This is Justin Trudeau’s to-do list

The big promises in the platform put forward by our Prime Minister designate and the Liberal party. The pressure is on.

Trudeau platform

Justin Trudeau presenting his platform during the campaign

We have a new Prime Minister. Although two-thirds of Canadian wanted the old one out, that hasn’t stopped widespread post-election teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing about the new one.

“He won’t keep his promises.” “Now we’ll see his secret agenda.” “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” “He’ll turn the country into a communist kibbutz.” “He’ll turn the country into a capitalist paradise.”

Maybe. It’s important to stay vigilant, but some of the criticism sounds more like sour grapes and vitriol. The election is over and it’s time to give Justin Trudeau a chance to prove who he really is. Not just because that’s the right thing to do, but because — unless you’re planning a coup — it’s the only thing we CAN do.

Like six in 10 Canadians, I didn’t vote for Trudeau’s Liberals. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’ll be sworn in as our Prime Minister in two weeks. He will no doubt do things in the next four years that will anger, disappoint or sadden us, but there’s also lots of opportunity for Trudeau to do things that make us proud, hopeful and enthusiastic about the new direction Canada is taking after a decade of sociopathic Tory rule under Stephen Harper.

So let’s look forward, not back. Here are some of the key things Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have promised to do: solid mileposts against which we can measure the Liberal progress in the coming years.


Electoral reform: Trudeau has promised to create an all-party commission to “fairly consider” various changes to our winner-take-all system, including full or partial proportional representation and ranked ballots. The Achilles heel of these types of promises is that the party that wins power under the old system often decides in hindsight that maybe it’s not so bad after all. If the Liberals do move forward on this, the challenge will be to pick a truly equitable system from the myriad formulas available. You may have seen some projections on election night of how this would have changed the seat count in this election, but don’t forget that if such a system HAD been in place, people would have voted differently. Ideally, any reform will better reflect the diversity of Canadian opinions, give a greater voice to smaller parties, and end the dominance of the largest parties. This may be the most important promise of the campaign because it will affect how Canada is governed for years to come. (Here’s a great primer if you want to know more.)

DeHarperization: Undoing the worst Harper laws and policies may seem like the easiest promises to keep, but that’s not always the case. Trudeau has already told U.S. President Obama that Canada is ending its minor role in the Syrian bombing campaign. And it won’t take much to end the muzzling of Canadian scientists, halt the persecution of left-wing charities by the Canadian Revenue Agency or drop the illegal policy requiring women to remove niqabs during citizenship ceremonies. The practice of writing omnibus bills that cram reforms to thousands of laws into one mega-bill will now die before any more trees needlessly give their lives. And Trudeau says he will put a halt to the micromanaging from the PM’s office of everything from Access to Information requests, to naming committee chairpersons and senators, to vetting routine ministry communiqués.

Trudeau can also call an immediate halt to plans to liquidate CBC properties, though it will take longer to start revitalizing this crucial Canadian institution decimated by years of underfunding (including under previous Liberal regimes). Restoring the compulsory long-form census will have to be done quickly, because if it’s not, we’ll face an entire decade of unreliable data that has made Statistics Canada an international joke. Cancelling the toll on the new Champlain Bridge won’t be as easy or painless as the Liberals suggest, however. And books, studies and data destroyed under Harper’s hysterical anti-science agenda are gone for good. But Trudeau can take steps to make sure that kind of data destruction can never happen again.

Environment: A Trudeau government can breathe new hope into a UN climate change conference that starts in Paris late next month. “How Canada’s Election Will Decide the Fate of the World” was how described it just before the vote. Hyperbole, for sure, but Trudeau has vowed to turn around the obstruction and denial of the Harper decade and will join with provincial premiers to outline concrete steps to cut greenhouse gases. He needs to reconcile this with the contradictory Liberal policies of support for further tar sands development and pipeline expansion, however. The Liberals also say they will review the environmental impact review process. Hundreds of other Tory policies will also be up for review, including protection of Canadian lakes and waterways.

First Nations: One of Trudeau’s first post-election promises was to quickly launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. He has also promised to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that explored the barbaric residential school system. Both are auspicious starts, but much remains to be done to address aboriginal issues ranging from poverty, health and education on native reserves to consultation on resource development.

Pot: Although the Liberals have been short on specifics about how they’ll reform the country’s marijuana laws, it would be nice to see criminal code provisions for simple possession repealed while the issue is being debated in Parliament. Why waste another penny prosecuting something that won’t be a crime very much longer?

Refugees: The Liberals promised to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year and to give $100-million in humanitarian assistance for refugees scattered in camps and cities around Europe and the Middle East.  This ambitious timeline will be the first big test of Liberal commitment. Even if they meet half that target by Christmas, however, it will be a big step forward in addressing the worst mass humanitarian exodus since the Second World War.


You can find more detailed lists of Liberal promises here, here or here. My intention isn’t to itemize them all but to provide a glimpse of the enormity of some of the tasks facing our new government. I’m also not trying to explore the long list of Liberal policies and positions that you or I may disagree with. The campaign is over and there will be plenty of opportunity to revive these debates in the months and years to come.

Meanwhile, even far left activists should be able to concede that a Liberal government offers significantly more hope for progress than the one it replaced.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

We might not like every destination the Liberals have in their itinerary, but let’s give Justin Trudeau the opportunity to take a few steps forward before we start trying to trip him up. ■
Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.