Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government was coming under fire early this week for falling short on one of its campaign promises.
During last year’s election campaign, Trudeau had pledged to create 5,000 “green jobs” annually for young Canadians, to fill roles as guides and interpreters with Parks Canada. But according to figures from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the government is well behind its goal, with just 1,636 students employed by Parks Canada this past summer.
While that represented an increase of 435 over the number employed during the summer of 2015, it only represents roughly one-third of the promised target despite the millions of dollars earmarked for the federal youth employment strategy in the Liberals’ first budget.
In a story by The Canadian Press, based on statistics from the ESDC, the number of green jobs is projected to surpass 2,000 by the end of the fiscal year next March – still well short of the promised 5,000 jobs.
The story also pointed out that this shouldn’t come as a surprise to the government. Parks Canada reportedly warned the government that there would be “significant capacity challenges” in trying to achieve the campaign goal of 5,000 green jobs.
This isn’t the first time a campaign promise proved more difficult to actually implement. Trudeau and the Liberals found that out with their campaign pledge to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of 2015.
The real-world logistics involved in trying to accomplish the monumental task forced the Liberals to scale back their objective following the election. By year end, about 10,000 refugees had been brought to Canada, and the 25,000 target was finally met by the end of February.
The Liberals also promised to run deficits of less than $10 billion in each of their first three years and to balance the budget by the fourth year. Trudeau has since acknowledged that the deficit will exceed $10 billion this year and balancing the budget by Year 4 is going to be a challenge.
A Canadian Press story in February noted that, according to a non-partisan, citizen-driven website called TrudeauMetre.ca, the Liberals had also fallen short on their plan to immediately implement firearm-marking regulations to help police trace guns used in crime, and to ensure that the tax break for middle-income earners would be revenue-neutral (it will actually cost the federal treasury $1.2 billion annually).
The story said the Liberals had already followed through on nine other promises.
As for the broken promises, do we really expect all campaign promises to be kept? That seems like a pie-in-the-sky view, something that should be avoided by anyone with a knowledge of politics. Even if promises are made with genuine intent, they sometimes prove either unworkable or unwise in the grand scheme of things.
Jean Chretien’s Liberals of the early 1990s famously vowed to get rid of the controversial Goods and Services Tax implemented in 1991 by the Mulroney Conservatives, but removing that valuable revenue source proved to be much more difficult in actual fact.
Figures from Revenue Canada in 1994 show that in 1992-93, the government collected more than $30 billion from the GST, which was then at seven per cent. That’s a large chunk of change for a government to try to replace.
Little wonder the Liberals kept it after taking power in 1993.
Citizens should take campaign promises with a grain of salt. Prudent governments will certainly try to keep as many of their promises as possible, and especially the major ones (although Chretien managed to win two more elections in spite of backtracking on the GST).
But voters should accept that not all campaign promises are going to be kept. That’s just the nature of the real world.
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