THE BLOG

Back? Canada Never Left

11/27/2015 05:33 EST | Updated 11/27/2016 05:12 EST
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The 2015 election featured a wide-ranging debate on a number of issues facing Canada and our role in the world and while I am disappointed in the final result I was happy to see an incredibly smooth transition of power. The will of the people gets expressed in an election and governments change and new priorities and policies will be part of that change.

The only part of the orderly transition that has caused me concern is the apparent return of the hubris of the Liberal Party. The day after winning the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed to the world that 35 million Canadians were now "back" and the team behind him seemed to revel in that line.

Such a bold claim within hours of an election win deserves some scrutiny to find out where Canada had been if we were now back.

On refugees, the Liberal government has already backtracked significantly on their promise to bring 25,000 government sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year. The promise was abandoned when the reality of security and successful integration of these newcomers descended upon the PM and his cabinet.

The changes announced this week makes the resettlement plan look an awful lot like the refugee commitment we had made albeit with a slightly higher number. Our more prudent plan came from the experience of successfully resettling almost 25,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the last five years.

Back? Canada never left.

On climate change, the new environment minister heads to the COP21 climate change conference with a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of a 30 per cent reduction of emissions by 2030 over 2005 levels. This level is the same target established and announced previously by the Conservative government.

While the new minister intends to use this target as a "floor" to build upon over time, the Liberal government stands firmly on the same floor we were standing on a few months ago. The new government appears intent on the use of taxation (through a carbon tax or cap and trade levies) to lower GHG emissions rather than a sector-by-sector target setting approach, but both policies try to lead to the same result without economic disruption. Back? Time will tell how they do on this file, but they certainly do not want to go back to the 30 per cent increase in GHG emissions that the previous Liberal government presided over.

On security, PM Trudeau seems intent on keeping his promise to remove Canada's modest combat contribution to the fight against ISIS despite the fact that Canadians and our allies overwhelmingly support this mission. At a time when the president of France is travelling the globe asking allies to step up their efforts to fight ISIS, Canada will be the only country to start stepping back from this fight.

Playing a role commensurate with our size, abilities and values in multi-lateral global security operations has long been the hallmark of Canadian foreign policy. Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson once said that a Canadian who engages in combat in Europe or Asia is protecting Canada in the same way as if they were fighting on our soil. Back? I sincerely hope PM Trudeau does change back to Canada's tradition of taking a meaningful role in global security.

The Liberal party has long-billed itself as Canada's "natural governing party" so perhaps it is understandable that this inevitably leads to condescension towards the views or policies of others. What Prime Minister Trudeau should have said the day after the election is that "on behalf of the 6.9 million Canadians who voted for me, I will advance some policies and priorities that I believe are better for Canada and our role in the world."

The Liberals won the election, so they are entitled to some chest thumping, but they should try and balance the complex challenges of governing Canada for at least a few months before hanging their equivalent of a Mission Accomplished banner.