Justin Trudeau: Empty Promises & Climate Leadership

Justin Trudeau is the 23rd and current Prime Minister of Canada. Trudeau has held this position since November 2015 and has been the leader of the Liberal Party since 2013. In an attempt to gain more seats in Parliament and achieve a Liberal majority, the Prime Minister called for an early federal election – a full 2 years ahead of schedule – amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. He states this election is necessary, as it’s about “determining a Liberal mandate to rebuild post-pandemic.”

While Trudeau’s Liberal government has managed some accomplishments, such as the establishment of the first-ever gender-balanced cabinet, the legalization of marijuana, and the successful resettlement of many refugees, overall it has struggled to keep up with the values and commitments it has advertised. This has been particularly evident in relation to topics of reconciliation and climate action.


For instance, after Justin Trudeau was reelected in 2019, he stated, “We will continue to engage with Indigenous leadership across the country, Indigenous communities, strong voices to ensure that reconciliation isn’t just a word that we use, but we continue the concrete actions we’ve taken over the past four years and do even more to make sure that the partnership and respect that is so necessary as we move forward with Indigenous peoples in this country is at the core of everything we do.” However, since being reelected, reconciliation has been discussed plenty, but actual progress has been extremely sluggish.

After the 2021 discoveries of mass graves across Canada, Trudeau spoke out, stating these discoveries would allow for Ottawa to push forward more aggressively with its reconciliation agenda, taking issue with the criticism by many that his government has not been expedient enough in addressing the needs of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. In December 2020, Wilton Littlechild, one of the commissioners of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) discussed his encouragement by the increase in the discussion surrounding reconciliation and the TRC’s calls to action, but also stated his concern. “We’re collectively quite concerned that it’s been moving too slow and it’s a matter of urgency that we have another look at our Calls to Action and maybe get a fresh start in terms of some of the changes that you’ve seen over the past 5 years,” said Littlechild.

Sadly, Justin Trudeau’s current platform for the September 20th election includes no mention of the federal government’s commitments to reconciliation or Canada’s Indigenous populations. Even still, he has been spending his campaign tweeting and making comments about Canada’s Indigenous peoples and reconciliation. This is just another situation in which Justin Trudeau appears to be all talk.

Figure 7 – Justin Trudeau Tweets (August 30)

Climate Action

Similar to reconciliation, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has been overly verbal about their commitments to climate change action in relation to their actual actions.

While Trudeau has been in office, the federal government has made a number of global commitments on our country’s behalf relating to climate change, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act. All of these commitments are aimed towards the reduction of greenhouse gases, partnership, and sustainable development. While the Canadian government has made a number of promises over the years, Canada is also the only G7 country whose greenhouse gas emissions have increased since signing on to the Paris Agreement, and the federal government continues to give the oil and gas sector billions of dollars in subsidies.

One of the most significant criticisms of Trudeau’s Liberal government in relation to climate action includes flip-flopping on promises to halt the construction of new pipelines back in 2015. Since then, Trudeau has spent over $20B of public funds to buy and build a pipeline. Even now, Trudeau fights for the implementation of this pipeline, while American President Joe Biden has decided to cancel it and new studies condemn it. This issue was a significant contributor to the disenfranchisement of Canada’s youth with the young Prime Minister, leaving many feeling that the promises made during his first campaign were empty ones.

Overall, while the Liberal government has been talking a big game on their climate leadership for years, the actual decisions made have not been those of a government that’s interested in winning the fight we face with the climate crisis.


Unfortunately, this article only skims the surface when it comes to the empty promises of Prime Minister Trudeau and the poor climate leadership that has been carried out by the Liberal government. Before the September 20th election, be sure to learn more about the various party leaders and the platforms they’re endorsing.

Interested in reading more political pieces from The Switch? See here.

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