, 07.09.2018 07:47 AM

Column: Trudeau is losing

Could Justin Trudeau lose the next election?

Well, sure he could. In strictly existential terms, you are always facing political death. The distance from hero to zero is very slight. Ask Kathleen Wynne.

After Trudeau won big in 2015 – after he came from a remote and distant perch in the House of Commons, from third place, to a first-place finish and a majority government – shell-shocked Tories could be seen walking around the Hill, muttering to themselves: “He’s good for eight years.”

I even heard that from rabid Trudeau-haters, people who had previously been cabinet ministers: eight years. The Opposition parties were leaderless, rudderless, hopeless. They’d been consigned to the political wilderness for a decade, possibly more.

Well, that was then, this is now. And, nowadays, Mr. Chewbacca Socks doesn’t look so invincible anymore, does he? The Force, not so strong with him.

A poll, in and of itself, is meaningless. The pollsters get stuff wrong all the time. But when you put a bunch of them together, they start to tell a tale. And the tale they tell should keep the Liberal leader up at night.

Case in point: CBC’s Calculator Boy is Eric Grenier. CBC calls him a “polls analyst,” but really what Grenier does is add up the poll numbers, and then divide. That sort of tells him, and us, where things are at.

For Trudeau, they’re not necessarily pointing towards oblivion. But some sort of a defeat, increasingly, looks possible. Ask Grenier.

“The Trudeau Liberals have a lot less to celebrate than they did in previous summers,” Grenier wrote just before Canada Day. “With little more than a year to go before the 2019 federal election campaign kicks off, the Liberals are facing a closer race than a first-term majority government might expect. The party’s lead in the polls has disappeared and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing pressure from both the Conservatives in Quebec and the New Democrats in Ontario.”

Way back when, at the commencement of the Dauphin’s Sunny Ways Dynasty, he held a nearly 20-point lead over his opponents. His approval ratings were stratospheric.

Now, not so much.

The governing Grits are now locked in a statistical death match with the Tories – and, on some days, said Tories have even been ahead. The Conservatives – led by the remarkably unremarkable Blandy Scheer – have been kicking Trudeau’s keester in the fundraising department, and recently humiliated him in a Liberal-held riding in Quebec, Trudeau’s last provincial stronghold.

The reasons for the less-than-sunny days are myriad and manifold. Apart from cannabis – which hurts them in the aforementioned Quebec and among minority communities – Trudeau has not had a single major legislative victory in three years. Not one. His go-soft strategy for handling Donald Trump has contributed to the demise of the TPP, the Paris Accord, and has NAFTA edging its way towards the morgue.

Other causes, in Trudeau’s Summer of Discontent: he overpromised and under-delivered – with indigenous communities, and with the mythic middle class. He seemed more preoccupied with selfies and baby-balancing than he was with stuff like the dimensions of the deficit (big), or the dimensions of business confidence (small).

And: the India trip. And: the Aga Khan. And: he groped a journalist.

All of it has produced a confluence of conundrums: Justin Trudeau is now arguably treading in his father’s footsteps. From a big Trudeaumania victory (for his Dad in 1968, for him in 2015) to a big come-down (majority to minority for his Dad in 1972, from a majority to minority and possibly worse for the son in 2019). Could it happen?

Sure it could. His father’s first term was a veritable flood of legislative and political achievements: Pierre Trudeau promoted and protected NATO, advocated for bilingualism and multiculturalism, transformed Parliament, boosted francophones in the public service and the military, reformed and expanded Unemployment Insurance, rewrote tax laws, and increased the family allowance for the first time since 1945. In comparative terms, the younger Trudeau’s policy achievements have been a tiny trickle.

Voters know it, too. And that is why they have been discreetly edging away from Justin Trudeau, and embracing a decidedly lackluster alternative, in the form of Blandy Scheer. They have measured Justin Trudeau, and found him wanting. More sizzle than steak, etc.

Can he turn it around? As noted at the outset, of course. Nowadays, per Ferris Bueller, political life moves pretty fast. One day, the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario is mired in a massive #MeToo scandal, and self-destructing. Just 134 days later, the same political party won a huge majority in the Ontario election race.

Justin Trudeau, similarly, can surprise us all. He still possesses charm and likeability in abundance. As handsy as he is, he is not unintelligent. His party has a formidable team of organizers and fundraisers in every region. He regularly benefits from being underestimated. And his two main opponents lack his political skillset, to say the least.

