What Concordia students want the new Liberal government to tackle
For the first time in a decade, Canada is starting a new year with a new government. The honeymoon period has started to wane for Justin Trudeau and his new Cabinet: the public is beginning to work on their own resolutions, and is looking to the federal government to do the same.
Students—who make up 58.3 per cent of the entire 18-24 voting bracket according to Statistics Canada—have unique interests and concerns. As many prepare to enter the workforce, some students are looking to the unstable economic climate as something the new Liberal government needs to address.
“The Canadian dollar is down right now, so I think that a heavy emphasis on the economy would strengthen the power of Canada as a major contributor [internationally],” said Chris Karaminas, an English major at Concordia. “I do know people who have felt the struggle of the dollar being down, and I think that it’s important for Canada—as one of the biggest countries in the world, as a ‘superpower’ you might say—to be able to back up whatever we do financially.”
Karaminas isn’t the only one concerned about the dollar, and the impact it’s having on local businesses and job seekers.
“Obviously, we’ve been going downhill,” said Nathaniel Vargas, an electrical engineering major at Concordia. “The dollar’s been going really bad right now. Other than that, creating jobs … I know for some people [finding work is] harder. I know a lot of businesses are starting to close down, I know some restaurants are closing down, mostly around my area—the West Island.”
However, there isn’t much the federal government could do about a low dollar in this situation according to Ryan McKinnell, a political science professor at Concordia who specializes in Canadian politics.
“Energy prices continue to drop, and the American economy keeps getting stronger, so the loonie is probably stuck at 70 cents, if it doesn’t go lower,” explained McKinnell. “I think we’re going to have to get used to it, unfortunately.”
In the meantime, Trudeau encouraged Canadians to see the opportunity in a low dollar when speaking to reporters on Dec. 16. “There will be opportunities for our exporters to benefit from it, but obviously we are always looking at the challenges that a lower [Canadian] dollar will pose … to the Canadian economy in general,” said Trudeau, as quoted by The Globe and Mail.
Others issues of student interest include the protection of Canada’s environment.
“The funding should be there, because the environment needs it to be there, because it’s what the Earth needs,” said Muhammad Malik, a sociology and business double-major. “Something to help prevent global warming and deforestation … stuff like that I feel needs to be addressed by the federal government.”
Malik also believes more needs to be done to combat trash and littering in cities. “Whenever I go through Montreal, I always see lots of trash lying around,” said Malik, who says he often sees the same litter not being picked up.
It’s a view shared by others, such as Adrienne Winrow, a political science major at Concordia. “After Harper’s policies, and where they’ve led to in terms of the world’s view of Canada, I think I’d like to see a complete change … in terms of our environmental policy and how much we’re contributing to international agreements on climate change, and our climate change commitments,” said Winrow.
Trudeau’s platform included several environmental initiatives, such as creating a new Low Carbon Economy Trust which would “provide funding to projects that materially reduce carbon emissions,” according to the Liberal Party platform. The platform also pledges to work with the provinces, to “establish national emissions-reduction targets and ensure that the provinces and territories have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments.”
Trudeau also attended the international climate change conference in Paris last month, promised to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, and in November, ordered “a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic for B.C.’s North Coast,” according to CBC.
“I imagine they’ll try [to address environmental issues],” said McKinnell. “My impression … is that [they] are sincere, and will try to implement something. How successful that will be is in negotiation with the provinces—and that means they have limited time. Every province except Saskatchewan is left-of-centre, but that won’t last forever.”
McKinnell warns that as provinces enter election cycles, more right-leaning governments may come to power. Alberta, in particular—which is, for the first time, being served by an NDP government—means that Trudeau will have to act before the Premier, Rachel Notley, has to start thinking about re-election.
Some, like Winrow, also hope that the federal government’s foreign policy will change to reflect a new role for Canada, internationally.
“What I consider very important to me and to Canada is our place on the world stage, and how we’re viewed on the world stage,” said Winrow. “As well [I want] a commitment to peacekeeping as an overarching principle of our defense policy, as opposed to supporting American invasion and hegemony.”
Trudeau had previously promised to end Operation IMPACT, the fighter jet bombing mission against Daesh as widely reported last October. Currently, the jets continue their mission and the federal government has been unable to provide a timeline on when the mission will end. However, the new government has been praised for its treatment and welcoming of Syrian refugees, with 50,000 applicants planned to be resettled in 2016 alone—a stark contrast to the United States, where 31 governors previously declared that their states would refuse to accept any refugees, according to CNN.
As we enter an American election year, McKinnell says that Canada-U.S. relations will depend on who is elected president of our neighbours to the south.
“Maybe some of the language [between Canada and the United States] is different regarding, say, Russia or Israel and Palestine,” said McKinnell. “But as long as it’s an Obama or Democratic administration, I can’t see the Liberals fundamentally departing from them. Now, if it’s a Republican, I think we can maybe see a return to a Bush-Chretien distancing of ourselves, rhetorically, as much as possible.”
In addition to the above, in his mandate letters, Trudeau outlined what he expects from each member of his Cabinet. This includes, but is not limited to: the decriminalization of marijuana, addressing physician-assisted death, repealing elements of C-51, addressing arctic sovereignty, and preventing suicide among Armed Forces veterans and personnel.