Keeping election promises can be overrated

It is too early to accuse the Trudeau government of breaking its election promises

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FirbySome people are getting pretty fussed about the Trudeau government not keeping its election promises. I wonder whether I am the only one who isn’t yet ready to pile on.

The accusations are coming pretty fast for a government that has barely had time to find the washrooms. They’re also a bit of a stretch.

There are three instances in which the feds are alleged to have let down the side: the ambitious promise to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by Christmas, Trudeau’s alleged double-standard on child-care arrangements for wealthy people, and taxing the wealthy a little bit more so that middle class Canadians get enjoy a little tax relief.

Not having 25,000 refugees here quickly, for example, is indeed disappointing – just recently, I argued forcefully for the Liberals to press ahead with their original goal. But, seriously now, if a government and bureaucracy running full tilt on this mission decide the timelines are not realistic do we really want to criticize them for showing common sense?

This is not a broken promise. It is an admission that the task is just too complex to get done properly in the time allotted. Thank God the Liberals are taking the extra time needed to get it right.

Trudeau is also being personally slammed for using taxpayer-subsidized nannies to care for his children. During the election campaign, he said families like his didn’t need taxpayers to help out with childcare expenses. Now the family’s two nannies are getting paid by us as “special assistants”.

Hypocritical? Perhaps, but I wonder whether taxpayers really begrudge shelling out an insignificant amount of money to provide child care for the prime minister’s kids when you consider the time commitments that come with his job.

Finally, the Liberals are being mocked for their miscalculation on taking from the rich to give to the middle class. It was revealed this week that the tax changes pitched by the Grits during the campaign will lead to a $1.2-billion shortfall in revenue – further compounding a serious challenge the government faces in trying to balance the books.

If I were to level an accusation on that one, it would not be that the party broke a promise. I’m more concerned about the fact that their campaign policy team produced such lousy math.

Every party is eventually accused of breaking promises (often by partisans). Some of those about-faces are just adjusting to new realities or added information; others are genuinely a betrayal of a vow. The same thing happened when the Conservatives quickly abandoned the democracy-building, inclusive values espoused by its Reform Party predecessors.

In any event, keeping promises can be overrated. In Alberta, the newly elected NDP government of Rachel Notley has hungrily bitten into its huge social agenda, raising fuel taxes, introducing a carbon tax, reviewing energy royalties and – whoops – imposing unwelcome worker safety legislation for farms that threatens to trigger a full-scale rural revolt.

All of these election promises were clearly laid out in the party’s platform but many Albertans will tell you they didn’t really vote for the platform at all – they voted to kick the other guys out of office. Under such circumstances, a little more circumspection would be prudent. If some of these promises didn’t get implemented right away, a lot of Albertans would be willing to forgive.

There are, of course, broken promises that are truly upsetting. Like this one: “I say we will replace the (GST). This is a commitment. You will judge me by that. If the GST is not gone, I will have a tough time the election after that.” – Liberal Leader Jean Chretien in 1993. Or this: “The Senate must be reformed, or, as with its provincial counterparts, vanish. The Government will proceed upon receiving the advice of the Supreme Court.” Stephen Harper’s Throne Speech text in the fall of 2014.

It appears neither of the leading federal parties is all that good at keeping election promises. Are we really all that surprised? But give the Grits enough time to prove their mettle. Let’s check back in 3½ years and see how they have done.

Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.

© Troy Media


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One Response to "Keeping election promises can be overrated"

  1. Les Dunford   December 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

    I totally agree with Doug Firby on his latest column, keeping election promises. In both the provincial and federal elections, many promises were made. In the case of our own province (Alberta), introducing carbon taxes (a PST, really) and Bill 6, no proper consultations were made, and that’s the big problem. With Bill 6, farmers are certainly not against farm safety, nor against insuring workers. But forcing all this on them without consultation is wrong, and forcing WCB insurance is also wrong. Many farmers I have talked with tell me they have private insurance for their workers, which provides better – and 24/7 – coverage, at much cheaper rates than WCB and never a problem with claims.
    A lot of farmers today, especially younger ones, not only have farm experience, but also have one or two degrees in further education – finance, business, and usually at a minimum in agriculture. They run multi-million dollar businesses, so they are not the picture of the “dumb farmer” of yesterday wearing bib overalls, rubber boots, shirt hanging out, straw hat, holding a fork and chewing on a stem of grass. Wish I could draw that cartoon character, only maybe with the Premier Rachel Notley’s face in it.
    As for the feds, Trudeau’s promises, including the arrival today of Syrian refugees on a plane which he will greet personally, has never been properly passed in parliament. This goes for any of his other promises. Not that it would make a difference. With both the feds and the province having such a huge majority, we are stuck with their ability to easily pass whatever they wish.
    Meanwhile, what do we do with the jobless we already have in this country? Nobody is giving them a free ride like we are the Syrian refugees by providing them with a home, clothing, food, healthcare and job promises.
    I don’t get it at all!

    Reply

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