Guest post by Valerie Elliott, ECI Affiliate from iD2 Communications
Canada has just held its 42nd federal election. As an Earth Charter affiliate, I wanted to share some of my personal insights and my hope for Canada’s future.
I am not alone in feeling hopeful since the election of our new prime minister, 43-year-old Justin Trudeau. The son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was prime minister from 1968 to 1974, Justin leads the Liberal party, a centre-left party.
Justin Trudeau’s election is exciting to many Canadians because for the past 10 years Canada has been led by Stephen Harper, a Conservative whose policies have been contentious and caused great division in the country. He did not support climate action policies, was a supporter of the oil and gas industry, involved Canada in war, brought forward policies that removed the rights of citizens and had a closed door culture.
We always hope that new governments will show great leadership and learn to adhere to Earth Charter values and principles even when they are lofty goals. Yet in the first few days since Trudeau’s election we’ve already seen a significant change in values that this prime minister will bring to the table.
The first very noticed change by journalists was the answering of questions in the press gallery. It is apparent that in his first days he is wishing to set a tone that is a contrast from his predecessor. In keeping with EC pillars of democracy, Trudeau made clear that he is looking for gender equity when appointing his cabinet and that he expects his cabinet to practice non-partisan politics.
Many promises have been made. Realistically, some of those promises will be broken, but there is no question that Canadians are eager to see a change in our culture. Transparency and accountability are badly needed in Canada and Trudeau has the opportunity to demonstrate what that could look like.
Trudeau has committed to reviewing our existing electoral system to strengthen our democratic process. He has promised to withdraw from the coalition battle against the Islamic State while maintaining humanitarian aid. He has pledged to attend the Paris COP21 climate conference and has assured Canadians that he will not turn his back on the environment. In contrast, under Stephen Harper’s government, where once we had over 2 million protected lakes and rivers, we now have under 200. Canadians expect to see much of what Harper did reversed.
Some pundits are excited about the election result believing that Canadians banded together to “vote for change.” My hope is that we will continue working to improve and better our electoral system to ensure sustainable improvements for our culture, social, economic, and environmental concerns. I love Canada but I won’t sugarcoat the fact that Canada must evolve. Many Aboriginal people, the largest growing population in the country, live in horrific conditions. First Nations’ homes are 90 per cent more likely to be without running water, and what water does exist is likely on a boil water advisory. EC goals, such as the right of each person to realize their own potential, are goals we must embrace and ensure our government takes action on.
The election showed us possibility. Canadians, recognizing that EC principles better our communities, rejected hateful bigotry in favour of compassion and a willingness to help refugees in need. Indigenous people voted, many for the first time, and a total of 10 indigenous MPs were elected. Voter turnout in rural areas was the highest it’s been in years. Women are expected to be more equally represented both in the cabinet and within the government. And while Harper strategists worked hard to create division through values, they instead found confirmation about what the majority of Canadians want and are now demanding: inclusion; acceptance; respect; care; and equality. We are at a turning point and Canada is set to flourish through the EC values that will result.
UPDATE: I wrote this article the day of the election. Since then, Prime Minister Trudeau has been sworn in and his cabinet appointed, with exactly a 50/50 split in gender, representation of Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and more. Canada is extremely hopeful at present.
Photo of Justin Trudeau by Alex Guibord