What Election 2015 Means for Public Justice

Justin Trudeau

Photo Credit: Flickr/Canada 2020

From The Catalyst Winter 2015

The 2015 federal election campaign is now behind us. But what will the new Liberal majority government roll out as its first priorities?

In this election, CPJ focused on democratic reform, poverty in Canada, climate justice, and refugee rights. On all four issues, our members hope to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take quick action to fulfill his party’s commitments. But we will also push his new government to fill in the gaps in its platform.

Once again, the triumphant majority party won 100 per cent of federal power, but earned less than 40 per cent of the popular vote. On the question of improvements to the democratic system, CPJ has long favoured moving to a preferential system or a form of proportional representation. Will the 2015 election be, as Mr. Trudeau promised, the last time Canada uses the first-past-the-post system?

CPJ expects our new government to immediately follow through on other campaign promises. Already it has reestablished a functioning long-form census. But it must also emphasize evidence-based decision-making and end the use of omnibus bills to pass legislation. The Liberals also committed to respect women who wear traditional clothing as part of their culture or religion. To stop what they called the “political harassment” of charities, they will need to clarify the rules on defining “political” activities and introduce a new charities law.

Concerning poverty, the Liberals should quickly put in place the Canada Child Benefit, which would lift thousands of kids from poverty. Unfortunately, the Liberals did not commit to develop a national plan to address poverty’s many other aspects. (Such a promise had been a feature of their 2011 campaign.) Instead, the 2015 campaign focused much more on the middle class. Still, CPJ expects action from this government on intolerable rates of poverty among children, Indigenous peoples, single parents, and newcomers.

On climate change, Prime Minister Trudeau emerged from the campaign without announcing an ambitious and specific target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions for the Paris climate summit. The Liberal platform promised to slowly decrease subsidies to fossil fuel companies. But this only partially fulfills Canada’s 2009 G20 commitment to end them completely. The platform also promised a renewable energy strategy for Canada by 2017. But Mr. Trudeau did not announce a national price on carbon emissions, which CPJ has called for. Instead, he pledged to give provinces “flexibility” to design their own carbon pricing policies. The environment needs quick and sustained action on climate change. Action that responds to overdue ecological, rather than political, timetables.

On refugees, the Liberals promised to bring in 25,000 Syrians before year end. This requires quick governmental action and concrete support for faith communities and settlement agencies that will assist these newcomers. A recent federal court found the 2012 cancellation of the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) to be “cruel and unusual.” The new government has already announced that it will not contest this ruling. Next, it must fulfill its commitment to “fully restore” the IFHP. It should also, as promised, increase funding by $100 million to countries which bear the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Canadian voters clearly wanted change. And they massively concluded that Mr. Trudeau is ready to deliver that desired change.

But public justice demands that a Liberal government is also ready - and willing - to act. CPJ will be encouraging our new leaders by keeping a close eye on these four key issues and providing opportunities for our members to hold this new government to its promises.

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Joe Gunn serves as Executive Director at CPJ.

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