November 10, 2015

Put Down Your (Political) Swords

It’s been a few weeks since the longest election campaign in Canadian history ended. While it left me burnt out and disappointed, given my MP (Peggy Nash) was defeated along with every NDP MP in Toronto and Atlantic Canada, it also means no more elections until 2018. This is a good opportunity to focus away from politics (except for cycling matters, of course) and get myself back in order. Since I will have to work with a Liberal MP now, let’s get some first impressions of the new Liberal government.

In my previous posts, I often criticized the Liberals for being more of the same with their positions on Bill C-51, Keystone XL (which was recently killed by US President Barack Obama), the environment, child care, and corporate taxation. While time will tell as to whether they represent “real change”, I have to hand it to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team for these positive first steps.
  1. No more community mailboxes! Within days of the election, Canada Post stopped the Harper government’s widely criticized plan to replace home mail delivery with community mailboxes. Since this plan started in 2014, there remains the question of if/when home delivery will be restored to those communities which lost it. Plans to investigate postal banking and other services will also be investigated.
  2. No Jets TO! Spadina-Fort York MP Adam Vaughan and a Liberal government spokesperson declared the Trudeau government will not reopen the Tripartite Agreement governing Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. This move effectively kills Porter Airlines’ plans to fly Bombardier CS100 jets into the airport, which would have threatened the ongoing revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront and quality of life. Hats off to NoJetsTO for their successful advocacy campaign!
  3. Science respected once again! One of the first orders of business since the Trudeau government was sworn in on November 4 was to restore the mandatory long form census for the 2016 census. The Harper government scrapped it in 2010 on ideological grounds; a move criticized by researchers and city planners for reducing the reliability of government data and the ability to make sound decisions from the data. The muzzling of scientists by the Harper government will also be reversed.
  4. A warmer foreign policy! While past Canadian governments were well respected in the United Nations for their peacekeeping efforts and foreign assistance, the Harper government lost international goodwill by obstructing climate change action, blindly supporting Israel, and dragging its feet in bringing in refugees from warn torn countries such as Syria. In contrast, Trudeau pledged to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year, as well as bring provincial premiers and federal opposition party leaders to the upcoming climate talks in Paris. Issues such as the lack of firm emissions targets and previous broken promises, however, remain to be addressed.
  5. Gender parity in cabinet! Trudeau’s new cabinet consists of 15 men and 15 women; making it the first time a federal government’s cabinet achieved gender parity. While this is a welcome move, the NDP fielded a greater percentage of women candidates during the recent election campaign (43% vs 31% for the Liberals).
For one final observation, I had the opportunity to meet with my new MP, Arif Virani, at a recent community meeting and was encouraged by his first impressions. He signed Cycle Toronto’s Bloor Loves Bikes pledge (as did fellow MP Chrystia Freeland in September) and offered to meet with the local Cycle Toronto group. While I may not always agree with the Liberals, their positive first impressions and this campaign lead to a new political lesson. Stay true to your principles, but know when to put down your political swords and work across party lines. After all, governments and their representatives come and go, but our community advocacy work must go on.

Come together!
Rob Z (e-mail)

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