Opinion

Trudeau government's 'mandate tracker' is one mighty piece of propaganda: Robyn Urback

The government claims it has ended the use of improper omnibus bills, though it's still sort of writing them. It says it has successfully promoted free votes among its MPs, except it just punished one of them for voting against the government's tax reform proposals.

The Liberals would like you to know their performance in almost every area is just stellar

The tool tracks pledges in mandate letters, not the actual promises the Liberals made to Canadians. If it did, there would probably be a lot more in the 'broken' category. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Before I dive in, I should let you know, dear reader, that I will be giving myself a report card on this column. It will be assessed for style, clarity and strength of argument — categories that I myself have decided to include.

It doesn't really matter what you think of this column, even though without you, the reader, this column has no real purpose. It only matters what I think of it, as both the author and subject of this wholly unnecessary assessment.

Now, then: on Tuesday, the Trudeau government released its own self-focused, self-issued, self-completed report card. It comes in the form of an online mandate tracker, which chronicles and reports the government's progress on promises made in each of its cabinet ministers' mandate letters.

Not campaign promises

Please note that this is not an assessment on the actual promises the Liberals made to Canadians. Were it so, there would be a lot more in the "broken" category (or, as the government hilariously calls it, promises that are "not being pursued").

Instead, this tool only tracks pledges the Liberals made after they were elected, when they no longer had to worry about winning Canadians' voting support. Yes, there are other, more thorough, independent, seemingly non-partisan online promise-trackers — such as this one — but why pay attention to those when you can peruse this state-produced self-assessment?

Anyway, the government would like you to know its performance in almost every area is just stellar. Halfway through its mandate, it has only "not pursued" three promises: electoral reform; a pledge to provide a 12-month break on Employment Insurance premiums for companies that hire permanent young workers; and removing the GST on new capital investments in affordable rental housing.

All other promises are in various stages of completeness, which the government describes as "fully met," "on track" and "underway, with challenges."

Under the latter category are things like the government's promise to balance the budget by 2019-20, which most people would probably by now consider broken (er, I mean "not being pursued"), except the government explains it away by citing the need for investments to kick-start the economy. Where is the "broken, but with an excuse" category?

Finance Minister Bill Morneau sits down with Catherine Cullen to discuss today's fall economic update 11:51

On the topic of more descriptive categories, I'd suggest something new as well for the Liberals' promise to cut taxes for small businesses.

Currently listed as "underway, on track," a more accurate description would probably be "underway, on track — but only because we bungled the messaging around our summertime tax reform package, and then it came out that our finance minister failed to disclose his company that owns his villa in France, and then it came out that he used a numbered company to maintain ownership of shares in his family company instead of putting those shares in a blind trust as Canadians were led to believe, so we had to recommit to lowering the small business tax rate even though we left it out of the budget." Granted, that is not a very snappy title for mandate tracker category.

'Completed' promises

Among the government's "completed" promises is one of increased accountability in question period, which we should assume is an attempt at some very dry government humour considering the seamless way that robotic non-answers have transitioned from the Harper benches to those of Trudeau.

The government claims it has ended the use of improper omnibus bills, though it's still sort of writing them. It says it has met its promise of promoting free votes among its members of Parliament, except it just punished one of them for voting against the government's tax reform proposals. It says its promise of re-instating lifelong pensions for veterans is "underway," but it is currently fighting a lawsuit on it.

Could it be that the government's new online mandate tracker is just one elaborate propaganda tool?

The answer can surely be found somewhere in the government's own files. Unfortunately for the public, much of the information is redacted (the mandate tracker nevertheless lists the pledge to improve access to information as "underway").

I could go on, but why waste time with substance when I can go straight to the important part? That is, self-congratulation. So it's time for my report card; after careful consideration, I've decided to give myself a 9.5 out of 10 for this column because I believe I have done a good job with some of the things I said were important. I probably could have made my argument a little stronger, but I've decided it's just something I'm not going to pursue at this time. So 9.5 out of 10 — not quite perfect, but close — because better is always possible.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Robyn Urback

Columnist

Robyn Urback is an opinion columnist with CBC News and a producer with the CBC's Opinion section. She previously worked as a columnist and editorial board member at the National Post. Follow her on Twitter at:

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