, 12.17.2018 02:42 PM

Could Justin Trudeau lose next year? Maybe. Possibly.

Could Justin Trudeau lose?

Because, increasingly, some smart politicos – including ones of the Liberal persuasion – are saying it’s possible.  Likely, even.

Now, “loss,” here, includes loss of the Liberal leader’s Parliamentary majority.  Not just losing power – which, most agree, is still unlikely.  But losing the majority?  That is decidedly within the realm of possibility.

This writer ran into a very senior and very experienced Liberal strategist on the street a few days ago.  This strategist knew Justin Trudeau’s father well, and had campaigned for him.  And he remembered, too, Pierre Trudeau losing his majority in 1972 – to a Conservative opponent who, like Andrew Scheer, had been routinely dismissed as dull and unremarkable.

Could Trudeau lose the majority, I asked this Liberal guru.

“Absolutely,” said the guru, without hesitating.  “I’d say that’s what is going to happen, at this point.”

Huddled on a cold sidewalk, we riffed through the regions.  Lower Mainland?  Trudeau may lose seats to both the Tories and the Dippers, if the latter have the sense to acquire new and improved leadership.  In Alberta, it’s worse than it was back in the NEP days: a total wipeout is inevitable.  In Saskatchewan, the Goodale seat is safe, if turning-seventy Goodale sticks around.  In Manitoba, some seats will be lost.  Same goes for Southwestern Ontario, Eastern Ontario and the ‘burbs around Toronto.

In Quebec, Trudeau has been bested by the Conservatives in byelections – and he now faces Maxime Bernier around Quebec City, too.  In Atlantic Canada, it will be impossible to hold onto as much as Trudeau won in 2015 – particularly with his provincial cousins diminishing the Liberal brand there.

“That all adds up to a minority, or worse,” said the Grit guru, preparing to head off for lunch.  “It may not be pretty.”

Some pollsters are making similar noises.  Some aren’t.

A few days ago, Forum came up with a whopper of a survey, one that claimed Scheer’s Conservatives were in majority territory, a full nine points ahead of the governing Liberals.  That poll was dismissed by many (this writer included) – until Nanos revealed that it, too, found the Tories ahead of the Grits, but by just a point.

The arbiter, in these matters, has become the CBC’s guy with a calculator, Eric Grenier.  Says Grenier: “[There was]a big jump for Nanos, and much of it has occurred in Ontario where the Liberals have dropped 12 points and the Conservatives have gained 12 points [in the] last week. This is unusual…and worth watching to see if trend continues.”

Even though Forum has consistently been out of step with other polls, Grenier says, the reality has been that “the Liberals slide, and the Conservatives make gains.”

What’s noteworthy is that the Conservatives have gained on the Liberals – or have eclipsed them, if you believe Forum – when the conventional wisdom has been that Andrew Scheer is being held back by factors beyond his control.  Selfsame factors include: controversial decisions made by Ford Nation, Trudeau’s successful completion of a new NAFTA, and the aforementioned Mad Max refusing to disappear.

All of that said, Mainstreet’s Quito Maggi – one of the country’s best pollsters – insists it is still dangerous to bet against Trudeau.  A minority, to Maggi, remains very unlikely.

“[A minority is] possible, yes.  But, just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely,” says Maggi.

Mainstreet’s founder says that the relative performance of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and People’s Party Maxime Bernier will signal what could happen next October. “If Singh wins in Burnaby and makes gains, in Ontario and Quebec especially, that starts eating into a majority,” says Maggi.  “And if Bernier fades in the New Year – say, he can’t get any candidates to run in the coming by-elections for example, and his fundraising is reduced – that could mean that Scheer can consolidate the Right vote and cause a minority.”

Maggi adds: “Those are two big ifs.  And that would be a complete reversal for both.”

The present reality is that Bernier’s ceiling is no more than around is seven per cent nationally.  Singh, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction, Maggi says.  “He might not even win Burnaby. His MPs are bailing for other levels of government – or announcing they won’t run.  Fundraising is down. If he loses Burnaby, it could lead to a leadership race with months to the election.”

And that, says Maggi, ironically represents a real threat to Trudeau’s Liberals – and a possible minority. “[That] could actually be the likeliest path to a Liberal minority,” he says. “If a new NDP leader can capitalize on the attention of a [leadership] race and make gains in Quebec.”

Big ifs.  Lots of variables.  One thing is for certain: Justin Trudeau remains the guy to beat.  And doing so, the pollsters agree, will be no simple task.




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    Will Posthumous says:

    I’m betting that as long as Thug Ford keeps shooting himself in the foot and unless Scheer suddenly develops something resembling a personality and a coherent set of policies (other than dogwhistling about immigration), Trudeau remains safe.

