Many on right claim Trudeau is the most divisive PM ever. I think there is some truth to it, but not for reasons many believe. For starters I don’t believe it is possible to be a PM and not be divisive to some degree. Anyone who is PM is going to have to make choices and no matter what choice is made, some will be upset. The question becomes more are they causing unnecessary division or not. Likewise sometimes doing the right thing will result in strong divisions but still should be done anyways. Ending segregation in US south, legalizing gay marriage were all divisive but yet totally the right thing to do so bringing forward policies that are divisive is not always bad. In fact throughout human history, most forms of progress have faced strong levels of opposition and were not easy. Very few cases of progress have happened without some pushback and division. Divisive policies only wrong if they are unnecessary and done for sole purpose of conquer and divide.
Many have said Canada is more divided than ever and Trudeau is primary cause of it. While I think first statement is probably true if you mean most divided in past 25 years, but not most ever (I remember Meech Lake and Charlottetown creating even bigger divisions than we see now). But I only think Trudeau is partially not fully at fault. I believe rise of social media and more going to echo chambers is biggest culprit of greater polarization and would happen no matter who was in power. Likewise often political trends in US tend to spread northward about a decade later, so with US seeing rising polarization, it was only a matter of time before some spillover into Canada. But despite spillover I do not believe we are as divided as US is. Unlike US, a large number of Canadians don’t align with anyone political party and are willing to consider more than one whereas in US, vast majority of Americans are firmly in the Democrat or Republican column. No doubt in Canada you have your fair share of rabid partisans who believe in idea my party always right and other party all bad. And certainly on social media, algorithms tend to push those types the most. But I still don’t believe they are representative of most Canadians at least not yet. I also think the right is partially to blame for the division and it is not totally fault of left or Liberals. Using extreme over the top rhetoric, threatening to cause chaos if cannot get your way like we saw with freedom convoy is definitely part of what is causing division. I may not like many of Trudeau’s policies but I also respect he won the last three elections fair and square and likewise understand many of his policies are popular with a decent segment of Canadians. I find the libertarian types the worst as they seem to take view any increase in size of government or further restrictions as a threat to freedom and undemocratic, when it is not. Fact is we have charter that protects rights and whether we have bigger or smaller government is why we have elections to decide this. There is nothing that binds government to take a minimalist approach. How large or how small is simply a reflection of what people voted for. And here is the reality: more Canadians favour an activist government than a minimalist government. If your more libertarian types were serious, they would try to understand why people favour more activist and make case how a more minimalist achieves better results instead of insulting those who want a more activist government and acting like a bunch of whiny children when they cannot get their way. Four issues many claim are divisive are vaccine mandates, gun laws, climate change policies, and political correctness. Below I will discuss on each.
Political correctness is one many claim Trudeau and others on left being unnecessarily divisive. This is a complex one with no easy answer. While we have made great strides in creating a more tolerant society, barriers and discrimination still exist to this day. Because it is less overt than past, many not impacted by it may see efforts to stem it as over the top and unnecessarily divisive. Being a white male myself, it is tough to know if decisions are being made to appeal to your woke SJW types who always look for something to be angry about or whether it is a legitimate problem. I think big problem here is many pushing this just insult and call people bigots if they ask questions rather than trying to explain reasoning. Yes some undoubtedly want to hold onto their privilege and advantages but others like myself genuinely want to help, but we feel policies are doing more harm than good. So a reasoned explanation here could go a long way. It won’t end division, but would at least bring those on the fence over while the hardcore types will never be persuaded. Not being able to read Trudeau’s mind, I cannot say what is the rationale here and if genuine and right, genuine but misguided, or just trying to pander to left wing woke ideology. I try to assume most people in politics are well intentioned thus one of the first two, but I can understand with cynicism at record high while some think latter.
