COLUMN: Because it’s 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau started this glib phrase after naming his cabinet in November 2015. Asked by a reporter why cabinet was gender-balanced, he replied, “because it’s 2015”. Liberal MP Mauril Belanger said the same in the House of Commons on Wednesday, “because it’s 2016”. This was during his speech introducing a bill to change the wording of our national anthem to be gender-neutral. No issue with changing the wording here, not a big deal. If the other parties were smart, they’d move for unanimous consent and pass the bill through as fast as they can. Why? Because it is 2016, and this is a Liberal distraction ploy.

There are more pressing issues such as the economy to deal with, yet the Liberals are resorting to the same straw-man politik the Ontario Liberal government has perfected. While a storm is brewing, throw up a straw-man, sorry, straw-person, to distract attention away from the real issues. What Canadians, and their government, should be focusing on is the economy. But budgets balance themselves, and because it’s 2016 we’ll worry about songs, and other feel-good initiatives.

The saying “because it’s 2016” could be used as a rallying cry for Canadians to make this real change the Prime Minister campaigned on.

The government announced Wednesday that there would be new tests for pipeline projects. Part of those tests was climate impact and consultation with indigenous peoples. Why not all Canadians? See the government could say that all Canadians would be consulted because it is 2016 and that makes sense. Instead of using terms to divide different groups, it can be used to include everyone, removing labels. Why? Because it’s 2016. A nation 148 and a half years old should be at the point where labels don’t matter, right? It is 2016 after all.

Same with government’s handling of inter-provincial issues. Because it’s 2016, it would make sense that all provinces would work together in helping fix the economy. It would make sense that some provinces could pinch in and help those who are struggling. That means Quebec helping Alberta. Because it’s 2016, and that Quebec has seen a lion’s share of equalization payments, it would be fair that Quebec helps Alberta for a change. This could mean that province deals with certain belligerent Montreal mayors. Or that Quebec helps lobby for help in the oil industry, while lobbying the federal government for help with Bombardier. Quid pro quo if you will. The federal government could shepherd cooperation, because it’s 2016.

The Senate is another place where, because it’s 2016, the government could finally reform. The Prime Minister has lots of political capital currently. He rides the top of the polls, Canadians love him, he is the world’s media darling right now. Use that capital to have real change to the Senate, and reform it. Make it equal in representation across the country. Make it elected by the population as it should be, and give it the power to be effective. Tie the constitutional amendment to fix the senate to funding for Alberta and Quebec’s failing industries. Give everyone unicorns and lollipops. Use the political capital available to make the real change happen, because it’s 2016 and Canadians deserve better than appointed party hacks.

Because it’s 2016 could be the rallying cry for effective change and equality in the country. Where one’s gender or race does not matter. Where everyone’s voice matters. To do anything less than that, to use gender, race, and quotas, to steer policy or discussion, is politics as usual. Because it’s 2016, we should be better.