Grading the federal Liberals one year on 

Poli-sci profs weigh in on government progress

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Giving the grade Stewart Prest, a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, says the Trudeau Liberals have earned a solid B+ to this point, but the tough decisions lie ahead.

With a year of governance under its belt, how is Canada's federal government doing under Justin Trudeau and the Liberals?

"I think it's a solid B+ right now," said Stewart Prest, a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

"Part of this is that they've had something of an open field, with both of the other major opposition parties in the middle of long leadership campaigns, and they're sort of in the consultative and promissory stage still — some of the hard decisions still lie in front of them."

A number of federal and provincial issues are coming to a head, including questions around health-care funding and the environment, Prest said.

The decision to put a price on carbon — lauded in some circles, derided in others — is a good step forward, but the government seems to want to have it both ways on climate change, Prest said.

"They're going to try to sell it as the common sense compromise: that they are... serious about action on environmental change and climate change, but at the same time, they're serious about maintaining Canadian economic prospects in the short term, which it seems pretty clear they've concluded includes pipelines," Prest said.

"So they're going to look to have some internal projects completed inside Canada and projects like the LNG project in Squamish go ahead, and it's going to be an open question: who buys that and to what extent?"

David Moscrop, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of British Columbia, offered a similar one-year assessment.

"It's mixed across the board with nothing really standing out as major accomplishments, but you know, they also haven't caulked anything up particularly badly," Moscrop said. "That, to a lot of people, is good enough for now."

The government did good work on assisted dying, cleaning up the refugee file, moving forward on electoral reform and oversight for intelligence apparatuses, among other things, but the real work is yet to come, Moscrop said.

The Liberals will have to start sending clear signals on issues like pipelines and marijuana legislation.

"It doesn't need to be rushed, but they shouldn't leave (marijuana legislation) on the order paper to die or try to run out the clock with it," Moscrop said.

"They've been stalling and trying to have it both ways on pipelines for a long time, and I understand it's tricky waters and this intersects with an election coming up in B.C. in a couple months, but it's time for the government to signal very clearly what their pipeline agenda is going to be going forward," he said.

"They've approved one, but there's a lot more out there, and the populations of these provinces involved — and the market — needs to know what's going to happen."

As for the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding, Moscrop said he thinks MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones has done fine as a rookie MP.

"And in fact better than fine, but she's just going to lose some because there's going to be national interests that trump her ability to advocate for her riding," he said.

"And that's too bad, but it happens. That's the nature of a federation."

An MP can advocate for their constituents up until a decision is made, but afterwards there isn't much choice for them but to support it, Prest said.

"(Goldsmith-Jones) is going to be in a position that when decisions are taken that come down on the side of new development in the oil and gas industry, she's going to have to make the case back to her constituents about why that was decided, and she may end up paying a price for that," he said.

It's too early to make a final judgment, and with many decisions yet to be made, Canada should be in for an interesting couple of years.

"So much is going to hinge on how these promises are implemented, and then all these other decisions that are yet to be taken," Prest added.

"There's a lot left to be said."

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