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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Andrew Coyne: Trudeau’s first three months in power big on symbolism, short on substance


Three months in, the governing style of Justin Trudeau’s government is coming into focus. It is one part not being Stephen Harper, one part symbolic gesture, one part wriggling out of campaign promises, and one part saying yes to everybody. You thought the Harper government was all about the permanent campaign? Get used to it.

For a government that makes much of its progressive, forward-looking credentials, the Trudeau crew are unusually obsessed with digging up the recent past. The platform itself was filled with promises (my colleague, Bill Watson, puts the number at 50 ) to reverse this or that Conservative initiative. Some of these were well-considered — restoring the long-form census, forswearing the use of omnibus bills — others, such as abolishing income-splitting, less so. But what was common to all was their relentless symbolic focus, achieving maximum political mileage for least expense.

That trend has continued in office. From dropping highly charged legal appeals — the niqab case being the most famous example — to repealing laws that had become lightning rods for favoured client groups (e.g. bills requiring greater transparency in the affairs of unions and native bands) to such relatively minor irritants as the monument to the victims of Communism in Ottawa or the “Mother Canada” statue in Cape Breton, the Trudeau government has at all times been at pains to remind voters of the differences between itself and the government that preceded it, at least so long as this does not require much actual change in direction...