“Let’s leave no one behind.”
Justin Trudeau utters this pledge at the end of a Liberal campaign ad that has been running on TV. How ironic. (At the time of writing) Some 1,250 Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and family members, plus thousands of Afghan interpreters and other allies have indeed been left behind. By contrast, since late July, the U.S. managed to evacuate 122,300 people, including 5,500 citizens and their families. Only 100 Americans remained behind.
For many months, war veterans and journalists warned to start the evacuation of Afghan translators, security guards, and their families. Erin O’Toole wrote Trudeau on July 22. He said, “As Afghan interpreters plead for assistance from your government to flee from these threats of danger, your government remains silent. We must do the right thing and support them at a time when they need us most.”
After Canada first gave asylum seekers only three days to fill out a complicated form online in English, the website crashed. Unlike France, Ottawa did not offer to pick up people and take then to the airport. It simply advised these desperate people to go to the airport on their own, and wear something red. Many stood in sewage-filled canals holding up their papers, but were ignored by Canadian soldiers. On Aug. 24, Trudeau promised that Canada would remain past the Aug. 31 deadline. Yet less than 24 hours later, all our remaining soldiers and diplomats were removed and the last Canadian rescue flight took off.
Canada had initially identified 6,000 Afghans needing evacuation. However, only 1,000 Canadian citizens and 2700 Afghans were evacuated.
Jagmeet Singh called Canada’s sudden exit a “failure” and Erin O’Toole claimed that “he (Trudeau) put his political interests ahead of a crisis there.” Trudeau gave false hope to vulnerable Afghans and even to Canadians living there – so preoccupied with the election that he abandoned them to the brutality of Islamic extremists.
Some two-thirds of Canadians did not want this unnecessary election. The recent Liberal platform consists largely of recycled promises that have not yet been fulfilled. As Brian Lilley pointed out, Trudeau is not campaigning on what he will do or has done, as much as against false wedge issues.
Many issues have made it unwise to hold an election now. The pandemic is in well into the fourth wave, and is surging, especially in Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.
Living costs have risen since Trudeau became Prime Minister. In the past six years, across Canada, gasoline has increased by 39 per cent, electricity by 40 per cent, natural gas by 45 per cent, food by 23 per cent, and the average house cost has gone up from $425,000 to $600,00 in only one year. House price and rental surges are particularly severe in Vancouver and Toronto. Child care is unaffordable in most Canadian cities. Some 70 per cent of small business owners have taken on debt due to the pandemic; the average is $170,000 per business.
The federal debt was $354 billion for 2020-21 and will be $155 billion for 2021-22. The Liberals do not foresee running a balanced budget for many decades. The NDP promises pharmacare and dental, eye, and ear care as part of medicare. No party has clearly indicated how they (or our children or grandchildren) will pay for all the promises.
A recent Navigator survey found that the top concerns were the pandemic, the economy, and climate change.
However, so far no major election issue has emerged. The Afghan humanitarian crisis may well overshadow other issues for many weeks.
In the words of American CEO Irene Rosenfeld, “People vote with their hearts, not their heads.”
Ottawa physician Dr. Charles S. Shaver was born in Montreal. He is past-chair of the Section on General Internal Medicine of the Ontario Medical Association.