Canada elected a Liberal government yesterday, and the new Prime Minister-elect, Justin Trudeau, actually looks like he’s…a pretty doctrinaire centrist (in Canadian politics, the Liberal Party is on the center-left, as opposed to the Liberal Party in Australia, which is center-right, because every place that isn’t America is a land of many contrasts). Of course, for some of our most serious conservative pundits, anybody to the left of Edmund Burke might as well be the love child of Karl Marx and Noam Chomsky, so we’re being treated to a lot of hand-wringing talk about how Canada is now set to join ISIS, and/or how it’s suddenly “lurched to the left.” That’s David Frum’s take, anyway:
But scripted and unscripted, Justin Trudeau has conveyed a consistent message: The government he leads will repudiate the legacy not only of the incumbent Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, but the neoliberal Liberals of the 1990s.
oooo, sounds ominous, I guess? What’s the deal with this guy, anyway?
Chretien-Martin balanced budgets. Trudeau has committed himself to a policy of deliberate deficits in an attempt to stimulate growth. Chretien-Martin eschewed redistributive taxes. Trudeau campaigned on a promise to increase taxes on wealthier Canadians to a new combined federal-provincial top rate above 50 percent. Chretien-Martin signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trudeau has squirmed to avoid committing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The turn to the left is as much cultural as economic. Trudeau has vowed to cancel the Harper government’s F-35 jet contract, insisting that Canada does not need such an advanced fighter plane. He has pledged full legalization of marijuana. He’s pledged to increase Canada’s intake of Syrian refugees from 10,000 by next year to 25,000 annually effective immediately—and to spend an additional $250 million a year to resettle them.
Whoa, this guy is crazy left! He accepts Keynesian economics, wants to slightly raise taxes on rich people, might be a skeptic on free trade, doesn’t want Canada to buy expensive military aircraft that don’t work, wants to legalize a drug that most Canadians think should be legal, and is willing to let a whopping 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country each year, a whole ~3% of the number being taken in by Germany’s center-right government. Does this Trudeau character ever take a bath, or does he just go around smelling like patchouli and Ripple all day long?
It’s obviously in David Frum’s interests to define this grab bag of non-ideological and center-left policies as the second coming of Maoist China (and note how “Chretien-Martin balanced budgets” is offered as though it were universally understood to be a Good Thing always and in every situation), but David Frum’s insistence don’t make it so. I don’t know how Trudeau is actually going to govern (and it’s clear that Frum doesn’t, either), but I’m fairly certain he’s not going to turn Canada into a giant experiment in collectivization. We can probably rest easy on that front.
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