Justin Trudeau loses voter support
MONTREAL—The prime minister’s negative reviews are on the rise. A clear majority of Canadians believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. Is the game stacked against Justin Trudeau in his next game against a new Conservative leader?
It may depend on whether liberals focus on what they can fix while excluding what they can’t.
At the top of this latest list is the Prime Minister’s own brand.
It has been almost a decade since Trudeau became Liberal leader and seven years since he first led his party into government. Now everyone has a strong opinion about the Prime Minister. It would take more than a new hairstyle for most Canadians to change their minds about his political personality.
Those who grew to dislike him generally found validation of their opinion in his handling of government. Confirmation bias still looms large in politics.
Many of those who initially hailed Trudeau’s rise to power were also disappointed either by his breaking some signing promises or by the way he managed or mismanaged the team he brought to the government.
More than a few have simply grown weary of his presence and have begun to feel that he is outliving his welcome.
For all these reasons and more, he carries more baggage on the public mind than the Tory leader he is about to do battle with. And yes, that includes Pierre Poilievre – the polarizing leadership candidate most likely to walk away with the CCP crown next weekend.
While opinions on Trudeau are now cemented by his years in the limelight, public perceptions of Poilievre have yet to gel. On the contrary, by demonizing him, his many detractors could prepare him for a softer landing in public opinion than he could ever conceive on his own.
It would be extremely difficult for Poilievre — if he takes over as CPC leader next Saturday — to fare worse than the pre-billing he’s been afforded in some quarters.
If voters are to conclude that the next Conservative leader does not offer a viable alternative to Trudeau, they will – as in the case of Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole – largely make that decision on their own, with minimal help from the Liberals. spin doctors.
But that doesn’t mean Trudeau and his team are helpless, just that they must put politics aside — if they still can — to focus on leading the country through difficult times.
With each year in power, the proportion of voters who are ready for change — even among those who still tell pollsters they support the ruling party — grows exponentially.
In this regard, Trudeau’s negatives are well within the normal range for any prime minister at this point in the cycle. He may even have even more control over his destiny than some of his immediate predecessors.
At the same time of his mandate, the popularity of Brian Mulroney had not only sunk. His party was in freefall with its leader.
Two years into his last term, Stephen Harper has generated at least as much if not more viscerally negative sentiment than Trudeau.
His removal had become an absolute priority for a plurality of voters.
Trudeau’s numbers do not yet suggest he has reached the point of no return.
So far, the damage to his personal brand has not poisoned his government’s politics well to the level reached in the last years of the Mulroney or Harper eras.
Two years into his last term, Jean Chrétien also looked like he was running out of steam. To quell internal party unrest, he announced in August 2002 that he would step down eighteen months later, in February 2004.
The reasons for the early announcement and the events following Chrétien’s departure are well documented. What is more relevant in the current situation is what happened in the last months of Chrétien’s mandate.
This period was one of intense legislative activity which saw, among other things, the government put in place a new regime of political financing, sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and refuse to join the United States in Iraq.
By the time Chretien’s clock ticked, his party was well ahead of the competition in the polls – largely due to the adoption of a series of popular policies.
Chretien’s experience suggests that there is one number that Trudeau has a chance of solving. It is the approval of his government. Decisive action on grassroots policies rather than distractions designed to make the Conservatives and their next leader look bad are more likely to achieve this goal.
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