Rivers on - The federal Liberal record during 2021

By Ray Rivers

December 30th, 2021



Many folks, including some Liberals, criticized the Trudeau government for choosing to call an election in the midst of the pandemic this past year.    Under Canada’s fixed term election law, when in a minority situation, the party in power can either call an election at their convenience or wait for the opposition to bring them down at their’s.   Even Mr. Harper, who had introduced the election law, had opted for that provision.

Candidates in the 2021 federal election

The polls had been indicating a Liberal majority, but that didn’t happen.  Still after all the ruckus about this having been ‘an unnecessary election’, the Trudeau government wouldn’t dare do it again.  And neither would the opposition now.  That should give the Liberals four more years in power, if all parties act responsibly.

Brian Mulroney’s government had been the first to alert the nation to global warming.  Jean Chretien signed onto the first international agreement committing Canada to emission reduction limits.   But the Trudeau government is the first to implement policies and programs to seriously address climate change.

The government has announced caps on oil and gas emissions and is regulating Canada’s electricity grid to be net zero carbon by 2035.  Subsidies to the fossil fuel industries, which have persisted in the billions through the early Trudeau years, are set to finally be ended.

Regulations to ban the single use of plastic by the end of 2022

A significant tree planting program is being launched.  Regulations to ban the single use of plastic by the end of 2022 are in process, and plastic has been named a toxic substance under Canada’s Environmental Protection Act.   All new sales of gasoline powered car and trucks will be banned as of 2035. Grants for the purchase of electric vehicles will continue and have actually been expanded to allow for more models.

And the Trudeau government has been investing in ‘green infrastructure’, such as public transit.  But perhaps most significantly, the PM is borrowing a page from former PM Mulroney and demanding each of his ministers to assume responsibility for the environment.  Ministerial mandate letters dictate all hands on deck since climate change affects so much in our society/economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a lot of the wind out of government plans to do much else.  Despite some hesitation and missteps early in the pandemic the federal government finally got it mostly right on border security; vaccination availability, vaccine mandates and passports.  Despite having no vaccine manufacturing capability, Canada is now one of the most vaccinated nations on earth.

Canada now manufactures its own personal protection equipment (PPE), even though some is still imported.  The military and Red Cross have gone in to help when provincial governments in at least half of Canadian provinces were no longer capable of handling COVID on their own.  And though public health policy, lockdowns and business restrictions are managed at the provincial level, it is the federal support programs which provide a crutch and blanket for those displaced by COVID.

So when provincial jurisdictions like Alberta, and even Ontario, ignore the advice of their medical professionals, potentially allowing another surge, more cost just gets added to the federal deficit and debt.  And, as we know, the federal spending bill, our deficits and debt burden, is huge and growing.

First Nations communities are expected to transition to self-government and move away from the Indian Act.

Another priority, Canada has embarked on an historic path to resolve its almost incoherent relationship with our indigenous population.   The tragedy of native residential schools has highlighted the injustice of our past relationship with our indigenous population, going back to well before confederation.  The new Crown-Indigenous minister, Marc Miller, has been tasked with resolving long standing land claims and supporting First Nations communities as they transition to self-government and move away from the Indian Act.

It’s all an ambitious agenda, especially for a minority government having to rely on enough opposition support to keep the momentum going.  That likely explains why Mr. Trudeau wanted so badly to win a majority.   Still, it is a credit to all of our political leaders that there has been so much multipartite support to help Canadians hurt by the pandemic public health policies.

The Conservatives have more recently dropped their support for the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) which provides income support for unemployed workers directly.  They do, however, support the more expensive wage subsidies, despite these periodically ending up as bonus payments for executives and as corporate dividend payments.

Mr. Trudeau has rejected calls for a universal basic income program in lieu of the current patchwork of low income financial supports, something the NDP has been advocating would be more efficient and less costly than CERB.

Tory opposition to CERB is rooted in complaints by some business entities that CERB impacts labour’s work ethic.  CERB had been scheduled to wrap up before the end of 2021 but support funding will be extended, thanks to the arrival of Omicron.

