The band's first decision was to stop bombing natives in Syria and Yemen, to pull Canadian forces from Iraq, to pledge a renewed tradition of Canada as a peacemaker and friend. Justin's choice for foreign minister, the shy intellectual Stephan Dion, himself had fought the ogre as leader of the Liberals from 2006 to 2008. But he had been surrounded by timeseekers and was pilloried mercilessly by the media. Just too nice.
As a result, the NDP was able to profit from the Liberals' disarray, and under their own tragic hero, Jack Layton―on his death bed―beat out the Liberals in 2011. The jockeying of the insurgent rivals let the ogre run riot and increase his havoc, to the horror of the helpless people.
The brazen youth flexed his muscles in 2012, when he coaxed a Conservative opponent into a boxing match (a fundraiser for cancer research) and won in the third round, the result an upset. He also put in his time as a constituency MP in Montreal, and managed affairs of immigrants in the party, criticizing the ogre for targeting human smuggling, as it would harm the victim.
He was chosen leader in 2013 and had just enough time before the next election had to be called to muster a team to fight the ogre, to learn the ropes of governing a kingdom, and burnish his image as conqueror. Finally, he moved into the final stretch, enduring the longest election campaign in Canadian history, seventy days of meetings and speeches, thousands of “selfies”, kisses and pizza making, five debates with the other leaders.
The Conservative spokesman famously taunted Trudeau before the first debate, saying Trudeau will win debate points “if he comes on stage with his pants on”. The charismatic young hero was wearing a smart seat of pants, and indeed won the debate, starting the momentum that continued until election night.
He scorned the ogre when in desperation Harper appealed to bigotry by denouncing the niqab and vowing to prevent wearers from taking the Canadian citizenship oath.
In his excitement on election night, Justin told the world “We're back!” He adopted another historic Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier's “sunny ways” approach a century ago to bringing Canadians together despite their differences. According to Trudeau, Laurier “knew that politics can be a positive force, and that's the message Canadians have sent today.”
The changes laid out in the party program “Real Change” are coming at a breakneck speed, with plans
Justin's letter to his diplomats told them to rely on their judgment and insight, to play a critical role in a “new era” for Canada's international engagement.
“It's a breath of fresh air and a completely new style―an inspiring expression of trust and confidence in us,” one Canadian ambassador told Canadian Press.
Justin's Cabinet is truly revolutionary, with half being women, three Sikhs, a Muslim Afghan woman (30-year-old Afghan Maryam Monsef is Minister of Democratic Institutions), and a native Canadian. In answer to a question “Why 50% women?” he explained “It's 2015,” with an insouciant shrug reminiscent of his legendary father.
The same date applies to the new multiethnic Parliament, which includes an unprecedented 10 Muslims.
His self-assurance lets him sweep away skeletons which had gathered in the ogre's lair, like the unnatural law to eradicate certain plants. In 2013, Trudeau boldly told a Kelowna BC crowd, “I’m actually not in favour of decriminalizing cannabis. I’m in favour of legalizing it. Tax it, regulate. It’s one of the only ways to keep it out of the hands of our kids because the current war on drugs, the current model is not working. We have to use evidence and science to make sure we’re moving forward on that.”
He calmly confessed about that the last time he had used marijuana―in 2010, after he had become a Member of Parliament: “We had a few good friends over for a dinner party, our kids were at their grandmother’s for the night, and one of our friends lit a joint and passed it around. I had a puff.” He pointed to Colorado and Washington state as models.
Suddenly the cold fog was lifting from the people's eyes. The ogre's warnings of Armageddon from shadowy terrorists and laid-back hippies no longer instilled fear.
How will relations with the elephant sleeping next to Canada (as Justin's legendary father once quipped) fare? That is a conundrum, as Harper's friend George Bush retired just a few years into Harper's reign in 2008, to be replaced by a less warmongering, less environmental irresponsible Obama.
However, Bush's momentum held, and Harper was able to ignore the wish of Canadians to withdraw from ongoing US wars.
He received no thanks from Obama, who on the contrary looked like he was reneging on Harper's fervent wish to ship toxic Canadian oil across the continent. In 2012, Harper vowed that the Keystone pipeline would proceed “before I left office”, that he wouldn’t “take no for an answer”, a startling gauntlet to throw at a US president's feet.
His words proved perversely prescient, as Obama finally squelched the pipelines just 48 hours after Harper was thrown out. Harper had tried to micromanage everything, muzzling MPs and diplomats, but like the wizard of Oz, he proved to be all noise, with no substance, his power as insubstantial as the paper ballots that sealed his fate on Election Day.
Now transformed into a mouse, he was finally smothered in the elephant's bed like his ill-fated predecessor John Diefenbaker, who the elephant helped squash in 1963.
So Canada's image is burnished under the dragon slayer, and the noisy warmongers are silent, a welcome change in style. But what chance has Justin of influencing the systemic problem underlying the continuing slaughter in the Middle East, in the first place by “Canada's friend Israel” as Dion politely called it.
Harper had turned this witches’ cauldron into another farce by not only cutting relations with Iran, but disdaining all the other Muslims, insisting that Canada was “Israel's best friend”. Dion explained that we will stop making [Israel] a partisan issue,” adding that Harper damaged the strength of the relationship between Canada and Israel. “For us to be an effective ally we need to strengthen our relationship with the other legitimate partners in the region.”
Obama has handed Trudeau a golden opportunity by axing the Keystone pipeline, a real budge towards environmental sanity for both the US and Canada. It is sad to see our hero and Alberta's NDP Premier Notley criticize the decision.
The ogre is no doubt laughing bitterly at his nemesis already being pushed down his own billion-dollar road to oblivion. Trudeau will have to realize that he can't square the extraction road and the environmental one. Harper scorned the latter, so his road was easy, though, in the end, disastrous.
Will Justin find a way out? Can he work with the Albertan premier to square the circle? Such an extraordinary confluence―an NDP government at the heart of the oil cesspool, a brave Obama elephant genuinely concerned about the environment, and now the fresh young dragon slayer on Parliament Hill―should be remembered as a turning point for all concerned. The adventures of the dragonslayer continue.