Second one is guns and many in gun lobby have claimed new gun laws are creating unnecessary divisions. I disagree on this as gun ownership is a privilege not a right in this country and guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. As such it is perfectly legitimate to ban handguns and/or semi-automatics. There is nothing anti-democratic about it nor is it authoritarian or a violation of one’s rights. Unlike US which has the 2nd amendment, we have no such law. And those wanting to see those banned are not ignorant, not authoritarian, but simply have a different set of values. As is case on so many issues, it comes down to whether one has a more individualistic approach or more collectivist approach. Unlike US which leans heavily towards the individualistic side, Canada is sort of midway between an individualistic society and a collectivist one. For those who favour a highly individualistic society, view is government must prove such guns a danger and focus should be on individual who owns the gun, not across the board ban. If one favours a more collectivist society, the argument would be more guns are harmful to a society and goal should be to have as few guns as realistically possible. Too many in gun lobby assume Canada is a highly individualistic society and ignore that in a lot of ways we are fairly collectivist. Maybe not full blown socialist, but whether fact we have covid restrictions longer than most, restrict private health care more than most, limit sale of alcohol more so, lower speed limits and so much more; Canada does tend to have a more collectivist approach than most Western countries. Some may not like this, but to claim Trudeau being divisive for simply following approach we have taken to many issues is plain nonsense. Because we are so influenced by American culture, many forget the principles that founded our two countries are radically different. Not saying one is better than the other, just we are different and as someone who has travelled to 69 countries, I always take approach of respecting cultural traditions even if different than my own or even if make little sense. Fact is on gun bans, Liberals, NDP, BQ, and Greens who together got around 60% of votes ran on this and won. So Canadians voted for this and it is perfectly legitimate and justifiable government’s actions. Fine to oppose them as many do but saying they are illegitimate or authoritarian and insulting those who support government is totally unnecessary.
Next is climate change and people claim government’s actions are divisive for two reasons here: 1. They hit the poorest in society the most 2. They make Alberta & Saskatchewan bear the brunt and take a much bigger hit. No doubt on the first one, those with more modest incomes will have a tougher time affording many basic things due to new climate change rules. But solution here doesn’t have to be therefore do nothing. That is one option, but other is simply provide greater assistance to those with lower incomes to soften the blow while make those with higher incomes pay a greater proportion. Second is true to some extent but I don’t believe Trudeau is out to deliberately screw Alberta & Saskatchewan. I think he wants to take strong action on climate change and because energy sector is biggest emitter and plays a bigger role in economy of those two, they will get hit harder. No doubt fact policies hit some regions harder than others needs to be considered. However climate change is real and doing nothing will be very costly. While Canada only emits 1.6% of GHGs, that is like saying the amount we pay in taxes is largely irrelevant so therefore should stop paying taxes. Point is on collective issues, we all have to do our part even if each one of us only makes a very small difference because when added up, if everyone took this approach nothing would get done. Now I do feel on climate change Trudeau has gone too far and has taken too much of a one sided approach rather than a balanced one. But I recognize that in a liberal democracy like Canada you will get a variety of views here and solution is if feel he has gone too far, vote for someone else. Yes some may want greater transfer from those two to rest of Canada, but that is not different than many wanting higher taxes on rich. In Canada, equity for good or ill is a very core component of who we are and its not just on this but on most issues we tend to place a much higher emphasis on equity than most Western countries as opposed to simply equality of opportunity or equal treatment.
Final is vaccine mandates and many said Trudeau was unnecessarily divisive here and should have never implemented them. I do agree calling them racist and misogynist was over the top and unnecessary. But I still at time felt they were appropriate. Fact is covid is a deadly virus that has killed over 50,000 Canadians and on issues like that, it requires collective action not individual choice. When rights intersect, it is about which causes less harm. And right to live exists too thus I believe earlier on vaccine mandates were quite appropriate. Many who opposed them ignored that it was either have another lockdown or allow businesses to open for only vaccinated people. That may no longer be the case with Omicron thus why most have dropped since but it was earlier with Delta. If we opened up for everyone back then, our health system would have collapsed and trying to preserve our health system while minimize harms of lockdowns is a very worthy goal. And vaccine mandates helped achieve them. Rights are not unlimited in Canada, see section 1 and more importantly I believe we are part of a larger society and have a responsibility to others not just ourselves. No one can stop one from being selfish, which not getting vaccine without legitimate medical reason was, but actions have consequences and many protesting those seem to ignore that.
In summary, I am not a huge fan of Trudeau, but unlike others on right I do not find him overly divisive. I recognize a few truths many on right refuse to accept, which is that Canada is a fairly collectivist society and much of our history has been built on activist government. I also recognize more Canadians lean left than right. I may not totally like this, but I do recognize Canada is still a great country to live in and much like in a household I realize sometimes you cannot get everything you want. That doesn’t mean you act like a petulant child which I find far too many on right are doing when cannot get their way. Instead they need to make case why different approach is needed while at same time accepting reality that Canada is a centre-left country, we are more collectivist than most Western countries even if not full on socialist, and most don’t mind an activist government. Later in next week or two, I will write on whether Trudeau has undermined our freedoms and is authoritarian or not. Fact I need to even write on final is worrisome but I feel with many calling him a dictator it is time to explain why they are wrong.
