So Trudeau the Younger is now officially the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. If you didn't see that coming, well, then you're an idiot -- it was basically preordained.
And now that the most anticlimactic leadership race in recent memory is finally in the books -- we can all turn our attention towards the unpleasant trudge to 2015. I say unpleasant because for all the rhetoric that each side will undoubtedly spew, not much is going to change in Canada regardless of which party takes Parliament Hill.
Running their playbook to the letter, Harper and the Tories will initiate hostilities with a fierce barrage of Justin Trudeau attack ads. Never being big on originality, the ads will likely poke fun at the new Liberal leader for his inexperience, lack of policy, dynastic namesake, and apparent charity fundraiser striptease capabilities.
During the leadership race Trudeau was rather ambiguous when it came to tangible policy proposals -- instead insisting it's not the leader's role to hand down decrees from on high to grassroots Liberals, and if elected, he would consult both partisan Liberals and other Canadians so to develop his party's platform from the bottom up.
Fair point in theory, but let's wring out what little Trudeau has said so far.
In an interview with the National Post he ruled out pushing Quebec to sign the constitution, and threw his support behind the Clarity Act -- which stipulates a clear majority of Quebecers must vote "Yes" to a referendum question on independence before the federal government would agree to negotiate the terms of a divorce.
Moreover, Trudeau has also signified his intentions to: increase access to post-secondary education, focus on "better appointed" as opposed to elected Senators, support the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline, foster the foreign ownership of state-owned enterprise, and has ruled out any changes to corporate tax rates.
Interestingly enough, Trudeau has also unveiled a unique 5-point plan regarding democratic reform that promises to lighten up backbench muzzling, modify first-past-the-post so that seats in the House of Commons better represent the popular vote, and institute more third-party oversight on federal advertising and elections.
Granted it's still very early, but from what we do know -- this "I'll believe it when I see it" democratic reform notwithstanding, Trudeau's policies do not exactly provide that "clear, strong alternative" which the Liberal Party is trying to convey.
Under Trudeau, richer Canadians will not pay more tax -- neither will corporations, the Senate will stay the same -- appointed not elected, post-secondary education enrolment may increase -- no word on unemployment though, Quebec will keep its status quo -- Canadian only by geography, and as is tradition, the environment will be on the backburner -- fossil fuels are just fine, so long as they are the "green" ones.
Yet in Justin's defense, it's not like the New Democratic Party is any better.
Under the leadership of ex-Liberal Thomas Mulcair, the party is doing everything it can to wash away its foundations, voting overwhelming to strip most references to socialism from the preamble of the party constitution -- opting for business-friendly language that emphasizes buzzwords such as sustainable economic development.
According to Mulcair, this rebranding is "a better way for us to reach out beyond our traditional base," which is short for, "we got many of the Liberal voters last time around, so we're going to go ahead and become the Liberals in order to keep them."
As NDP Socialist Caucus Chair Barry Weisleder points out -- the party now "refers to socialism as being basically in the rear-view mirror... something in the tradition of some of the members, but it is not 'active' in terms of how we grapple with the environmental crisis, the ever-present and deepening world economic crisis, the wars of intervention, the threat of nuclear war... We're at risk of becoming another Liberal party -- opportunism run mad."
Of course the race is still very young -- why not give Trudeau and Mulcair the benefit of the doubt and assume that they will eventually get around to providing tangible policy alternatives that will erode that deep-rooted conservative status quo?
Because they won't -- since Canadians aren't forcing them to do so.
If the overlap between our major political parties is any indication of what it is we're asking for, then the vast majority of Canadians still seem to value inequitable free markets over a strong social safety net, endless cash from exploiting the tar sands over preserving the environment for future generations, and safety from omnipresent "terrorism" over an outspoken, transparent, and tolerant society.
For as it stands, whichever party actually gets elected in 2015 is of little consequence -- these conservative views are going to define the winning party's platform regardless, that is, unless Canadians start insisting on policy prescriptions which are much more drastic and foundationally-challenging from our political opposition.
And before all of you partisan Liberals and NDPers come back with a few nitpicky details that essentially boil down to nothing more than a narcissism of small differences, ask yourselves this -- do you really believe that a few petty policy shuffles are going to solve the chronic structural inequality problems in the country? What about unemployment? The environment? The xenophobic culture of fear?
If you answered "yes" to these questions than you've already had way too much of the partisan Kool-Aid -- for as it currently stands, our opposition leaders are offering up nothing but Band-Aids for the treatment of bullet wounds -- and that's not going to stop the bleeding.