New cabinet, more empty platitudes and interventionism from Trudeau
There was little fanfare within Canada around the new group that will attempt to steer the country’s governmental agenda over the next four years.
‘Attempt to’, of course, because Justin Trudeau will seek to downplay his NATO Summit gaffe and row with US President Donald Trump when he reconvenes parliament on Thursday as prime minister of a minority government.
Trudeau’s Liberals won enough seats in Canada’s 338-member House of Commons to form a government but also failed to repeat their 2015 showing after dropping 27 seats. They also lost over a million votes compared to the last election, finishing second in the popular vote.
Given the evident signs of a decline in support, Trudeau looked to curry favor with voters by making a surprise announcement.
It was certainly a surprise to everyone to hear that part of the Cabinet would include a Minister for ‘Middle Class Prosperity’.
What will this new branch of government do? No one really knows, including the person in charge of it.
In her first interview after the appointment, little-known MP for the riding of Ottawa-Vanier, Mona Fortier, didn’t seem to know how to even define ‘middle class’.
“I define the middle class [as] where people feel they can afford their way of life,” Fortier said. “They have a quality of life, and they can… send their kids to play hockey or even have different activities. It’s having the cost of living where you can do what you want with your families.”
"We can't have a one-size fits all approach," says newly named Middle Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier on the goals of the new role, which will use a regional lens to create policies that will aid middle-income earners. #ctvpp#cdnpoliMore at https://t.co/uCQmGSHoELpic.twitter.com/dU8owQbhvn— CTV Power Play (@CTV_PowerPlay) November 22, 2019
Unsurprisingly, across the political and media spectrum, people reveled in the absurdity of it all.
Loving the Ministry of Middle Class Prosperity. Perhaps the #trudeaucabinet should have a Minister of Middle Class Values, who spends the whole time prudishly condemning "young people of today", "social breakdown", and "all the filth on television." #Cabinet— Rev. Michael Coren (@michaelcoren) November 21, 2019
A more suitable title for MP Fortier might as well be ‘Minister of Corporate Welfarism’, given how the Liberals have looked to develop and retain jobs. Under Trudeau – along with governments before him – billions have been doled out to corporations, especially in the energy and auto sector with purported intention of retaining and creating jobs in Canada.
Those jobs have continued to disappear, however, and Ottawa has done little to hold these companies to account.
The Nemak auto parts manufacturer is a good example. The Mexican-based company received $3 million in federal funding towards a technology center that was to have created 70 jobs. But now the company decided it is moving the facility to Mexico, taking the money with it and leaving hundreds of workers in the border city of Windsor in the lurch.
After today’s creation of a federal ministry of Middle Class Prosperity, this has been showing up a lot in my feeds. God bless you, social media. pic.twitter.com/32dHtnfwJi— Murray Mandryk (@MMandryk) November 21, 2019
Trudeau has continued the tradition of giving these companies billions in subsidies and loan write-offs, while jobs bleed to more profitable (read: exploitative) pastures.
At its core, this is also what the SNC Lavalin scandal that marred Trudeau was all about – giving wealthy companies public dollars while also allowing them to circumvent laws and ethics, in exchange for flimsy commitments about providing jobs.
Trudeau has created a Ministry of Middle Class Prosperity, but he's forgotten some other important portfolios.- Ministry of Double Standards & Contextualization- Ministry of Wokeness- Ministry of Blackface/Brownface- Ministry of Groping & Experiencing Things Differently https://t.co/2mg4xiL9Zl— J.P. Luisi (@JPLuisi1) November 20, 2019
Beyond the gimmickry of this bizarre new ministry, the appointment of Canada’s hawkish foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, to the post of deputy prime minister is another significant indication of Trudeau’s plan for the coming years.
Freeland has played a significant and direct role in pushing a more aggressive foreign agenda, particularly in Latin America where she figured prominently in efforts to bring down Venezuela’s government through the Organization of American States as well as the now lame-duck Lima Group.
Before leaving for her new post, Freeland’s Global Affairs ministry was among the first to give its blessing to the coup against Bolivian President Evo Morales, in favor of right-wing Christian extremist Jeanine Anez whose Democrat Social Movement garnered four percent of the vote in the country’s last election.
Of course, not even a hint of irony that while continuing to pay lip service to indigenous people and human rights, Trudeau and Freeland condoned the bloody overthrow of the region’s only indigenous president.
In a departure from Liberal tradition, Freeland has also embraced far-right leaders from Brazil to Ukraine in her foreign policy aims.
This is astonishing. Chrystia Freeland standing next to Brazil’s far right Bolsonaro in Davos to announce Canada’s support for coup in Venezuela. (Bolsonaro just took power after election in which his main opponent was jailed — by his now justice minister.) #cdnpolihttps://t.co/X30i8ieI3l— Derrick O'Keefe 🌹🌱 (@derrickokeefe) January 24, 2019
The Liberals paint themselves as doves, but have at the same time deployed hundreds of troops to Iraq and sent naval warships to boost NATO fleets, as NATO head Jens Stoltenberg pointed out.
Nonetheless, Freeland has carved out a favorable public image and will now likely play an even larger role in shaping Canada’s domestic and foreign policy. She is also more than likely on her way to taking the reins of the Liberal Party after Trudeau.
Before she does, however, the Liberals will have to figure out how to govern in an increasingly fractured country. Trudeau has little support in climate change conscious Quebec, and even less in the extraction supporting provinces in the West, particularly oil-rich Alberta, where some extreme factions have even started talking about separation from the commonwealth.
This is unlikely, but don’t put it past Trudeau and the Liberals to devise another stunt to allay anxieties, imagined and real.
By Pablo Vivanco
Pablo Vivanco is a journalist and analyst specializing in politics and history in the Americas, and served as the Director of teleSUR English. Recent bylines include The Jacobin, Asia Times, The Progressive and Truthout. Follow him on Twitter@pvivancoguzman
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.