The expression “sunny ways” was coined by Wilfred Laurier to spin the compromises his government had to fashion to hold an intolerant, very young country together. He was a careful builder, befitting his time. Justin Trudeau uses the same expression proudly, as an unqualified optimist.
Laurier, however, was a classic anti-authoritarian, small-government Liberal. He carried on nation-building infrastructure projects and honored the debts incurred by that binge conservative John A. Macdonald. Above all, he looked to trade an individual initiative to grow the economy.
Laurier is not the inspiration behind Justin Trudeau’s fiscal policy.
The greatest contemporary practitioner of “sunny ways” was Ronald Reagan. He understood that lecturing tolerance and applying a traditional conservative fiscal policy wouldn’t sustain his extraordinary popularity. And he liked being liked.
According to the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress (1996), over his eight years in the White House, personal income tax revenues declined from 9.4% of GDP to 8.3% of GDP. US federal government spending and deficits, as his critics warned, soared.
Justin Trudeau has Reagan’s nature, only with new demons to throw money at. Allegedly, he too has been underestimated all his professional life. As with Reagan, his critics are simply those who still don’t get it. Reagan would shrug; Trudeau worries that they’re “deranged.”
So, as George H. W. Bush, a dogged evidence-based politician, complained about Reagan’s sunny growth strategy in the 1980s Republican primaries, Canada now has a fiscal policy in place in Ottawa that can, as well, be called “voodoo economics.”