Our best hope for a new direction

Published on October 16, 2015

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau waves to supporters after he spoke at a party rally in Summerside on Labour Day.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 10 years in power has not served Prince Edward Island well. The unpopularity of the federal government should be of no surprise, given Mr. Harper’s punitive decisions that have negatively affected the Island.

We have a federal government that laid off hundreds at Veterans Affairs, which has its national headquarters in Charlottetown. Ottawa also closed Veterans Affairs’ local office, forcing those who risked their lives to protect our safety and freedom to seek assistance outside the province.

A disproportionate number of federal cuts have affected P.E.I., according to independent studies.

Changes to employment insurance – benefits that Islanders have earned and deserve – have taken millions of dollars out of our economy. The Island was also divided into two EI zones that pitted community against community.

We sense there is a feeling in Mr. Harper’s circle that Islanders and Atlantic Canadians would rather draw EI benefits than work. The prime minister can never shake the fallout over his criticism about the ‘culture of defeatism’ in Atlantic Canada.

The restrictions imposed last year on temporary foreign workers for P.E.I. fish plants and farms caused hardships for Island businesses, especially among seasonal industries.

The prime minister thumbed his nose at this province by appointing a senator who failed to meet residency requirements, and then left P.E.I. under-represented in Ottawa, as we are now short two members in the upper chamber.

This election has also become one about trust and leadership. It’s beyond belief that Mr. Harper didn’t know about Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payoff to Sen. Mike Duffy. The Duffy trial, which resumes next month, has brought national embarrassment upon this province.

So why endorse a political party now?

Under The Guardian’s renewed commitment to be your bold champion of this Island, this seemed like the perfect time to take a stand on an issue as important as the upcoming federal election.

RELATED: The Guardian to endorse political party, leader in editorial

We see the best hope for a new direction with a Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government.

This was not an easy decision. Thomas Mulcair and his NDP were strong contenders. But how can Mr. Mulcair pay for his promises and commit to an immediate balanced budget? He has squandered his lead in the polls. He can’t win this election.

So, why Mr. Trudeau?

Trudeau has promised to reverse EI cuts, return the retirement age to 65 and restore funding to public institutions, like the CBC. He will pour millions of dollars into badly needed infrastructure projects across P.E.I. and billions across Canada.

Mr. Trudeau promises a new way of governing, with more accountability — and Canadians will be watching to ensure he delivers.

He is a fresh face with new ideas for a new generation. He will be more open and tolerant. He will improve women’s reproductive rights and bring marijuana laws into the 21st century.

There will be tax cuts to the middle class — the focus of his entire campaign. He represents the next generation of Canadian political leadership.

Mr. Trudeau has been criticized for his lack of experience.

But we believe that will be offset by a solid backbench.

Former solicitor general Lawrence MacAulay is considered a shoo-in in Cardigan, a riding hit hard by federal government cuts.

In Charlottetown, Sean Casey will be the likely choice to join Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet should he withstand a spirited challenge from NDP candidate Joe Byrne.

In Malpeque, Wayne Easter has been an effective agriculture critic and a thorn in Mr. Harper’s side for 10 years. He faced his most serious challenge from the Conservatives in 2011 but Malpeque is now considered a safe Liberal seat again.

The Liberal party will face its toughest challenge in Egmont.

Gail Shea, the incumbent fisheries minister, is suddenly considered vulnerable with polls predicting she may lose what was considered a safe Tory seat.

Herb Dickieson had a chance to pull an upset but the Trudeau resurgence nationally might be enough to give victory to Liberal Bobby Morrissey, who will reap the benefits of voter anger over Ms. Shea’s unwavering support for Mr. Harper.

After reviewing party platforms and campaign promises - and at this critical point in the nation’s history - Mr. Trudeau has the best chance to win power and return Canada to the country nurtured under the leadership of Macdonald, Laurier, Mackenzie King, Pearson, Trudeau, Clark, Mulroney and Chretien.

We fear that unless a change in direction is made now, the country will slip ever further into a void from which it may not emerge.

We have a duty and obligation to our readers. This election is too important at this point in history. We want to keep Canada a welcoming, inclusive, caring country for all citizens. We would be failing in our duty and responsibility by not taking this public stand. We feel the politics of divisiveness over inclusion, hate and fear over peace and security, and personal attacks over policy must end now.

We see Justin Trudeau as promoting a more open, tolerant, responsible and accessible government. We believe that Mr. Trudeau will promote a new style of politics that challenges traditional patterns.

The stakes are too high not to do otherwise.

Is Mr. Trudeau ready? We resoundingly say yes.