Trudeau must avoid soft approach to hard political decisions

TrudeauSo Canadians have spoken, and we have a new leader … but is he the right leader? Obviously he has appeal for a younger generation of voters, but you need more than appeal to successfully run a country.

Let’s look at the past legacy of Stephen Harper, and ahead to the challenges that he would have faced (with confidence) that are now on Justin Trudeau’s plate following the Canadian election.

One could argue that Harper didn’t leave behind a solid legacy, as some other past prime ministers have. That being said, while Harper didn’t build an airport named after him or abolish the Senate, he did achieve many things, although Liberal voters might not consider them to be “sexy” accomplishments.

Let’s not forget that Canada (and the world) has gone through some serious rocky economic times in the past decade, but Harper managed to steer the ship here while minimizing damage (while other countries have floundered). He did this with solid economic policies created with the help of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, and he signed on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (the fate of which is yet to be seen under the new government).

The Liberals are taking a gamble with their plan to take the spotlight away from the country’s deficit for a few years to ramp up spending on infrastructure and public transit. The hope is that the growth created by the investments will balance the books by 2019. Harper was quick to point out that “modest deficits” under a Liberal government in Ontario have created a mess. The problem is that if we run into more rough waters (and that’s not a stretch, given the world economy), Canada might not be in a financial position to handle it this time.

Aside from the economy, Harper took a bit of a hardline stance prior to the election against refugees entering the country from the ongoing Middle East crisis, which was not popular with some Canadians. However, his goal was to screen people coming into Canada, as any immigrant would be screened under normal circumstances, to ensure they have our country’s interests in mind.

Germany, which became asylum for many of the Syrian refugees, has now lost control over the influx and admits it no longer has any idea who is coming into the country. This is tying up Germany’s national resources, as well as making it hard to protect the country from any potential threats slipping through the cracks. Not only that, but because of the faith of the majority of the refugees who apparently refuse care from women, they are putting more pressure on health care workers who are already working at capacity.

While the optics may be good from an international perspective for Canada to help as many refugees as possible (the goal is to allow 25,000 before Christmas), it may not be the safest or most practical choice for us — and Harper was not afraid to make an unpopular choice for the overall good of the people.

Trudeau and Harper are also seemingly opposites when it comes to a tough-on-crime approach. Harper may have gone overboard a bit with Bill C-51 and secret police, but Trudeau wants to overhaul the anti-terrorism bill and make smoking pot legal. How he will achieve the latter goal remains to be seen (perhaps he should start by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts). Crossing into the United States could be a big problem for Canadians who have marijuana on them or in their system, as most of the U.S. still takes a tough approach on drugs. Washington State, which legalized pot, may be a good place to look for guidelines that Canada can follow throughout the process — although at least one Republican presidential candidate wants to review that decision. At least, she wants people to know that having a beer with buddies and getting high are not the same things.

The Liberal decision to pull military support out of the Middle East (namely, air support) has not been popular all around. It also helps to open the door for Russia to step into Syria and throw its weight around, while giving more breathing room to ISIS, who could possibly obtain more power and form a government with its seasoned military leaders. That would not be good news for the rest of the world.

Trudeau has also made his intentions known to scrap the F-35 stealth jet program and reinvest the money into the navy. Canada’s current CF-18 fleet is aging, and the F-35s were intended to be an answer to this, albeit an expensive one. However, the F-35 program could be a boon for Canada’s aerospace industry while creating quality employment.

The “young” Trudeau definitely has his work cut out for him. Speaking of age, while everyone thinks the new PM is a model of youth in politics, he is just three years younger than Harper was when he came into power (43 and 46, respectively). However, we’ll soon see if Trudeau has the same toughness to make mature decisions that might be criticized by his left-of-centre voting base. It will also be interesting to see how he negotiates with world leaders like Russia’s Putin, who don’t have the time or inclination for soft politics.

Many may think the new Trudeau will make an impact like his decidedly charismatic father did as leader, but these family legacies are not always best for a country. We should be encouraging new blood into international politics, not just handing the reins to children whose parents happened to be politicians.

Let’s see what you’ve got, Mr. Trudeau. Our country’s future is teetering perilously in your hands.