by John J. Metzler
Weirs Times Contributing Writer
UNITED NATIONS—The sweeping electoral victory of Canada’s Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau after ten years of Conservative party government, sets a new agenda and political template for Canada. But beyond retail politics as usual in Ottawa, Justin Trudeau’s win may signal a transformational moment for Canada as the country may return to the days of trendy “Trudeau-mania” when Justin’s father was what seemed a perennial Prime Minister from 1968 through 1984, bringing the country a mix of rock star moments and left wing politics.
Justin Trudeau’s win in national elections was amazing; like a political Lazarus he revived a once dominant but decimated Liberal party from a pitiful 36 seats in parliament to 184 gaining a clear majority over the conservatives who fell from grace and but still held 99 seats. Justin Trudeau, like his late father after Pierre Elliot, has revived an aura of the Canadian Camelot where a style over substance and enchantment trumped the Stephen Harper government’s solid economic record not to mention close ties with Washington.
Justin Trudeau (43) is an engaging and personable French/Canadian fellow, married to Sophie a Quebecquiose TV journalist; they have three lovely children which makes for a photogenic political family.
Justin who evokes his late father’s popularity but still politically polarizing brand, offers a synthesis of Kennedy family charm while at the same time channeling a contemporary Obama political vocabulary.
So what does this mean for the USA?
The Canada/USA relationship is one of the most important but unappreciated ties in the world out of all proportion to what most Americans think or know. Canada is the USA’s number one trade partner, the border at the 49th parallel is a line of peace, and both countries are usually on the same page in the international arena. Canada remains an unappreciated partner and friend most Americans don’t think much about. Here are a few issues to note in the months ahead.
Mideast. Even before assuming office, Justin Trudeau has pledged to pull out Canadian military CF-18 aircraft helping the U.S. in the Middle East fighting Islamic State. With a wink, President Obama basically told Trudeau, ‘no problem.” Though this has marginal strategic significance, this shows Trudeau will not be engaging in the serious military commitments Canada had alongside the USA in Afghanistan.
To its credit the new government wants to expand the Canadian Navy and built the ships in the Atlantic provinces. Sadly, it seems no matter who governs in Ottawa, the Canadian military has been the stepchild of otherwise hefty government spending.
Keystone. Though the Liberals don’t oppose the Keystone pipeline from Alberta, they won’t have the same focus nor vigor as did the previous government in pursuing its construction. An enduring rift in the Obama/Harper relationship concerned Keystone and the interminable U.S. stalling on the needed pipeline. Trudeau will likely allow additional environmental reviews to basically keep Keystone in limbo.
Climate Issues. Very contrary to the Harper government’s more skeptical and less emotional position, Justin Trudeau embraces much of the Obama’s administration’s climate agenda and will bring the Canadian stance closer in sync with many powers at the upcoming Paris Climate Conference. Notably, Al Gore was one of the first to congratulate Justin after his electoral win.
Mideast Diplomacy. The Harper government offered unreserved support to Israel and shared deep concerns over the recent Iran nuclear deal which the U.S. and other powers agreed to.
Trudeau holds a very different view, and as you would expect, is supportive of the deal with Tehran. Moreover while the Harper government cut ties with Iran given the regime’s support of terror, the new government is expected to reestablish diplomat ties with Tehran. Equally Trudeau wants to accept larger numbers of Syrian refugees.
Marijuana. Trudeau promises to legalize marijuana but of course tax the controlled substance.
United Nations. Canada has long played a key and purposeful role at the UN no matter the administrations. Justin plans to revive the old romance.
Great expectations? Or as Toronto’s National Post newspaper opined, “Phase two of the Trudeau Era; Disappointment.”
But now that there’s Camelot in Ottawa, Canada will become cool again, and not just meteorologically, for trendy left-wing progressives in the USA and elsewhere.
After the vote some Americans here quipped, “Now at least we will know the name of the Canadian Prime Minister.”
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations : Germany, Korea, China.