What Northerners can expect from a Trudeau government

By October 29, 2015Uncategorized

Labour Views – October 28, 2015

Written by Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President North for the PSAC

The Big Red Machine has swept through the North, riding a wave of support from Canadians seeking to oust Stephen Harper’s 10 years in power.

Liberal nominees from all three territories clung on tight for the ride, unseating incumbents in each of the territories.

And voters from across the North came out in record numbers to voice their desire for change.

In the Northwest Territories, 64.4% of eligible voters cast their ballot, up from 47.4% in the 2011 election. But even more impressive are the numbers from Nunavut, where a whopping 61.96% of the electorate voted, up from a dismal 39.4% in the last election.

It’s part of a larger trend that saw a record number of Aboriginal voters turn out a polling stations, and – breaking another record – 10 Indigenous Members of Parliament elected across the country.

With Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau now promising to deliver a gender-neutral cabinet November 4, it’s easy to get swept up in the fervour and declare the beginning of a golden era for equality and Canada’s middle class.

But it’s important to remain just a little wary, giving Trudeau the leeway to get down the business of managing our country, but also holding him to the promises he made to Canada’s voters.

Here are some of the top campaign promises that Trudeau should keep his word on.

Strong investments in Canada’s North

Trudeau has promised to help Northerners deal with the high cost of living North of 60 by raising the Northern Residents Deduction by 33 percent. That will bring the maximum to $22 per day, and Trudeau has guaranteed that the benefit will be indexed to ensure it keeps pace with inflation. In total, the enhanced deductions should amount to about $50 million in annual tax savings for Northerners.

Alleviate Northern food insecurity

The Liberals have promised that making healthy, affordable food available to Northerners is a top priority for their new government. To that end, Trudeau has pledged a $40 million investment in the Nutrition North program, along with a commitment to work with northern and remote communities to make sure the program works well and that the savings are passed on to Canadians.

Reforming anti-terror laws

While Trudeau did support Harper’s highly controversial Bill C-51 – which tightens terror laws and increases government surveillance powers – he agreed to review the legislation and ensure it complies with the Charter. Trudeau has expressed doubts that the bill meets that test, especially considering the new powers granted to CSIS, Canada’s intelligence service.

Call for inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women

If Trudeau holds to his campaign promise, we should soon see his government call for an official inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women across Canada, which is long overdue and has been a prime point of contention for First Nations activists for years. Trudeau has also pledged to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

Electoral reform

Many Canadians have long been displeased with our electoral system, which often fails to account for the popular vote and forces many voters to cast their ballot strategically. Trudeau has promised to introduce legislation within 18 months to amend the Elections Act to replace the first-past-the-post format with an as yet unspecified alternative. We may also see further revisions following the blowback Harper’s government received from the Fair Elections Act.

If Trudeau puts his money where his mouth is, Canadians should be in store for a great deal of progressive change that has been long overdue after 10 years of Conservative rule. It will be up to Canadians and their Members of Parliament to ensure having his hands on the levers of power do not sway Trudeau from his path of change.