There is no shortage of free advice available to Justin Trudeau these days. Even a celebrity chef from Britain, Jamie Oliver, has weighed in. During a visit to Toronto, he called on the prime-minister-designate to change the labelling on soft drinks so that the sugar amount is measured in teaspoons rather than ounces, teaspoons being easier to visualize.
"The whole of Canada will be behind him," Mr. Oliver predicted, and then went back to promoting his new cookbook.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives joined the chorus and suggested Mr. Trudeau raise the income tax on people earning more than $200,000 to 65 per cent, as opposed to 33 per cent promised by the Liberals during the campaign. (Yeah, no.)
Mr. Trudeau is even getting real-estate advice. Some want him to renovate 24 Sussex Drive, others want him to tear down the aging and dangerously out-of-date prime minister's residence and build something worthy of Canada's head of government. It has all the makings of a reality-television series.
This eagerness to advise Mr. Trudeau is telling. He has sold himself as a progressive, open leader – one whom Canadians can approach. And he does have a lot of work ahead of him. He will be sworn in on Wednesday, the same day he announces his cabinet, and Liberal sources have indicated the new government will deliver a Speech from the Throne in early December.
He has also made a lot of promises. His government's agenda will be packed, and expectations are high. In the spirit of the moment, here are the issues we think he should focus on in his first Throne Speech.
The purging of the sections in Bill C-51 that unmistakably violate civil liberties, and purport even to override the Charter, is a high priority. In particular, the promise of an oversight committee for Canada's security agencies must be acted upon soon.
The Liberal platform makes a clear commitment to reinvigorate Parliament and restore a respectful tone to the House of Commons. It promises that Liberal MPs will normally vote freely, except in matters that are central to the government's program. It will still be tempting to lean on backbenchers, but Mr. Trudeau must resist.
The Liberals have promised not to introduce massive omnibus bills in the guise of budget bills, which MPs are unable to properly scrutinize. To assert this clearly, a law should be enacted that the sections of every new bill should have some rationally intelligible interconnection with each other.
Moreover, the finances of the Commons and the Senate need to be put on a solid and transparent footing, restoring respect to both Houses of Parliament.
Mr. Trudeau's convictions about climate change appear more firmly felt than his predecessor's. And he is right to have invited all the premiers to the Paris conference next month. But he should vigorously urge a carbon tax, rather than cap-and-trade schemes, which tend to encourage deal-making and patronage. The B.C. carbon tax has proved to be both neutral and effective.
At the same time, this week's Alberta budget is a reminder to support Canada's oil-and-gas industry. The NDP government of Rachel Notley is counting too readily on the revival of petroleum revenues. If enough Canadian oil is to be exported, the Keystone XL pipeline project, which the prime-minister-designate supports, needs to be lobbied for in Washington, D.C. – consistently with the Liberals' promise to reinvigorate relations with our North American neighbours.
Mr. Trudeau has declared that there will be no more boil-water advisories on aboriginal reserves – an admirable resolve that in practice will take a bit more time and money than he suggested, but which remains an important priority.
Native education and child care should be a high priority, too. The departing Conservative government made a valiant effort to reach an education agreement, but the Liberals may well have greater success in their diplomacy with the new National Chief, Perry Bellegarde. It's encouraging that aboriginal voters – including Mr. Bellegarde himself – showed much more willingness to vote in the Canadian election than previously. So there's hope for a better consensus.
As well, Mr. Trudeau should call his promised inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. On the other hand, he should be cautious in trying to enact every single recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in spite of vowing to do so. That could entangle this country in inconvenient foreign-policy interventions.
Mr. Trudeau should use most of the modest fiscal deficit he has promised to pay for the badly needed transit infrastructure in the major cities of Canada.
In national health care, he should help strengthen pharmaceutical and home-care programs, overcoming the out-of-date overemphasis on paying for doctors and hospitals, a practice that set in during the early years of Canadian medicare.
The Canada Pension Plan should be strengthened so as to make new provincial pension plans unnecessary.
The long-form census should be reinstated forthwith and, on a related issue, government scientists should no longer be prevented from speaking to the media.
In criminal law, mandatory minimum sentences for less heinous crimes should be reviewed and most of them repealed.
And, not least, the Conservatives' propensity for innumerable minor tax deductions should be replaced by a much more even-handed, neutral approach.
If Mr. Trudeau and the Liberals manage all, or even most, of this in their first year, they will be off to a magnificent start.