Here's yet another to add to the list of promises dodged, delayed or disregarded by the Liberal government.
Youth unemployment in this country is at 13 per cent. That's almost double the national average. During the election campaign, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised to do away with employment insurance premiums for a 12-month period for employers who give permanent jobs to youth. This was a measure taken by the Jean Chrétien government in the 1990s. Mr. Trudeau recalled that it had a great effect. "That's exactly what we need right now."
Well, not exactly. In the budget, the program wasn't there. Didn't make the cut. Did it get overlooked? Did the Minister for Youth not make a strong enough case?
Not likely. The Minister for Youth is none other than Mr. Trudeau himself.
Promised outlays for youth employment got shortchanged in other areas of the budget as well. For a prime minister representing generational change, it's odd, especially given the Liberals' willingness to spend, spend, spend and to go into big, big and bigger deficits.
Retreating on the EI-reduction plan is not such a big deal in itself. But the frequency with which pledges are being cast aside is a legitimate cause for concern. Trudeau team members surely don't need to be reminded of the importance of maintaining the public trust. If they don't keep their word, they'll lose it.
They're doing some things to make the system more open. The latest is a reform they adopted on the weekend that does away with the party membership concept, allowing anyone to take part in party activities.
But their readiness to dodge campaign commitments runs contrary to that spirit. It all started with the highly inflated estimates of the number of Syrian refugees the country could take in prior to the Christmas deadline. The budget then brought on a projected deficit three times the size of what was promised in the election campaign. It didn't set a target date for a balanced budget, which the campaign had also promised. A promise for a reduction of the small-business tax was put forward in the campaign. In the budget, it wasn't there.
In the campaign, the Liberals said there would be no chance we'd be buying those cripplingly costly F-35 fighter jets. Now those jets are back among the contenders on the procurement list. In the campaign, it sounded as if there would be substantive changes to the over-the-top anti-terror legislation. Now it appears the changes will be modest. On health care, there was no mention or earmarking of funds in the budget for the Liberal pledge to put $3-billion into home care. On promises to reform Access to Information laws, there's a big stall. Meaningful reforms may not come in before the next election – and wouldn't that be convenient?
Well, okay, you might say, every government breaks campaign pledges, even major ones. How about Pierre Trudeau's flip-flop in deciding to bring in wage and price controls after promising not to do that in the 1974 election? How about Brian Mulroney's bringing in free trade with the United States after swearing up and down on becoming Tory leader that he wouldn't touch free trade with a barge poll? How about Jean Chrétien giving the impression (sort of) during the 1993 election campaign that he would do away with the much-detested GST? It never happened. How about Stephen Harper promising a new era of openness and transparency, only to do the opposite?
It might be noted that reneging on the promises made in some of those instances, certainly on free trade, was a good thing. And it might be noted that a change of mind is sometimes necessary if circumstances change.
But there is little evidence that changed conditions prompted all these Liberal reversals. Instead, they evince somewhat of a cavalier attitude, suggesting that now that they've won, they need not worry about the pledges they made in order to win.
That kind of arrogance is the gateway downward.