A reser­voir of good­will

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Carol Goar Carol Goar is a na­tional af­fairs colum­nist for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices

“In time, Trudeau’s pop­u­lar­ity will wane. Slow growth will erode peo­ple’s expectations, ad­verse cir­cum­stances will push some of the prime min­is­ter’s goals out of reach and Lib­eral min­is­ters will make costly mis­takes.”

The con­sen­sus is al­most univer­sal. The cold winds of Jan­uary will ex­pose the cracks, holes and gaps in Justin Trudeau’s am­bi­tious gov­ern­ing plan. With each missed tar­get, Cana­di­ans will be­come less for­giv­ing, less hope­ful, less en­chanted by their new prime min­is­ter.

Al­ready, Lib­eral crit­ics point out, he has fallen short of both of his cam­paign pledge to bring in 25,000 refugees within 60 days and his re­vised goal of ad­mit­ting 10,000 refugees by the end of 2015. He has put two nan­nies on the pub­lic pay­roll af­ter declar­ing that rich fam­i­lies like his did not need a tax­payer-funded child­care ben­e­fit. He has ad­mit­ted boost­ing the tax rate for the rich­est 1 per of Cana­di­ans won’t cover the cost of his mid­dle­class tax cut. His deficit pro­jec­tions look im­plau­si­ble. His plan to cre­ate a low-car­bon econ­omy within 15 years will re­quire life­style changes from most Cana­di­ans.

“Nearly ev­ery plank in their fis­cal plat­form has splin­tered into pieces,” said Con­ser­va­tive fi­nance critic Lisa Raitt in late De­cem­ber. “The only sur­prise is how quickly it hap­pened.”

“Our new prime min­is­ter seems to be hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing the prom­ises that got him elected,” mocked Saska­toon Star-Phoenix colum­nist Les MacPher­son.

“Three prom­ises cen­tral to his party’s elec­toral suc­cess are bro­ken and hauled to the dump and he doesn’t have the seat warm yet.”

“I feel fairly con­fi­dent fore­cast­ing some sort of fall from grace for the Trudeau Lib­er­als, prob­a­bly even their first scan­dal,” said Globe and Mail colum­nist Marsha Lederman as the New Year be­gan.

“When MPs next con­vene, Ot­tawa will not have quite the cheery snow globe sheen,” The Star’s Tim Harper pre­dicted. “The long frozen days of Jan­uary will mean the long dark re­al­ity of gov­ern­ing.”

It would be hard to dis­pute the logic of th­ese analy­ses. But logic is not al­ways the key to hu­man psy­chol­ogy. For the first time in a decade Cana­di­ans feel good about them­selves and their coun­try. They like wel­com­ing refugees; tack­ling cli­mate change; be­ing seen as a con­sen­sus-builder on the world stage and a friend in Wash­ing­ton. They like work­ing to­gether to ac­com­plish shared goals. It will take more than a few missed dead­lines and de­layed com­mit­ments to sour the pub­lic mood.

The sec­ond fac­tor work­ing in Trudeau’s favour is the deep sense of re­lief many groups feel. Isadore Day, On­tario chief of the As­sem­bly of the First Na­tions put it into words at a re­cent meet­ing of the Toronto Ro­tary Club: “The decade of dark­ness un­der Stephen Harper is over.” The same sen­ti­ment is re­ver­ber­at­ing among anti-poverty activists, hu­man rights de­fend­ers, ur­ban pro­gres­sives, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, ad­vo­cates of hu­mane in­car­cer­a­tion and em­bat­tled mi­nori­ties, Mus­lims in par­tic­u­lar.

By re­scind­ing the dic­tums of the pre­vi­ous Tory gov­ern­ment, the new prime min­is­ter can keep large seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion on­side well into 2016.

He got to work within hours of be­ing sworn in. He re­in­stated the manda­tory full-length cen­sus killed by the Harper gov­ern­ment in 2010. He re­stored the In­terim Fed­eral Health Pro­gram (which pro­vides med­i­cal care for refugees), can­celled by the Tories in 2012. He low­ered the age of el­i­gi­bil­ity for old age se­cu­rity to 65, raised to 67 by Harper four years ago. He lifted the ban on niqabs at cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies im­posed by the Tories in 2011.

But the list of re­gres­sive Harper lega­cies is long: his puni­tive crime bills, his re­gres­sive tax cred­its, his sub­si­dies to fos­sil fuel pro­duc­ers, his dis­pro­por­tion­ate anti-ter­ror­ism laws, his onesided Mid­dle East stance and his cut­backs to ev­ery­thing from em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance to food safety in­spec­tions. That should keep the Lib­er­als busy — and hearten fair-minded Cana­di­ans — for a good while.

The third rea­son Trudeau might sur­prise the pun­dits and politi­cos is that cit­i­zens don’t mea­sure progress the way Ot­tawa-watch­ers do. They don’t keep a run­ning tally of dead­lines missed and tar­gets post­poned. Most couldn’t name more than a hand­ful of his 195 elec­tion com­mit­ments.

As long as their lives are get­ting bet­ter, their kids have a promis­ing fu­ture and their gov­ern­ment is vis­i­bly try­ing to de­liver what it promised, they have no mo­tive to dis­par­age their new prime min­is­ter.

In time, Trudeau’s pop­u­lar­ity will wane. Slow growth will erode peo­ple’s expectations, ad­verse cir­cum­stances will push some of the prime min­is­ter’s goals out of reach and Lib­eral min­is­ters will make costly mis­takes.

But don’t ex­pect a rapid come­down. The na­tion has waited a long time for this in­ter­lude of op­ti­mism.

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