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A look at the Trudeau Liberals a year after the election

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Image: PMO/Adam ScottiImage: PMO/Adam Scotti

One year ago on Wednesday, the Trudeau Liberals were swept to power when they won 184 seats in the House of Commons with the promise of "real change."

On this first anniversary, it’s important to look at how are they doing on the critical files of trade, climate, water and health care.

Trade

During the election, the Liberals promised "a full and open public debate in parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted" on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In one sense they have kept this promise, the House of Commons standing committee on international trade has held extensive consultations across the country. But Trudeau has also said the party "strongly supports free trade" and that the TPP would "increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it" -- even though the evidence says that's not true.

It remains to be seen what will happen here, but the Liberals are facing a November 2017 deadline to ratify the agreement.

The Liberals are also now pushing extremely hard -- one might even say using bully tactics -- to get the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) ratified in Europe by early next year, and have committed to exploratory talks on a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement.

Climate

During the election, the Liberals promised to "establish national emissions-reduction targets" that recognize the consequences of "a greater-than-two-degree increase" in global temperatures.

They later said the Harper government's weak emission reduction target was a floor "not a ceiling" of what they would do. Unfortunately, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna now said, "What I said is that we will at least [meet] the target."

In other words, they are at this point only committing to Harper's goal of a 14 per cent reduction below 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 -- rather than a target based on climate science.

The Liberals have also delayed on a promise to phase out billions of dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and have extended a $50 million-over-five-years tax cut to spur the liquefied natural gas industry in British Columbia.

They have also approved the carbon-intensive Pacific NorthWest and Woodfibre LNG projects. Earlier this month, the Liberals reduced the size of a proposed fund that pipeline companies would be required to have on hand to pay for pipeline spills. And it is believed that they will  okay the 890,000-barrel-per-day Trans Mountain pipeline in December.

Water

The Liberals criticized the Harper government's "elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act" and promised to "review these changes, restore lost protections and incorporate more modern safeguards."

There was hope this would mean that the Trudeau government might, as a first step, immediately restore protections for the 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers that were delisted in the Navigation Protection Act.

Transport minister Marc Garneau has said, "Some of the changes that were made we may end up saying they're reasonable, but some of them we definitely will change." 

The Liberals are open to approving both the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipelines. The Trans Mountain pipeline would cross 246 watercourses in Alberta and 1,063 watercourses in British Columbia.

The Energy East pipeline would cross nearly 3,000 water bodies and more than 5 million people draw their drinking water from sources within spill range and downstream of its route.

We all saw the result of the Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River. Serious water protection measures are not currently in place and are desperately needed. 

Health Care 

Given the Harper government refused to negotiate a new health accord and instead imposed a new funding formula that could mean more than $36 billion would not be transferred from the federal government to provincial and territorial governments over the next ten years for health care, it was welcomed when the Liberals promised to "negotiate a new health accord with provinces and territories" as well as a "long-term agreement on funding."

But earlier this month the Trudeau government said it would implement the Harper government's funding formula. Health minister Jane Philpott has said, "I do not intend to push for an increase in the escalator."

The Liberals have also said pharmacare is too expensive and not a part of their mandate this term, while at the same time they push for the ratification of CETA. Studies show that the patent provisions for pharmaceutical drugs in CETA could cost us up to $1.65 billion annually, while pharmacare would save about $14 billion a year.

For further commentary on the Liberal record in relation to promises made on withdrawing CF-18 fighter jets from Syria and Iraq, building a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, the national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women, national security legislation, conflict prevention and labour relations, please click here and here.

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Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

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