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Tom Mulcair: Park littered with trash after 'pilot project' is perfect symbol of Trudeau governance

Local resident Cemre Uzumnehmetoglu and her dog Viktor walk on the boardwalk of Montreal's Lachine Canal in Montreal, Wednesday, April 17, 2024 (Christinne Muschi / THE CANADIAN PRESS) Local resident Cemre Uzumnehmetoglu and her dog Viktor walk on the boardwalk of Montreal's Lachine Canal in Montreal, Wednesday, April 17, 2024 (Christinne Muschi / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
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Justin Trudeau has given a whole new meaning to the expression, setting the bar low. His flacks told journalists over the weekend that if they’re only 15 points behind the Conservatives by summer, their plan is working. Yikes.

The Liberals have tons of friends but there was hardly anyone singing the praises of last week’s federal budget. When the Liberals boasted that there would be no increase in the deficit, what they really meant was no increase beyond the $40 billion deficit already announced. That, of course, is in addition to $19 billion in tax increases necessary to help cover the $53 billion in new spending.

Despite the Trudeau government's claims that the massive 33 per cent increase in capital gains tax inclusion will only hit "those at the very top," it soon became clear to all observers that that simply wasn’t true.

Many ordinary Canadians would get nailed once it comes into force on June 25. For those artisans and entrepreneurs whose retirement planning included investing in and then selling a property, the effects could be devastating. Politicians like to talk about helping the ‘little guy’ but tend to forget that most people don’t get big government pensions.

Self-employed Canadians work hard and play by the rules but they have to plan. This tax increase hits them hard and, as Bill Morneau correctly said, it is essentially retroactive. Your only choice is a fire sale of your property before June 25.

No one should really be surprised that the budget has been a tough sell. Prior to getting elected prime minister, Trudeau famously said that if you grow the economy, the deficit will balance itself. He has added more debt than all prime ministers in the previous 148 years of Canadian history, combined. To say he’s a lousy manager is an understatement.

The Liberals continued to use every smoke and mirror trick in the book, like putting off spending announced in previous budgets, to try to keep a fig leaf on this newest deficit. That includes the now $14-billion gap between what they’ve promised to fight climate change and what’s actually there.

All this, of course, after Trudeau increased the size of the civil service by an incredible 40 per cent. What could go wrong? They’ve now got tons of dough and the bureaucrats to spend it, right?

Sometimes the smallest example pops into the news and becomes a fabulous metaphor. If you’d like to understand why the current federal government is one of the worst examples of public administration in memory, look at what happened in the lovely park owned and run by Parks Canada along the Lachine Canal.

People enjoy the good weather by the Lachine Canal in Montreal, July 2, 2022 (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Lachine is an older section of Montreal along the Saint-Lawrence. Its name (literally meaning 'China') is a joke going back centuries when some voyageurs tried to find a way to their way to China but never quite made it. The lands of their seigneur were dubbed China and the name stuck.

The British later built an important canal and a railway there and it developed into what, at the time, was one of the most important industrial centres in Canada. The area around that refurbished canal is now a Government of Canada park.

Last week the federal employees responsible for the park decided to remove the garbage cans. All of the garbage cans. Not surprisingly, people who live in the area are upset. There’s now garbage everywhere and bags full of dog poop are being left on their lawns.

Bags of dog poop are left on a boardwalk of Montreal's Lachine Canal in Montreal, Wednesday, April 17, 2024 (Christinne Muschi / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The federal announcement is a masterwork of high-sounding bureaucratese. It is one for the ages. Here’s my favourite part:

"We know that actions in the field have been taken quickly and could have surprised some people. An awareness campaign is being prepared," reads a statement by Parks Canada. "This pilot project to reduce waste at the Lachine Canal NHS includes the withdrawal or relocation of garbage bins as well as potentially new types of facilities in strategic areas of the canal. It is important to remember that waste management remains everyone’s responsibility and duty."

Everyone’s, apparently, except the people who are paid to remove it. It’s just such a magnificent parable for the federal government of Justin Trudeau.

There is a formula.

You emote about climate change but spend $35 billion on a pipeline to increase oil production. Show up for armed forces parades but cut their budgets year after year (until an election year when voters are becoming embarrassed by our failure to meet our NATO obligations). You say housing isn’t federal jurisdiction until younger voters are about to throw you out for failing to build houses for their generation, then you scramble and pose for the cameras.

Hundreds of families flock to this lovely federal park in Lachine every day during the summer. The feds have one job: keep it nice and clean and safe. Instead, they’ll be running an ‘awareness campaign’ and monitoring a pilot project. It’s a laughable pastiche of what the Trudeau government has become. They’ve got people to run an awareness campaign and evaluate a pilot project about trash but no one to actually take out the trash.

All that’s missing is a multi-million dollar contract to McKinsey to study it. Trudeau likes talking about making those at the "very top" pay. In terms of public administration,Trudeau’s model has been for those at the "very top" to fake it and keep passing the buck.

The real and often difficult work of actually running the government has simply not been getting done on Trudeau’s watch. That model is now being copied at all levels of the bureaucracy.

You fake it. You have meetings about taking out the garbage then a pilot project to avoid having to actually do the work.

No wonder Canadian voters seem poised to put Trudeau and his government out with the trash.

Tom Mulcair was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada between 2012 and 2017

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