OTTAWA – In the midst of a pandemic, Canada’s prime minister has

Justin Trudeau

is betting his political future on a new left turn.

Before the global health crisis, Mr. Trudeau positioned himself as progressive and focused on promoting gender equality, fighting racism and climate change. It has had a number of shortfalls to support infrastructure projects.

According to political scientists and historians, it has been one of the biggest left-wing movements in Canadian federal politics since the mid-1960s, when the then Liberal government introduced universal health care and a national pension plan.

We can adopt bold new solutions to the problems we face and abandon old ways of thinking, Trudeau said in August, when he made his first promises about a broader social safety net and more aggressive environmental policies. This is our chance to build a stronger Canada.

He has appointed a new finance minister,

Chrystia Freeland

who led Canada’s negotiations with the Trump administration on a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement – to oversee the development of this new political roadmap.

Opinion polls show that voters, who fear the consequences of a pandemic, are eager for an interventionist government that spends a lot of money.

Canadians are very concerned right now, he said.

David Coletto,

CEO of Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based opinion research firm. There was already a view on both the left and the right that those who had access to resources were far better off than those who had to struggle to keep their heads above water. This has only been confirmed in the past year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with President Biden on January 22.


Prime Minister’s Office/Reuters

Other analysts believe that Trudeau’s efforts may be supported by the Biden administration, given the US president’s similar agenda on environmental and social programs. Mr. Trudeau was the first world leader to receive a phone call from Mr. Biden as he moved into the Oval Office.

President Biden and Mr. Trudeau clearly share a common vision, he said.

Stuart Prest,

Senior Lecturer in Politics at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. They can reinforce each other, especially on the world stage. No doubt there will be disagreements and setbacks, such as President Biden’s decision to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Trudeau government has pledged significant spending to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, with Canada’s fiscal balance set to deteriorate the most out of all major developed and developing countries on an adjusted basis by 2020. The deficit is included in the balance sheet at 31 December. March ended the fiscal year with a record 18% of gross domestic product. Most of the money went to households and businesses.

Mr. Trudeau said the government now plans to introduce additional stimulus measures, about 5 percent of gross domestic product, to boost the recovery, as well as rebuilding and expanding the social safety net to create more kindergarten places, improve care for the elderly and a national plan to subsidize the cost of medicines.

We don’t want to just go back to what we had before Covid-19, Freeland, who is also deputy prime minister, told reporters last week. The pandemic has revealed significant gaps in our social protection system. And the virus has hit some sectors, some groups of people, harder than others – the collectors, women, low-income people, young people, people of color, indigenous peoples.

US – Canada Energy Dimensions

But pushing is also a problem.

Robert Asselin,

A former senior adviser to the Trudeau government notes that the spending is driving up the budget deficit to half a trillion Canadian dollars, the equivalent of $390 billion, and says the government lacks focus when it comes to generating long-term economic growth.

I find that a little disconcerting. It’s all about redistribution of wealth, said Mr. Asselin, now Senior Vice-President of the Business Council on National Issues, a lobby group representing Canada’s business leaders. By comparison, the approach of the new Biden administration also shifts the political agenda to the left, but includes detailed strategies to stimulate growth in specific sectors of the economy.

One of the tasks Mr. Trudeau has given to Finance Minister Freeland, according to a letter from Mr. Trudeau’s office outlining his mandate, is the introduction of new taxes targeting extraordinary wealth. Before entering politics, Ms. Freeland was a journalist and wrote a book about the world’s wealthy elite and income inequality.

The Trudeau government’s action comes at a time when expectations are growing that Mr. Trudeau will run for election as early as this spring to capitalize on strong public support for his fight against the pandemic and to try to trade his minority government for a majority mandate.

Mr. Trudeau returned to power in the fall of 2019 with a minority mandate sanctioned in part because of a scandal surrounding his office’s role in the attempted intervention in the prosecution of a Montreal-based engineering firm. Although the next vote under the Canada Elections Act will be in October 2023, the Prime Minister has the right to dissolve Parliament and call new elections if he deems it necessary.

Mr. Trudeau’s calculation that Canadians want more government seems to be working. Polls from Abacus Data and other polling firms show that the Liberals are consistently ahead of Trudeau’s biggest rival, the Conservative Party, while most Canadians agree with the government’s response to the pandemic.

The Liberal Party of Canada has been the dominant force in Canadian politics for more than 150 years, in part because of its ability to gauge the public’s feelings and tailor its political agenda accordingly, according to political scientists. In the 1990s, for example, liberals were largely led by the right as they cut spending on government programs to address fiscal and budgetary problems in order to confront conservatives’ opponents.


Will Mr. Trudeau’s actions during the pandemic ensure the safety of his legacy? Join the discussion below.

Cathy Brock, a political scientist at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said Mr. Trudeau’s leftward turn, which includes more aggressive climate change measures such as a proposed sharp increase in the carbon tax, is designed to win over progressive voters who have parked their votes with the left-wing New Democratic Party or elsewhere. In the last federal election in 2019, about one-third of voters voted for the progressive parties, while two-thirds voted for the liberal or conservative parties.

Mr. Trudeau downplayed the importance of the election, saying he had focused on the pandemic and fighting vaccines.

Ms Brock said there were signs of a vote in the spring, but that this could be reconsidered, especially if the rollout of immunisation in Canada continues to be delayed and lags far behind the United States, the United Kingdom and other G7 countries.

A poll published Friday by the Angus Reid Institute shows that public approval of government plans to reduce vaccinations has fallen sharply, from 58% the previous month to 45% in January. However, Shachi Kurl, president of the institute, said the disappointment over the vaccination has not yet affected Trudeau’s popularity.

Email Paul Vieira at [email protected].

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