Looking good, Justin?

As the voices of the jubilant singers of the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild begin to fade away a week after the Canadian federal election, we move from the genuinely comforting realization that Stephen Harper is not merely gone but really quite sincerely gone to speculation about what happens now.

It’s a sure bet that Canada will feel more normal, more like its old self, than it has in a decade. The no holds barred, no apologies, take no prisoners attack on anything that favours community over profit may not disappear entirely, but it won’t snigger at us from its ideologically-driven command post with the same malevolence as it did during the Harper years.

And it’s just here, on the surface, that too many Canadians will judge our new government. Justin Trudeau fits the image-driven mass culture of the 21st century in ways that Stephen Harper never could. A tossle-haired, tattooed, and athletic good looker with a magical name — it was never a fair contest. (Not that those of us who counted down the days until the end of Harper wanted the fight to be fair. All we required was that Harper lose it.)

Now that Trudeau is moving into the PMO, expect the good optics to continue. Indeed, they’ve already started. But we’d be smart to remember that optics are optics, and real change is a lot more than that.

Gender equality in cabinet? Great optics! But it’s not the sex of the minister but the text of the legislation that matters. To pick one combination arbitrarily, a 25-year old aboriginal woman with a visible disability is not really a progressive improvement over a 60-year old, string-tied farm implement dealer — not if both of them support regressive or repressive policies.

Suspending the move to area mailboxes, pending a consultative review? Looks good! Easy, and not very expensive at all. Suspending all pipeline expansion, pending a consultative review? I must have missed that announcement in the post-election euphoria.

Reviewing Bill C-51, the domestic surveillance and protest suppression legislation that Trudeau and his party voted for in the last House? Sounds like a plan! But wait — “review” is not “revoke.” Seems there will be some amendments coming, to fix the “worst parts” of the law. You mean that Trudeau thinks that there are “best parts”? You get the idea.

A lot of flash, a little hint of dash — but we’ve yet to see anything that assures us that the future will be all that different from the recent past.

Oh, things will look different, and on the surface they’ll feel different. But different is as different does.

When the Liberals pass the election reform legislation they promised throughout the campaign — legislation that would have reduced last week’s comfortable majority (with less than 40% of the vote) to a minority — then I’ll be impressed.

Until then, we can sit back and try to enjoy the show.

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