March 17, 2017
Globe and Mail journalist John Ibbitson sees little daylight between the foreign policies of Justin Trudeau and former Prime Minister Harper. Ibbitson should have an inside track on something like this given his extensive record as a journalist and someone who recently completed a biography on Mr. Harper.
And the proof. Canada hasn’t yet reopened the embassy in Iran, which Harper had closed. The Liberals have extended Harper’s military mission in Ukraine, and like the former government are providing training but no serious defensive hardware. The European and other free trade deals are moving ahead as if Mr. Harper were still in charge. And Harper’s pet Keystone XL has been blessed with the go-ahead by the new US president.
But seriously, Harper would never have supported the recent UN motion condemning Israel’s ongoing settlements on Palestinian territory. Nor would the former PM have been seen signing onto the Paris climate change accord with such determination. Our immigration and refugee policies are at a significant distance from where Harper was taking Canada. And Trudeau has now granted our NAFTA cousins in Mexico visa-free entry.
Trudeau was the candidate of change, so one should expect to see some daylight between him and the others. He out-flanked the NDP on the left and he turned conventional thinking on its head promising to run deficits, legalize pot, open the nation’s gates to Syrian refugees, do something serious about climate change, reform Canada’s indigenous policy and change the way MP’s get elected.
But some folks are losing their religion, getting anxious, frustrated, disillusioned, or worse. Time has a habit of eroding promises and dreams – like sand on a hillside on a windy day – or the brash and bold promises made on a campaign pulpit on election eve.
And a year later, there are business folk still waiting for that massive deficit-funded stimulus to kick-in. Aboriginal leaders are wondering when they’ll see real change in their lives and their place in Canada. Environmentalists, enthused with the declaration of a nation-wide carbon tax, are licking their wounds after the rash of pipeline announcements, and worrying about how the dinosaur leading the lemmings south of the border, might affect environmental policy in the Great White North.
And then there is that marijuana wannabe crowd. They know that pot is the biggest cash crop in the United States. So they’ve got the business munchies – eager to start making money by selling dope. But Mr. Trudeau has made it clear that legalization is mainly about keeping weed out of the hands of children. So he has smoked the wannabe vendors by sicking the cops on them – telling the police to enforce the law, even though everybody knows the law is slated to change sometime soon.
Well it is slated to change unless that particular promise gets deferred or cancelled. Folks are nervous after the PM dumped his promise on electoral reform into the trash bin of good intentions. We may recall that his father had commissioned a study back in 1969, the Le Dain Commission, which recommended removing criminal penalties for simple possession and allowing the cultivation of marijuana for personal use.
There may not have been broad consensus on pot then. Decriminalization may not have been the highest priority for the government of the late Pierre Trudeau at that time. And perhaps Nixon got in the way with his ‘war on drugs’. Still, decriminalizing Mary Jane would have kept a lot of harmless people out of jail, and would perhaps do more for the economy today than the billions Mr. Trudeau is pumping into infrastructure,
Stephen Harper used to argue that the best way to keep narcotics out of the hands of young people was to just do what his government had been doing – throwing people in jail. But nothing could be further from the truth if the experience in US jurisdictions holds up.
Marijuana use among America’s youth has fallen dramatically since states started legalizing the substance. And that would put Trudeau definitely on the right track to meet his objective. And that, Mr. Ibbitson, would be a lot of daylight between him and Mr. Harper – at least on this file.
Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington in 1995. He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject. Tweet @rayzrivers