Has Justin Trudeau kept his promises six months after election day?
Justin Trudeau and his Liberals are still riding a wave of popular support and have delivered on some big platform promises as they mark six months since election night, but the number of broken pledges is also multiplying.
According to University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman, every new government can count on a honeymoon period and the support for this particular government has been bolstered by the personal popularity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“He’s more popular than his party, but it’s still very early days,” said Wiseman. “The normal thing I say is wait 18 months after a government is elected.”
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s popularity in the U.S.
In spite of the fact that they have already broken some big promises, moved ahead with a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia and faced a mini fundraising scandal linked to the federal justice minister, the Liberals continue to enjoy sky-high ratings in the polls.
Various surveys conducted since mid-March have shown the party averaging over 45 per cent support, an increase of seven points over election night.
An Ipsos poll conducted for Global News last month also found that two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadians approve (21 per cent strongly/44 per cent somewhat) of the performance of the Liberal government.
What’s been done?
Tracking the new government’s progress on the policy front has been made easier by trudeaumetre.ca, a self-styled “non-partisan” website set up by Calgary-based web developer Dom Bernard. According to the site’s data, which is updated daily, 42 per cent of the government’s promises are in the process of being tackled (63/219 promises), or have already been fulfilled (29/219 promises).
Some of the big promises kept so far include:
- Launching an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women
- Restoring the long-form census, set to be mailed out in May
- ‘Unmuzzling’ government scientists
- Creating an independent advisory committee for new Senate appointments
- Ending the Canadian bombing mission against the so-called Islamic State
- Cutting tax rates for the middle income bracket, and raising them for those making over $200,000
- Investing in various First Nations programs and dedicating more money to improving infrastructure on reserves
Wiseman said that from a policy perspective, the government could argue that they have made “progress on everything because it’s in the (ministerial) mandate letters.” But a lot of the actions so far have simply amounted to cancelling plans.
“Most of what (the government has) done, from what I can make out, is repeal a number of Conservative policies rather than introduce so much of its own,” he said.
“It has brought in the budget, and there are significant things in there … the test will come as we go on.”
Meanwhile, more than a dozen clearly stated promises have been outright broken by the Liberals in their first six months. These include:
- Not exceeding deficits of $10 billion over the next three years (the deficit for the coming year alone is set to top $29 billion)
- Welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015
- Reducing the small business tax rate
- Immediately rolling out investments of $3 billion over the next four years to deliver better home care and palliative care services
A large portion of these broken promises are linked to financial commitments that didn’t materialize in the budget last month. The Liberals have defended the deficit spending as necessary given a deteriorating economic situation.
The Syrian refugee target went unmet as a result of the complexities of getting so many people through the refugee application process so quickly, according to Immigration Minister John McCallum. Health Minister Jane Philpott has stated that investments in home and palliative care will be coming with the new Health Accord.
“We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished in just a few months,” said a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday. “The amount of work done in such a short time so far is tremendous. If we haven’t delivered on a commitment yet, it doesn’t mean we have broken it. We are looking forward to the next there years to continue working on our platform commitments. We have a four year mandate!”
For the average Canadian, said Wiseman, the perception of how well the government is doing isn’t gleaned from citizen-run initiatives like trudeaumetre.ca, but from mass media.
“They look at news reports like the ones you’re writing, they see visual images and they read stories.”
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