“Expect the unexpected.”

For many cynics that cautionary warning is particularly important to keep in mind, especially when dealing with politicians, including self-proclaimed idealistic reformers.

The current controversy over the explosive allegations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was implicated in efforts to assist SNC-Lavalin avoid being charged with alleged large-scale financial bribery with Libyan officials stunned many Canadians, including even foreign press and media which had generally portrayed Trudeau as a breath of fresh air in a politically polluted world.

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Not surprisingly, such controversial allegations against Trudeau were contrary to his carefully crafted image as a highly ethical and well-intentioned politician, a leader who emphasized his personal commitment to increasing the role of women in society, safeguarding the environment and improving the lives of Canada’s Indigenous people.

If anything, many in Canada and elsewhere, regarded Trudeau as a refreshing change after the decade-long rule of Conservative Party leader Steven Harper and the perception that he undermined constitutional legal rights of Canadians.

But one person who quickly questioned such a positive untested view of the young Canadian politician’s actual concrete performance since assuming power was Jane Fonda, the well-known American movie actress and prominent environmental activist.

She publicly criticized Trudeau in 2017 for abandoning his seemingly firm commitment to the environment by approving the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, a highly contentious issue, particularly in environment-conscious British Columbia.

Speaking to the media, Fonda said, “He talked so beautifully about needing to meet the requirement of the climate treaty and to respect and hold to the treaties with Indigenous people.” She added, “Such a heroic stance he took there, and yet he has betrayed every one of the things he committed to in Paris.”

“I guess the lesson is we shouldn’t be fooled by good looking liberals no matter how well spoken they are,” Fonda concluded.

A journalist from Time reported that “Jane Fonda is hopping off the Justin Trudeau Train.”

Jane Fonda isn't alone

While some in Canada may share Fonda’s unflattering view of Trudeau’s true commitment to environmental issues, the extent won’t be clear until Canadians vote in October.

Will the more dedicated environmentalists in British Columbia and elsewhere vote for Liberal candidates in October? One militant environmentalist who spent countless hours actively campaigning for Trudeau during the last election angrily denounced him as a sellout and insisted he would not help the Liberals again.

But will voters disappointed in Trudeau’s commitment to the environment actually do nothing in an election to help the Liberals? Will some even be tempted to gravitate to New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and the NDP’s enticing commitment to implement an affordable housing and universal pharmacare program?

Or will they turn around and back the Green Party which is showing signs of increasing voter support under Elizabeth May, especially in British Columbia?

While Trudeau may hope the current split among conservative voters may help the Liberals in some ridings, the possibility that the NDP’s prospects may improve under their new leader could negatively affect the Liberals.

For his part, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer’s electoral prospects vis-a-vis the Liberals may be less than previously thought if Maxine Bernier’s recent breakaway populist People’s Party of Canada steals some traditional right-wing voters.

In any event, Trudeau’s environmental policies are not his only problem. Despite his efforts to reach out to Canada’s Indigenous people, there too he may also be vulnerable.

Growing numbers within the Indigenous community have become less supportive of Trudeau, especially since his government has not moved quickly enough to meet the obvious needs of such communities in a significant way. Among those needs are greater funding for housing, transportation, more medical facilities and schools, including safe water supplies.

Many Indigenous people say they’re tired of Trudeau’s predictable high-sounding verbal support. They want concrete changes, not merely lofty promises.

The fact that during the SNC-Lavalin controversy Trudeau removed Jody Wilson-Raybould, a First Nation MP, as attorney-general, may cost the Liberal Party votes. Support may be lost among women across Canada, who, though later than Jane Fonda, discovered that lofty and inspiring intentions are no substitute for actual concrete actions.

Harry Sterling, a former diplomat, once served as the Canadian Government Representative to the International Joint Commission dealing with Canada-US transboundary environmental issues.

Comments

Well, dropping the Jane Fonda name drew me in to reading this opinion piece, but beyond that there's nothing to see here. The writer, as with so many commentators in election years, is quick to criticize on ethical grounds, while completely ignoring the machiavellian nature of politics, within which reality the actual business of good governance occurs.

The greatest threat to Canada today, is the potential rise of ultra-conservative political parties to government. All decisions taken and judgements made must be weighed against that gravest of threats, so that the privilege to govern his kept in the hands of those with the country and the people in mind. Canada is, and it must remain a social democracy. Right now we are under siege by dark forces intent on weakening our democracy for the purpose of accessing our resources, controlling our politics, and twisting the minds of our otherwise good hearted citizens. With the rise of the cruel neoconservative politician, we are at risk of becoming a country know for bigoted, intolerant, hateful people. A country upon whom the world gazes sadly and asks, "What happened to Canada?"

It's time to convert 'Stop Harper', to 'Anything to Stop the Conservatives'.

Hi Blake,

I think we all knew with this government that they would overpromise and under-deliver. I think where folks get upset is when under-deliver is perceived as 'under-try', 'not-try', or worst 'pretend-to-try'.

The climate file is near and dear to my heart, and so was electoral reform. For me, presently both those files fall into last category. And, if it can be even worse than that, they both feel like instances where folks tasked with delivering these files were hung out to dry for pure, partisan interest.

To say it stings is an understatement.

It's sad to see captured voters, hostage to their fear of a Conservative government, twist themselves into pretzels excusing the inexcusable. Which is exactly what Trudeau wants, and the reason that he broke his electoral reform promise, after using the lie to get himself elected.

They will probably hold their noses and mark their ballot for the Liberals. It will be up to the rest of us to vote NDP, Green or other and rescue our country from its slow but clear slide into an oblivion of planet-trashing and democratic erosion.

I hope that I’m wrong but strategic voting seems to be the best that we’re left with in a first-past-the-post electoral world. The last two times out I’ve swapped my vote and in both cases both the progressive candidates won their seats.

Is backing a progressive candidate who’s sure to lose in fptp a wasted vote? Unless the parties get a per-vote subsidy it probably is. This is of course a somewhat ironic unintended consequence for Mr. Harper who is the one who killed the per-vote subsidy, thus making the decision to strategically vote against him a lot easier.

What I’m struggling with at the moment is whether I can personally consider a Liberal vote to be a progressive vote. We can’t lose another four years without leadership on the climate file. If ever the world needed Canada and Canadian leadership, it is on this issue. It is the issue. The rest of it is just background buzzing inside the busy-bubble of human affairs. The rest of earth’s creatures probably don’t notice what colour our lawn signs are.

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