2 thoughts on “Is Trudeau divisive?”
Miles, neither you or I will ever send Justin a birthday card, that’s for sure. Which makes your reasoned, tempered analysis of his policies that much more impressive in my view. Where I most likely differ from you is on whether SJWs are looking for things to be angry about – I don’t think in our era of increasing inequities anyone has to look far to find something to be righteously angered about, hopefully to positive action. I do however feel that at times, Trudeau performs rather than truly deeply believes some of the SJ statements he makes, and that when he performs in that way, with an angry or holier than thou tone, he unnecessarily deepens divisions rather than bring more people into his tent.
That said, I am also glad he has been more willing than previous PMs to tackle some long overdue issues. First and foremost, I am glad to see that he has doe more to take on some of the many issues that have harmed and continue to harm Indigenous Peoples, even when he takes more credit than he deserves and does not do as much as I think he should.
On the matter of vaccine mandates, it seems that everyone has an opinion of what could have been dine better by their respective governments, but when we look at the outcomes to date, Canada seems to have made more sound public health calls throughout the pandemic, and especially within the first few years, than many countries. As a retired health professional, I can only say to the critics, both professional and laymen, I am grateful for those experts who led us through it to this point – and I am utterly convinced that none of the critics could guarantee they would have done a better job in the moment – though no doubt there are some critics who are sure they would have done better. I think what matters now is how willing our politicians are to enact the kinds of environmental, health, social and economic policies and programs that make us better prepared for the next pandemic that will surely arrive.
I think on the SJW thing, my problem is more some seem to come across looking for discrimination even when it isn’t there. No doubt discrimination and inequities still exist in Canada and I don’t believe in turning a blind eye on them. At same time compared to other countries or even Canada in past, we do pretty well relatively speaking even if imperfect. You take Canada’s promise to increase immigration to 500,000 a year which is around 1.5% of population. While it is debatable whether a good or bad idea (where do we house them all), there isn’t a backlash and most opposition is more that it might increase cost of living, not it will undermine our identity. I cannot think of any other country I know of where you could propose an immigration level of 1.5% and all Hell wouldn’t break loose so that is very telling. Likewise I remember 20 years ago how controversial idea of gay marriage was whereas today it is largely accepted across the political spectrum and even most on right support it. That is not to say Homophobia doesn’t still exist. Just saying how much progress we have made.
On handling of pandemic, I agree health officials generally best but its always a multi-pronged approach as both physical, mental, and economic health need to be factored in. A covid zero policy like China had until recently would have probably lead to fewer deaths, but caused a lot of other collateral damage far worse thus why I believe it is a balancing act. On the vaccine mandates, I think they were necessary at time as number who were vaccinated at time was not high enough we could fully open to all without risking crashing our health system. So it was a choice of leaving those businesses where we had them shut down completely or opening to only vaccinated and I think latter seemed logical. Now more vaccinated and more infected means we have higher immunity and relying on natural immunity may have worked long term but in the interim would have crashed the health system. Never mind mandates were mostly for Delta variant not Omicron and Delta had a much higher lethality rate than Omicron did. A great example on this was in Fall of 2021, Alberta & Saskatchewan who had lowest vaccine levels saw their health systems nearly collapse and over half of covid hospital admissions were in those two provinces despite only 15% of population. Those two were also a month behind implementing them compared to BC, Ontario, and Quebec. Even in BC, Peace River District which had lowest vaccine rates was hardest hit while Lower Mainland least hit where vaccine rates highest. I think those opposed to vaccine mandates were thinking more of it as a rights violation and public health was something they really didn’t care about. Some believe in idea rights are absolute and trump everything else whereas in Canada they do not. Section 1 of charter makes that clear and we are not like US where rights are absolute although even there Supreme court over a century ago did uphold mandatory vaccine law in Massachusetts that was challenged.
I do think though on vaccine mandates those pushing could have sold it in a more positive way than negative. They could have said that we are bringing these in so we can avoid another lockdown so it would be seen as a way to loosen not tighten restrictions. Yes the hardcore types would still oppose that but I think phrasing that way would have been better. I also think during Omicron, fact many provinces locked down anyways really damaged support for them and we should have followed BC (asides gyms that was a mistake), Manitoba, Nova Scotia and most European countries as well as some blue states in US like Hawaii who stayed open through Omicron with vaccine mandates. That would have made case for them much stronger.