“First 100 days”

Unit of political measurement tossed around by political leaders eager to demonstrate their determination to introduce ambitious new programs and draw distinctions to prior administrations.

It’s ironic that this phrase is offered up in optimism, because its roots lie in utter defeat. Indeed, those using it tempt meeting their Waterloo. The expression was first used to describe the event-filled period between March 20, 1815 – when a triumphant Napoleon returned from exile – and July 8, when King Louis XVIII was restored to the throne not long after the Corsican general famously lost to the Duke of Wellington in the Battle of Waterloo. [It was actually 110 days, but who’s counting?]

In a contemporary context, incoming politicians often boldly announce big plans for their first 100 days. And #100days makes a nice hash tag.

After winning the 2015 election, for instance, Justin Trudeau set out to fulfil a panier of campaign promises in his first 100 days. And then, 100 days later, he promptly boasted about having made progress towards his goal of making “real change to improve the lives of Canadians.” Among other things he restored the long-form census and launched an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Never shy of a camera, he also took selfies with Bono at Davos and showed off his marvellous socks during those first frothy century of days. And Trudeau put as many women as men in his cabinet because, after all, “it’s 2015”, as he said at the time.

A few years earlier, the 2011 federal election saw two parties trying to out-do each other with their respective “first 100 days” pledges. The Tories, under incumbent PM Stephen Harper, promised to pass an omnibus crime bill in their first 100 days. They did, and it became law in 2012. For their part, the NDP under Jack Layton promised to increase corporate taxes while cutting small business taxes in their first 100 days. And it almost worked. The Orange Crush, a late surge by Layton’s party, saw the NDP become Official Opposition for the first time.

In the US, meanwhile, President Biden announced his 100-day plan weeks before taking office, promising, among other things, to vaccinate 100 million Americans between Inauguration Day (January 20) and April 30.

Image source: CBC

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