Sunday October 11, 2015
‘The Liberal party under Justin Trudeau has crafted an alternative vision for the country that deserves the support of those who believe Canada can be more generous, more ambitious and more successful.’
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau "has shown in toe-to-toe debates that he can indeed hold his own with older and more experienced politicians."
Canadians are a decent, progressive people who deserve a decent, progressive government that holds out the prospect of a better and more constructive future.
Fortunately, when they go to the polls on Oct. 19 voters will be able to choose a strong, hopeful alternative to the Harper Conservatives: Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party. They have crafted an alternative vision for the country that deserves the support of those who believe Canada can be more generous, more ambitious and more successful.
After nine and a half years of the Conservatives, the need for change is urgent. Over the course of this long campaign, Stephen Harper has offered voters simply more of the same – more regressive social policies, more whittling away at government, more settling for a stagnant economy that leaves too many behind. And, of course, more division and rancor as the Conservatives play shamelessly on public anxiety about terrorism, refugees and, of all unlikely things, the niqab.
We believe voters who refuse to accept this backward-looking, destructive agenda (and polls suggest that’s about two-thirds of them) should give their support to Trudeau and the Liberals. They offer the strongest progressive alternative to the Conservatives and are best-positioned to win enough support to form a new government.
That wasn’t at all clear at the beginning of this campaign. It was an open question which of the main opposition parties – the Liberals or the New Democrats – would emerge as the most compelling challenger to the Conservatives. But after 10 weeks of campaigning, it’s now apparent that Trudeau and the Liberals have won that battle.
The Liberals refused to let themselves be handcuffed by the prevailing wisdom that balancing the federal budget must trump all other priorities. That has freed them to propose a major stimulus program aimed at building up the country and prodding the economy out of its doldrums.They are upfront about tilting the scales from the wealthiest towards the broad middle class by increasing taxes on those earning more than $200,000 a year, and bringing in a major new child benefit package.They have stood up for bedrock Canadian values of tolerance and decency against the Harper scare tactics. They have pledged to put an end to the Conservatives’ most destructive policies: their pointless war on environmentalists, their partisan manipulation of foreign policy, their contempt for science and for institutions as respected as the Supreme Court.The Liberals have proposed an ambitious plan to make government more open and accountable – including reform of the electoral system, a better way to appoint senators, and more diversity in cabinet and government appointments. One can quibble with the details, but these all go in the right direction.They show a balanced and realistic appreciation of the big challenges ahead – including the need to integrate Canada into the world economy while making globalization work for all, not just the elite. And they stand firmly for upholding Canadian unity (in sharp contrast to the NDP’s wavering on the Clarity Act).Finally, with Trudeau as their leader, the Liberals offer generational change. Instead of folding under the Conservatives’ relentless attack on him as “just not ready,” Trudeau has shown in toe-to-toe debates that he can indeed hold his own with older and more experienced politicians. In short, he’s ready.
More than any other party, they offer what the country needs most after almost a decade of division: hope for those who believe Canada should aspire to be a better, more inclusive community.
The New Democrats entered this campaign with a distinct edge among voters ready to draw a line under the Harper years. They had big advantages: a leader who excelled at leading the opposition attack in Parliament; widespread support in Quebec and the West; ambitious social programs including national child care; and a strong record on civil liberties.
Unfortunately for them, they let that advantage slip away. Evidently convinced their main challenge was reassuring voters they would not be too risky, they erred in the opposite direction – offering not enough change to voters eager for it. By locking themselves into a balanced-budget guarantee, they managed to handcuff their own social conscience.
Still, some of the NDP’s woes actually do them a lot of credit. Tom Mulcair refused to go along with the Harper-inspired niqab scare, a stand that is hurting his party in Quebec, especially. He stood on principle on this issue and seems to be suffering politically for it. He will emerge from the campaign with honour.
The New Democrats have also been right on some key issues, and we hope a Trudeau Liberal government would follow their lead in these areas.
The NDP was right, for example, to come out four-square against Bill C-51, the Conservatives’ badly flawed “anti-terrorism” law, back in February. The Liberals prevaricated at the time, supporting the bill but promising to amend it later. In office, they should scrap it and start over.
And the New Democrats are right to push a national child care program, something that is long overdue. Of course, it was Paul Martin’s Liberal government that first proposed such a national plan more than a decade ago, so it would be firmly within the party’s tradition for a Trudeau government to revive it. If he wins power, that ought to be on his agenda.
Either opposition party would be a welcome change after the Harper years. But it is precisely the division among progressive forces that may let the Conservatives squeak in yet again.
Voters who want to make sure the country doesn’t wake up to that prospect on Oct. 20 should unite behind the Liberals and give them a strong mandate for the next four years. It’s time for Canada to get back on a more hopeful, more progressive course.