Thursday, April 17, 2014

Little progressive about Trudeau's economic platform

Justin Trudeau has rolled out his economic platform in a speech to Vancouver's Board of Trade. It's a 5-point plan that focuses mainly on trade with Asia and exporting resources.

Given the speech is very similar to Brian Mulroney's recent speech to Canada 2020, this bolsters my theory that the Liberal party has become the Brian Mulroney party. If you believe Mulroney was a “progressive conservative,” I guess you could say Trudeau's vision is “progressive.”

I transcribed most of Trudeau's speech so activists can take a look at what he's really planning.

In order to get government that represents Canadians, we will need a rigorous policy debate over the next year or so leading up to the next election. If Canadians want real change, we must demand it.

The speech:

Excerpts from the speech:

Free-market “growth agenda” (9:44)

Middle class Canadians voted, over the past decades, for a growth agenda because they were told that growth would benefit them. If it doesn't they will withdraw their support.

And we are already seeing the evidence of the start of this. Protectionism is rising in some quarters. While in others we hear doubts about the value of resource development.

At the ballot box, we're seeing people vote for leaders who offer stories about who to blame for our problems, rather than ideas on how to solve them. It's a very windy world view.

First: Post-secondary education and immigration (11:30)

There are five things, in particular, that need our attention.

First, we have to remember that Canada's greatest strength is Canadians.

I used to teach here in Vancouver, so this is a special interest of mine.

But if we can raise our post-secondary education attainment rate to 70%, we will have a workforce ready to meet Canada's future job market needs.

If we better support Canadian students through loan payments geared to income, personal RESPs and public-private not-for-profit partnerships we will improve opportunities for all Canadians.

We also have to remember that Canada has flourished because of people coming here from every corner of the world. And choosing to work hard to build success for themselves, their families and their communities.

Immigration has always played and will always play a central role in our economy. We need to welcome nation builders. Help them thrive. And encourage their entrepreneurial spirits. Not just hire workers or employees.

Second: Trade (12:52)

We need to be more strategic about foreign direct investment and trade.

I don't need to tell you that. You're here in BC. You're facing the Canadian economy's future.

The US will always be important to us. But the present and future of global growth is in Asia.

No place in the world is better positioned to take advantage of that growth than Vancouver and BC. We need smart policy to help you do that. And for all Canadians trade is a good thing. An essential thing.

Jobs in competitive export sectors pay 50% higher wages than in industries that are not trade intensive.

That's good news for the middle class. And the communities they call home.

That's why we chose not to play politics with the recently announced free trade agreement with South Korea. As well as the agreement in principle with the European Union.

We're broadly supportive of those agreements as a party. And I said so to Mr. Harper on the floor of the House of Commons.

Third: Resource development (13:56)

A third opportunity, and one that is also of special interest to British Columbians, has to do with Canada's natural resources. How to reconcile economic growth with environmental stewardship.

Because, let's be perfectly clear, pretending in the 21st century that we have to choose between one or the other is not only wrong, it's actually harmful.

But this challenge is made even more difficult when the government's preferred way of dealing with its detractors is to demonize them. Dismissing those with genuine concerns as foreign radicals or terrorists.

Building partnerships between industry, First Nations and civil society as has been done with great success in the BC forest industry — well that takes hard work. It demands real courageous leadership. Pipelines and LNG [liquid natural gas] projects call for that same hard work.

The federal government's role is to create a framework, that helps Canadians grow the economy and protect the environment.

It's not the government's role to put its thumb on the scale of any particular project in favor of the proponent or opponent. If it does, as Mr. Harper's government has done far too often, it compromises the integrity of the process and prevents proponents from getting the social license they need to build the project and create the jobs. But it also undermines the public confidence that the environment is getting the protection that it needs.

And let's be very clear on this point: governments issue permits but communities grant permission.

Last October I surprised a lot of people by going to Washington D.C. and telling a room full of American Democrats that this Canadian Liberal supports the Keystone XL pipeline. I do. But I also understand their issues with it. If Canada had stronger more credible environmental policies in place the Americans would've approved Keystone XL a long time ago.

It's increasingly clear to everyone but Mr. Harper, consensus building is the only responsible way to turn resource opportunities into economic realities.

We need to draw on our intelligence, on our abilities and willingness to solve problems as much as we draw on the resources themselves.

As prime minister, I would see it as one of my core responsibilities to facilitate this kind of engagement. Over the long term, that is the only way we can leverage our natural resources in a way that is sustainable, maximizes economic opportunity, and strengthens the middle class.

Fourth: Innovation (17:10)

Fourth, we need to take a hard look at what we can do to foster innovation. We spend billions on research but lag behind our competitors on productivity.

I'm proud that Wilfred Laurier shares space with Canada Arm II and Dexter on our new five dollar bill. But I'm also eager to find out what technology might be featured there 10 years from now, 20 years from now. Those new ideas and the high-paying skilled jobs that come with them will be critical to our future growth.

Fifth: Infrastructure (17:46)

And finally we need new leadership when it comes to infrastructure investment.

At a time when our cities are starved for capital, the government cut its core infrastructure program by nearly 90% to spend more down the road, but I think you'll understand my multiple levels of skepticism on a promise Mr. Harper won't need to keep for 5 or 6 years.

I believe it's unrealistic for the federal government to ask our towns and cities to wait another half decade to repair crumbling bridges and make other necessary upgrades to roads, water and transit systems.

Infrastructure investments do more than create good jobs. They improve our quality of life.

Look at the dividends from the Pacific Gateway. Look at the Canada Line.


  1. A sad testament to the paucity of vision and leadership that characterizes Canadian politics today, Ron.

    1. Agreed. I think the real problem is that we have a bizarre implementation of democracy, doling out 4-year dictatorships to minority parties. If Canada was a real democracy, the last 30 years - and all the destruction caused by right-wing free-market reforms - would've gone very differently.

      Under FPTP, the Liberal party governed like US Democrats back in the 1990s, representing a narrow pro-business interest and ignoring centrist and left-leaning voters (despite winning over half the NDP vote.)

      Now, a united Conservative party is Canada's natural governing party. The Liberals have to be red Tories to split the right-wing vote and keep the Cons away from majority territory.

      If we had normal government, which is multi-party majority government representing an actual majority of voters, we would spend a lot more on infrastructure and social programs and have a stronger, greener economy.

      We have a narrow window of opportunity to fix this in 2015. IMO, this is the only issue that counts, because it effects all other issues.


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