He rode in on the coattails of a father he could never live up to. He splashed onto the public scene with great hair, a warm smile, charisma not seen since Brian Mulroney, and a chariot full of sparkling promises meant to titillate and romance us. But like the great illusionists, Justin hid tricks up his sleeve and secrets behind every veil. But more than dashing good looks, warm words, and a coveted surname; Justin had a golden asset- he proceeded Stephen Harper.
Despite his obvious shortcomings as Liberal leader, and then as Prime Minister of Canada, the criticism of Justin hasn’t been all that critical. Most of his criticisms are followed by the snide comeback, “At least he’s better than Harper.” At first, in the early weeks of his term, that was a fair and true response. But as we limp into 2017, the list of broken campaign promises and shortcomings pile higher. Despite this, Justin still has higher approval ratings than Harper did at any point during his term in office.
So what are the broken promises and why should it matter to New Brunswick? Here’s a breakdown of just a few of Justin’s broken covenant:
The Military: According to Statistics Canada, just under 22% of Canada’s forces hail from Atlantic Canada and as such, the military is a major employer in New Brunswick. Given this information, how the military is treated should be of utmost importance in New Brunswick. Justin promised to maintain military spending and keep in pace with Harper’s planned increases- this was one of the first promises to go. Justin promised to pay veteran’s four year post-secondary tuition costs- that plan was quietly axed. In response to the public backlash that Harper received when he cut life-long disability pensions for veterans, Justin promised to reinstate those pensions if elected; but on this too he reneged. He promised to cancel Stephen Harper’s ill-planned purchase of F-35 fighter jets (the engines fail in cold arctic weather and this is Canada), but Justin stuck to Harper’s plan and is moving forward with the purchase which will put Canada into debt and pilots into jeopardy.
Aboriginal Peoples: New Brunswick has a beautiful community of First Nations people with a lush and rich history. Unfortunately, under 9 years of Harper rule, relations between the federal government and our First Nations have corroded. Justin promised to fix this broken bond and improve life for our first peoples. He guaranteed that First Nations would have a veto over natural resources in their territories, that he would invest an additional $50 million annually in post-secondary education for aboriginal peoples, and that he would immediately adopt the United Nations declaration of rights of Indigenous People. All of these promises too, were broken. Yet, Justin takes every photo opportunity he can with our First Nations. He talks the talk, but when given the chance, he chooses not to walk the walk.
LGBT: New Brunswick has a vibrant queer community. And as he does with First Nations, Justin loves to have photo ops with the LGBT community at parades and social events. Perhaps he taps from his father’s popularity with this segment of society as it was his father who decriminalized homosexuality and via the Charter of Rights and Freedoms paved the way for other gay rights (such as adoption and marriage). But Justin made only one promise to the queer community in his 2015 election campaign; to end the discriminatory practice of banning men who have sex with men from donating blood. This, an easy promise to keep, was also broken. Gay men are still treated as second class citizens. In fact, an article from the CBC revealed that since Justin took office, transgendered people are now also banned from donating; a discriminatory practice that didn’t exist under Harper.
Small Business and Youth Employment: Justin promised a tax break for small businesses from Harper’s 11% to a new Liberal rate of just 9%. As we saw in the 2016 budget, that was lie. But at least small businesses would have all the youth employment investment to rely on; such as the annual $40 million youth co-op plan. Nay, that was also a lie. Justin promised $775 million in investment for job training and skills development- another lie. Now, we find youth and small business hurting just as much (but no worse) than under Harper.
With all of the broken promises on spending (on the military, veterans, youth, Aboriginals, and small business) you would juxtapose that the Liberal government of Justin is in the black. We couldn’t possibly running deficits with the government clutching the purse strings so tightly. Wrong. Justin has sent Canada, and New Brunswick along with it, cascading into debt levels never before seen North of the border. This means less money for healthcare, national defense, tax breaks for families, and the arts.
That’s just a brief overview of some broken promises and betrayals by Prime Minister Justin. This doesn’t even touch on his policy to go forward with Harper’s secret police bill (Bill C-51), his inaction on the much criticised Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23), his total about face on electoral reform, his adoption of Harper’s environmental targets, his sloth-like slowness on legalization of marijuana, or his legalization of cash-for-access.
So can we really say that we are any better off than we were with Stephen Harper? When Justin adopts policies and targets set by his predecessor, while abandoning many of the principles which got him elected? We’ve all been duped by a very talented public relations man. But we can’t allow selfies to take precedence over safety or imagery to outweigh investment in our future. We are better off with Justin in only one regard; right now, everyone likes him. But when that luster starts to dim, and fuzzy speeches about equality start demanding action; we are going to find ourselves in a very bad place. New Brunswick can not afford Justin.