Canada’s Justin Trudeau has been in office for two years now - elected in October 2015 - and ‘Trudeaumania’ shows little sign of fading.
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Canada’s Justin Trudeau has been in office for two years now – elected in October 2015 – and ‘Trudeaumania’ shows little sign of fading.

You must have heard of him: that guy in Canada who looks like he’s in a boyband but is actually Prime Minister. It’s not only his face that has proved popular: his centrist, liberal approach to politics is shared by almost the entire Western commentariat.

Similar to when Obama was first elected US President, Trudeau’s appointment inspired much relief. It was a vital change from Stephen Harper’s preceding hard-right government, echoing the fall of President Bush in 2008. Trudeau’s campaign was one of optimism, hope and ambition for a Canadian government that welcomes immigrants, promotes peace-making, takes climate action and reflects, rather than projects itself, upon society.

Trudeau’s most significant let down to date has to be his environmental record.

But what followed was a leadership led by a man full of tokenistic gimmicks and very little substance. Trudeau is known for: selfies with citizens (or are they fans?), arriving by bus rather than private escort to his swearing-in ceremony, and building a gender-equal, ethnically and regionally diverse cabinet “because it’s 2015”. All detracting from little advancement made on actual policy.

Trudeau has started to fulfil his mandate of hope, by warmly welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees and renewing Canada’s ties with the Commonwealth after Harper’s fall-out in 2013. Yet despite fairly successfully negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU, Trudeau’s insubstantial foreign policy reforms have failed to address the already evident impacts of Brexit on Canada-EU relations.

Trudeau’s most significant let down to date has to be his environmental record. Despite expressing a desire to move away from fossil-fuels and signing the COP21 Paris Agreement, Trudeau paradoxically continues to pursue free-trade deals prioritising profit for global corporations over environmental responsibility. Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has defied all logic by suggesting both is possible.

Meanwhile on Trudeau’s watch Exxon Mobil continue to endlessly extract oil from Alberta Tar Sands, and Trudeau supports further destructive oil and gas pipelines such as ‘Energy East’ in Eastern Canada. In March, Trudeau claimed: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.” Oil Change International has calculated this would produce almost a third of the carbon needed to exceed the 1.5 degree limit agreed in Paris. Such failure has led 350.org founder Bill McKibben to name Trudeau a “stunning hypocrite” on the climate. The irony is that a more sustainable economy would increase the Canadian standard of living greatly.

There is hope, but currently it shouldn’t be in Trudeau. As with many other contemporary free-market liberals, much is said but little changed.

Opinion pieces are the view of the author and in no way reflect the views of Forge Press.

Words by Ewan Somerville
Image credit: 2017 Canada Summer Games