OTTAWA — It was a year ago today that Canadians headed to the polls in a federal election that elevated the third-place Liberals and Justin Trudeau into power with a comfortable 15-seat majority in the House of Commons.
The political honeymoon for the Liberals appears little diminished a year later, with a variety of opinion polls placing support for the party consistently in the mid-40s to low 50s and the prime minister's personal approval ratings even higher.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau enters Willson House in Chelsea, Que. on Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
Trudeau celebrated his first year in office on Wednesday with a string of media interviews in which he talked up the work his government has done in the last 12 months.
"I'm going to let critics and journalists and Canadians make evaluations of how I'm doing," he said in an interview with Breakfast Television Toronto. "I'm focused on what needs to be done, and that's a question of growing the economy in ways that helps the middle class."
Trudeau said his government has done "a lot of big things" that are making a real difference in people's lives, but added that "there's a lot more to do."
The Liberals' first year in office has seen a variety of measures, including an influx of Syrian refugees, environmental pledges, upper income tax hikes, health care promises and indigenous commitments.
"Ten years of cuts from Stephen Harper wasn't growing the economy. We need to do it the right way and that's exactly what we're doing."
But now that the Liberals have put a hold on health care transfer increases, maintained the old Conservative carbon cutting targets, fought First Nations in court and approved a major liquefied natural gas plant in B.C., there is some grumbling across the land.
Trudeau said, however, that Canadians expect him to stand up for the things the Liberals were elected on.
"One of the things we've seen in politics over the past number of years has been the creation of a binary choice: you can either build a strong economy or you can protect the environment. Well, fortunately Canadians don't think that way, businesses don't think that way, and I don't think that way," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's The Current when asked how approving a pipeline squares with his carbon reduction goals.
"We know we need to protect the environment while we build a strong economy, and indeed, showing environmental leadership is a way to create new jobs and new opportunities for Canadians."
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A year on, it appears the Liberals' change in tone and style from the former Conservative government has yet to lose its novelty.
"Canadians had a very clear choice a year ago today and they picked the one party committed to investing in their communities," Trudeau said in his Breakfast Television Toronto appearance. "They know that ten years of cuts from Stephen Harper wasn't growing the economy. We need to do it the right way and that's exactly what we're doing."
The Liberals still have plenty of hard tasks ahead. They include creating a new infrastructure investment bank, a recreational marijuana market, plotting a path to emissions targets, hashing out home care and pharmacare promises and revamping the electoral system.
Katherine Fierlbeck, a political science professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, notes that Trudeau's "sunny ways" mantra stands in stark contrast to the venomous presidential election spectacle fast approaching its climax south of the border.
"I suspect the Trudeau Jr. glow has lived as long it has precisely because of what's going on in the States right now," said Fierlbeck.