Is this the last oil-gas pipeline to be laid?

There is also disagreement between the two major parties on the future of the oil and gas sector, even though the handwriting is on the wall.  The fossil fuel era is over but oil and gas revenue has been a big part of Canada’s GDP, even though it has been massively subsidized by governments at all levels for over half a century.   And, after all, fossil fuels, including oil and gas, are most responsible for global climate change.

Canada made the list of the top top ten climate disasters of 2021.  Not only did these disasters cost in the billions, both privately and publicly, but they destroyed forests, farms and even whole towns like Lytton BC.  We know these kinds of destructive events will not be a one time event as the temperature of the planet continues to warm.

Apparently some folks were so upset that Trudeau called the election last fall that they voted for one of the other parties.  But I have yet to hear about people being so upset that they didn’t even show up to vote.  In fact voting in last fall’s election was significantly higher than that in two of the previous four elections, despite the challenges of the pandemic.  It’s past time to get over the election.

2022 is a new year and the federal government is kicking it off with a tough agenda and three priorities.  The pandemic, global warming and indigenous reconciliation.   Let’s get on with it.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



Background links:

Top Ten Climate Disasters –

Banning Plastics –

Crown-Indigenous Minister Mandate

Tory Support for CERB –
Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 comments to Rivers on – The federal Liberal record during 2021

  • Joe Gaetan

    A June 2021 study by Desjardins suggested that a five-year fixed mortgage will gradually rise from the currently posted rate of 4.74% to as much is 6.95% by 2024. Ray would prefer we not share that information as it does not fit his and the Trudeau governments focus on non-financial matters.
    If increased mortgage rates are not bad enough, the ratio of mortgage debt to gross GDP rose from 38% in 2000 to 71% in Q2 2021. Best we do not talk about that either, as people could lose their homes at 6.95% mortgage rates.
    The fact of the matter is, the cost of everything is going up, and for number of reasons, from supply chain problems to the increases in everything, but most importantly when filling up our tanks, in housing, and more importantly in food, as farmers face increased input costs as a direct result of the carbon tax.
    With respect to the oil and gas industry, here is what is going to happen. The oil and gas industry have retrenched, where new exploration is concerned. What this means for Canadians is, no new oil and gas resources will be coming on stream. This means we will have to rely on what is already being pumped out of the ground or what we import.
    Energy companies meanwhile have figured out that they are making a ton of money by not exploring and are now dispersing dividends as the price of oil shoots up. Nowhere does Ray share what Damien Courvalin, an investment bank’s head of energy research, had to say on Dec 17, 2021, that oil at “$100 per barrel was a possibility”. Yikes. Short term we just might be OK, until demand outpaces supply. However longer term, we live in a country that wants to keep it in the ground, so be it Canada. It takes a herculean effort to restart discovery, if you have the will and social license to do which we collectively do not have.
    Finally, after he has convinced himself and many readers that inflation is nothing to worry, nothing to see here, he finishes off with this, “2022 is a new year and the federal government is kicking it off with a tough agenda and three priorities. The pandemic, global warming and indigenous reconciliation”.
    He really had no choice but to finish that way.

  • Edward Gamble

    Ray lives in the Liberal bubble. Soaring costs are the number one priority for the majority of Canadians

  • Carol Victor

    Thanks for this very positive report Ray….too bad that the guy running this province hasn’t taken more positive actions on the environment, health care and education….only a few small areas where strong leadership would have been appreciated..

  • Richard

    “And, after all, fossil fuels, including oil and gas, are most responsible for global climate change.”
    Please do tell, exactly what percentage of the global climate change is human activity responsible for? or are we to believe that when we stop using oil (where will the plastic for your iPhone come from?), climate change will stop?

    “But I have yet to hear about people being so upset that they didn’t even show up to vote.”
    one in six eligible voters voted Liberal. you should get out of your echo chamber once in a while.

  • William Statten


    I didn’t realize you were a publicist for the Liberal Party. I should have known better.