That all said, Justin Trudeau could still lose. And, at the moment, he is losing.

Not by much, but enough.

16 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Well times have changed, Warren. It wasn’t that many weeks ago that you all but said Trudeau’s a shoo-in for a second term. The points you raise are pretty much spot on, except I never agreed with your dismissive attitude toward Scheer. He appears to be the king of under-estimation, and Liberals and Dippers will forget that to their peril IMO. Trudeau’s only hope for another majority, again IMO, is for the NDP to win less than 20 seats. I think a minority government of some stripe is to come.

    • Warren says:

      Maybe. But you perhaps don’t know what some of us know about your hero.

      • Elijah says:

        I’m going to guess that Andrew Scheer’s side game is a second 1950’s nuclear family with five additional kids and stay at home mistress.

      • Matt says:

        Who Scheer? Indeed. There are stories.

        There is one particular story I don’t put much faith in though.

        Allegedly happened before he was an MP and it keeps getting more and more outlandish every time I hear it, usually after a story breaks about a Liberal being accused of harassment.

        P.S. – A Trekkie using Star Wars references and using them correctly. I’m impressed.

      • Angel Martin says:

        If #MeToo takes down both Baby-Doc and Scheer boredom, then so much the better !

      • Mark says:

        Not sure who my hero is, but I can tell you it is neither Scheer nor Trudeau.

  2. J.D. says:

    I want to hear more about Blandy McScheer. I heard some grumblings from a girl I worked with long ago, but she never went into detail.

  3. Sean says:

    Trudeau isn’t finished. He has a string of warts: Gropegate, G7, managing the American/Canadian file, India,TPP no show, selling feminism to Duterte, Aga Khan, etc. He has enough time left to really screw something up and add to his list.

  4. Gilbert says:

    If the Conservatives do well in Quebec and the PM adds to his list of scandals, he can’t be assured of a second term.

  5. Samantha Banks-Quills says:

    Why focus on this really?

    Hate to break it to you:
    Flawless personal judgement is not necessary for good leadership:

    1) William Lyon Mackenzie King was both bland & helped ‘save’ prostitutes on a regular basis. Effective leader, ranked top 5 by Maclean’s.

    2) Rene Levesque ran over a homeless man while driving his secretary…home. Effective leader, hate it or not.

    3) Lester B Pearson wore bow ties. And yet, he too was an effective leader.

    Perspective is needed. The 3 male party leaders are not going to make the #Metoo movement a core policy issue in ’19.

    • Matt says:

      Good leadership is holding yourself to the same standard you expect from others.

      Good leadership is taking responsibility for your actions.

      Trudeau is 0 for 2.

  6. Samantha Banks-Quills says:

    Matt, I personally believe you are incorrect but I like your rhetoric none-the-less!

    I think you want to be associated with good things, so you are projecting a surface level virtue that is optically appealing.

    “Good leadership is holding yourself to the same standard” is not correct. The leader needs to have flexibility to snooker trained seals (MPs) and the public into aligning with his or her objectives. Trudeau says jump, MPs say “Oui!” Trudeau says “do you want me or a guy who will repeal Marijuana legalization?” Politics is not for the faint of heart.

    “Good leadership is taking responsibility for your own actions” is also not correct. Ideally, the leader should download responsibility to those who are least loyal or a leadership threat, if possible. In this case, taking responsibility is the optically appropriate approach, Warren should be hired consulting Trudeau. Much smarter than who they’ve got.*

    I think “good” is a misleading term. Is it ‘good’ to dig up something from a person’s past? No, but it’s effective insider fodder that tickles the spirit, the soul of the political animal. Certainly more interesting than talking about the unemployment rate and other things that matter more long-run.

    Samantha 2, Matt 3.*

    *bonus points for projecting virtue.

    • Matt says:

      Well Samantha, other women are coming forward with their stories about their “negative interactions” with Trudeau, much, much more recently than 2000. A media outlet is currently fact checking a whopper of an allegation.

      So you may want to prepare yourself to have your hero Justin break your heart.

      And you don’t think it matters the Prime Minister is a liar and hypocrite?

      • Fred from BC says:

        “And you don’t think it matters the Prime Minister is a liar and hypocrite?”

        At this point, those two truths probably matter far more than the fact that he touched a woman’s butt without permission twenty years ago.

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