Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jan 2016
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Chris Selley
Page: A11


So alarming is the federal Liberals' unfolding record of broken 
promises, my colleague Michael Den Tandt argued this week, that they 
have brought the whole notion of promises into disrepute ('Promise 
not to make promises,' Jan 6). "Trudeau and his ministers rush 
headlong into the concrete pylon of reality on file after file - the 
discarded commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the 
end of 2015 being only the most obvious example," he wrote. He even 
suggested Canadian politicians should take this opportunity to swear 
off promises for good.

The Trudeaumetre website identifies four definitive reneges so far: 
that the tax hike for the richest Canadians would pay for the tax cut 
for the middle class, instead of leaving a reported $ 1.2- billion 
shortfall; that 25,000 Syrian refugees would arrive in Canada by the 
end of last year; and that, per the Liberal platform, "we will end 
Canada's combat mission in Iraq" ( it didn't say when, mind you). 
Judging by this list, it seems we can safely add, as Den Tandt did, a 
whopper: the Liberals' promise of budget deficits no larger than $ 10 
billion. And there will almost certainly be more to come.

But when I think about this new government, I think less about broken 
promises than about the ones I'm rather surprised they're still 
pursuing with such unapologetic gusto. Electoral reform and 
legalizing marijuana are just two, but they've dug in their heels on 
others, as well. Considering the Liberals' habit of settling into 
power like a Jacuzzi after a tough day, I am hesitant to criticize too harshly.

This level of ambition is a rare thing in Canadian politics, after 
all. The Liberals imagine themselves warriors of Canadian 
progressivism, but when the courts are unable or unwilling to take 
matters out of politicians' hands, the forces arrayed against change 
in this country are daunting.

The civil service, for one, seems to be busy providing the Liberals 
with ample justification for preserving statuses quo. According to 
Bloomberg News, in the matter of Bombardier's troubled CSeries jet 
program, officials have advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that, 
"in an increasingly competitive global economy with significant 
levels of government support for strategic sectors, aerospace is 
often seen as a 'pay to play' industry."

This is certainly true, but it's precisely the sort of advice that 
keeps Canada mired in the corporate welfare game. True fact: we don't 
actually need passenger jets to call our own. Plenty of high- 
functioning countries get by without.

We also learned this week that Trudeau has been advised of potential 
pitfalls in his pledge to legalize and regulate marijuana - among 
them, supposedly, three international treaties that will require 
"substantial work on the international stage before ( he) can follow 
through," the Canadian Press reported.

Are your eyes rolling? Not without cause. One of the treaties, "The 
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 
Protocol," simply requires governments to manage the trade in any 
drug they wish to deem legal and "adopt such measures as may be 
necessary to prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, the 
leaves of the cannabis plant." That is probably what Trudeau has in 
mind, and exactly what he has proposed, respectively. The other two 
are expressly prohibitionist, but the United States is a signatory to 
each and U. S. President Barack Obama seems to have escaped 
international condemnation for letting various states get away with 
outright legalization.

The logical course of action for a prime minister who doesn't think 
marijuana should be illegal would be to pull out of any international 
agreements that say it must be. If that might sound like too much 
trouble for former prime ministers Jean Chretien or Paul Martin, it's 
somewhat easier to imagine Trudeau shrugging it off. And we could 
finally be rid of a stupid law that doesn't work and isn't applied 
remotely fairly. ("Don't ' woo!' if you're white," comedian John 
Mulaney quips in a bit about legalization in the U.S. "It's always 
been legal for us.")

As for achieving electoral reform, it remains extremely challenging 
to imagine the Liberals finding an avenue that they don't consider 
too politically risky without holding a referendum, which would 
almost certainly fail. But the cavalcade of pundits telling them it 
would be unconscionable, if not undemocratic, to pursue this matter 
without a referendum almost makes me want to see them try.

That 2015 would be Canada's last first-past-the-post election was a 
very odd election promise - like promising unspecified Senate reform, 
or to abolish the monarchy. Tell us what comes next, for heaven's 
sake! But it was right there in their platform, in black and white. 
It's not the Liberals' fault nobody brought it up. Instead of 
resolving never again to include in an election platform such a bold 
and risky promise, perhaps we should resolve never again to have an 
election campaign in which such a bold and risky promise goes all but 
completely undiscussed.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom