Is Justin a New Deal for Canada? First day on the job and the attack ads start – is this their best shot?

 By Ray Rivers.

BURLINGTON, ON. April 16, 2013  Sometimes we Liberals can feel like Goldilocks.  First, the leadership vote kickoff in Toronto last Saturday felt… too empty.  Then the concluding meeting in Ottawa…well, it was so full they sold out the $20 dollar tickets in a flash.   The event was packed with big-name Liberals, including one-time opponents Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who sat on opposite sides of the room. It was a big deal.

The victory was conclusive and Justin Trudeau graciously took the podium to thank one and all.  The Party had opened voting to members and non-members alike, and over a hundred-thousand Canadians participated, picking Trudeau with eighty percent of the votes – a new deal  for political leadership.  Polished, humble and almost boyish, he delivered his first speech as leader of the third party - but now what?

Justin kicked off his leadership campaign by promising to rebuild the middle-class (by which he really meant middle-income Canadians).  But what does that mean?  Franklin D Roosevelt is credited with building the modern middle-class in America, a consequence of his New Deal in the 1940‘s.  Five factors played together for FDR; 1. a sheltered union movement to lift the pay of workers, 2. massive public investment to create jobs for the unemployed, 3. the break-up of corporate conglomerates, 4. progressive income taxation, and 5. trade protectionism.

 Chretien, in his remarks at the podium, noted that his Team Canada had landed significant deals in their excursions into China, while the best Harper could do was to bring back a couple of rented Panda bears.  And Trudeau, who has supported the Chinese buy-up of the tar sands and the Keystone pipeline, seems unwavering on business-as-usual for global trade, the kind that ensures we Canadians remain the hewers of wood and drawers of water we were at confederation.  Not much of a new deal here, I’m afraid.

 Trudeau has not yet spoken, perhaps wisely, on the other elements of how he plans to re-build the middle class.  He and the party’s policy wonks have their work cut out, developing options to restore and promote the middle-class, if he is to be believed.   Of course, Justin is not PM yet, just the leader of the third-party.  But if the polls are any indication, he might very well be in position to lead a Trudeau Liberal government after the next election. 

 Well thought-out and pronounced policy options to restore a more balanced Canadian society and a healthy economy would be a big deal, even if it not exactly FDR’s new deal.

 Ray Rivers is a retired civil servant, a former Burlington candidate for the provincial legislature and an author.  His book, The End of September focuses on how things could have been different during the Quebec crisis in 1983.  Rivers will write for Our Burlington on a regular basis – about twice a month.

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