The Other Side of Canada

[Ashna Yakoob, October 1, 2019]

Ah, Justin Trudeau. Just a few years ago, he was the dream politician of the left. He and Canada represented that perhaps, progressive policies could work. From afar, Canada had it all figured out: healthcare, immigration, climate change. Canada was the place we said we would move to after the elections. In his first three years as prime minister, it seemed as if Trudeau could do no wrong.

Now, several polls show Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party trailing the rival Conservative Party with a comfortable lead. So what went wrong?

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians disapprove of the job he is doing, according to polls released in mid-July by Ipsos Public Affairs and Angus Reid Institute. To put that in perspective, that’s lower than Trump’s approval rating. And the polls cite the SNC-Lavalin matter as a primary reason.

The SNC-Lavalin matter found Trudeau guilty for attempting to pressure his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into interfering with the criminal prosecution against SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based engineering firm. SNC-Lavalin is currently facing bribery charges in Libya and has been accused of a number of wrongdoingssuch as paying for a sex worker for the son of former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. Trudeau sided with the scandal-plagued company and eventually moved Wilson-Raybould into a lower-ranking position when she refused to comply.

This scandal, combined with the brownface controversy, comes as a surprise to many, especially those of us in America. These scandals don’t fit in with our idea of Trudeau, or even Canada. However, things aren’t what they seem in Canada.

Currently in Quebec, some public servants have been prohibited from wearing any sort of religious symbols. This bill promotes state-sponsored discrimination, especially as it disproportionately affects Muslim women wearing the hijab. What’s worse is that public opinion outside Quebec overwhelmingly supports the ban on religious symbols. Outside Quebec, fully 40 per cent of Canadians approved of such a ban in their own province. The problem is, many Liberals have also embraced the ban. Trudeau has barely addressed the issue which desperately needs leadership and an explanation. Other than vague statements denouncing the ban, he has not clearly addressed what he plans to do about what many argue should be an election issue. That makes sense, considering he has a lot to lose if he addresses the issue and that he is currently fighting an uphill battle this upcoming election. However, even if the right choice isn’t the most popular choice, he owes it to his constituents to reveal what he plans to do about the ban.

Canada also has a reputation as a very peaceful country. However, so far in 2019, government data show that Canada has sold $1.2 billion worth of  tanks and other motorized armoured fighting vehicles (including parts) to Saudi Arabia. Canada also has a fifteen billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, despite concern over the fact that these weapons may be used in Yemen, which has been devastating for its civilians.

Perhaps worst of all is Trudeau’s decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline. Trudeau has championed himself as a warrior in the fight against climate change, however his approval over the pipeline contradicts that image. Canada is the fourth largest producer and exporter of oil in the world, as well as one of the world’s top ten emitters of greenhouse gases. As it stands, Canada is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets by 2030, despite Trudea’s insistence that Canada is on the right track. In approving this pipeline, he not only sets Canada back in its promise to fight climate change, but also betrays the indiginous people of the land. The decision has attracted strong opposition from indiginous groups, as approval of the pipeline threatens to destroy their protected land. Trudeau’s entire campaign was built on improving relations with indigenous groups and respecting their claims of land. Now many consider his promises to properly represent these groups to feel like empty promises.

Trudeau has a lot to consider going into this next election. Despite his shortcomings, the Conservative Party has a worse stance on every issue outlined above. However, Trudeau also has to wrestle political pragmatism with the harsh reality of all these issues. If Trudeau is meant to be the best choice in this election, he needs to reconsider the stances he’s taking on issues like climate change and secularism laws and follow through on the empty promises he keeps on making. Be the progressive leader we want you to be. We’re counting on it.

This post reflects the opinions of the author and is not necessarily representative of those of Penn Democrats.