CONSERVATIVE values are, by and large, not Canadian values. That much is clear following Monday’s stunning repudiation of Tory rule. Clear, too, is what led Canadians to reject it: a punitive, divisive slide to the right that was Stephen Harper’s personal signature. There was nothing nice about the Conservative platform and little that bore creative imagination. Toward the end of the campaign, Harper took to saying, “It’s not about me.” On Monday night he admitted the party’s failure to sustain nine years of government was indeed his personal responsibility. Let us hope that his successor has a softer side.
What is less clear are details of prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau’s plans. The broad strokes of his national platform have been brushed in. The Liberals favour national targets to curb greenhouse-gas emissions (by how much?) and would spend $20-billion over 10 years on “greener infrastructure” (where, what kind?). The Liberals will run three years of deficits to help pay for $60 billion in new infrastructure spending (a four-lane national highway?), but promise that the size of the annual deficits will not exceed $10 billion. The Liberals say they will introduce a new tax rate of 33 per cent on income of more than $200,000 (when?). That would help fund a tax cut on income between $44,701 and $89,401, where the rate would drop to 20.5 per cent from 22 per cent. On health care a Liberal government will “immediately” negotiate the Canada Health Transfer and a new health accord with provinces and join them to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs (will there be a pharmacare plan?). The Liberals would invest $3 billion over the next four years to improve services for home-care patients.
Trudeau’s Northern Ontario platform was not nearly as clear as Tom Mulcair’s, and yet NDP MP John Rafferty and popular north side candidate Andrew Foulds are out, replaced by Liberals who now need to find a way to stand out among a Liberal caucus of 184 souls all eager to make their mark.
When the Liberals released their national platform earlier this month, Foulds and Rafferty quickly noted it bore not a single reference to Northern Ontario, the Ring of Fire or FedNor.
In August, Trudeau released “plans for sustainable growth across Northern Ontario” promising to “create sustainable economic growth for the middle class, generate economic opportunities in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie (no mention of Thunder Bay or the Northwest) and create the clean jobs of tomorrow.”
The rest was chapter and verse from the national platform with Sudbury and the Soo tossed in twice more for localized consumption.
As provincial affairs columnist Martin Regg Cohn notes today, Trudeau owes Premier Kathleen Wynne — and Ontario voters — big time. Trudeau has promised to make life better for aboriginals but has yet to map out some specifics for the rest of us living in Northern Ontario. We await those details and urge new Liberal MPs Patty Hajdu, Don Rusnak and Bob Nault to in turn urge Trudeau, early and often, to deliver them soon.