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      Fred from BC says:

      “unless Scheer suddenly develops something resembling a personality and a coherent set of policies (other than dogwhistling about immigration), ”

      I see. And if immigration turns out to be the real reason Trudeau is down in the polls and Scheer is up, then what? You start accusing the rest of the country of being racists?

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        Ronald O'Dowd says:


        It’s not immigration. It’s the perception of not having both hands solidly on the wheel. The key word remains perception — and that can be changed by corrective substantive policy.

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          Pedant says:

          It’s immigration.

          Recent Angus Reid poll showed 49% of Canadians think immigration levels are too high. That’s a pretty massive chunk of the population.

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            Wayne McDonald III says:

            There is a narrative going around that immigration policy should be managed like monetary policy. If the economy is overheating then reflect that with a forward guidance on levels of new immigration; it’s unfair to invite someone to your country and then not have appropriate jobs on offer. Increasing the Canadian population by 1% is very inexact, not hyper-effective administrative work.

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          Fred from BC says:

          I chose immigration because the issue and Trudeau’s handling of it was most recently in the news; the UN’s ‘Migration Bill of Rights’ (or whatever it is called) has generated a lot of controversy and matches the timing of this poll.

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      Pedant says:

      There is no such thing as dogwhistling. The Left trots out this term as if they believe they are able to read the minds of conservatives politicians.

      Judge politicians by their words and actions, not by what you THINK they or their supporters *really* mean.

      And I have a question Will : do you think any discussion of immigration should be prohibited? If not, then why shouldn’t a federal politician talk about it?

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    The Doctor says:

    I’d say JT is still odds-on favourite to win, especially because Jagmeet Singh has been such a dud and NDP support is weak. Also, Scheer has the charisma of a pair of brown socks.

    But still, JT has had a tough time coming up with a new schtick since the last election. Liberals have a bad habit of patting themselves on the back for winning decisively when their victory a lot to do with the other side imploding and maybe not so much to do with everyone thinking the Liberals are awesome. Chretien was a very good pol but fer Crissake, he won every time against a fatally split right-of-centre vote. JT won because Harper was widely and deeply loathed by all kinds of people he had alienated, from just about every part of the political spectrum except the far far right. Harper even alienated huge swaths of Red Tories.

    That perfect storm for JT is not going to be around in 2019, and if the Liberal Brain Trust has any brains, they would be gearing up for that kind of a battle. A real one.

    JT’s absolute failure on the environmental/First Nations approval process for major resource projects has finally shown that all of his sunny rhetoric about that on the 2015 campaign trail was a bunch of BS, as many of us realized at the time. Lots of Trudeau fans got drunk on the kool aid though.

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      Warren says:

      He’s the luckiest guy I’ve ever run across in politics.

      Just when you think he’s weak internationally (India, etc.), along comes Trump et al. to make him look like a genius.

      Just when you think he’s weak domestically (no pipeline, no electoral reform, no First Nation empowerment, no big legislative achievements), along comes Messrs. Scheer and Singh to make him look like a Parliamentary giant.

      Just when you think he’s weak ethically (Aga Khan, the grope thing, etc.), along comes serial scandals elsewhere – mainly from the U.S. – that make him look like a saint.

      Luckiest guy, ever.

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        Chris says:

        “Brains will only get you so far, and Luck always runs out.”
        -Harvey Keitel’s character in “Thelma & Louise”

        I think Justin’s luck is going to come crashing down spectacularly in 2019 as the economy craters, Alberta revolts, and Indigenous folk abandon him en masse. Soldiers will be hauling away chained protesters in Spring & Summer 2019. Not from pipeline construction sites, but from the three highways and three rail lines that cross the BC-Alberta border.

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    Greg Reuvekamp says:

    Warren, great analysis, however I remember last February you were declaring Kathleen Wynne to be the luckiest politician alive. Boy oh boy, I sure hope Trudeau ends up having all of her luck!

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      Warren says:

      She certainly was when the Brown stuff hit, and the PCs descended into tribal war.

      You disagree? It was a bad thing for her?

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    the salamander says:

    .. polls are the ‘purpose pitch’ of political parties.. quite possibly the most dangerous mode of election vote suppression. Rather than move a batter off the plate, they work to keep voters at home. The ordinary voter only gets the ‘important’ message via sellout mainstream media (aka corporate media – hello PostMedia and Paul Godfrey !) .. whereas independant journalism that might present reality essentially lives only via social media.. ie indy bloggers and indy tweets

    Thus we have Andrew Scheer or Evan Solomon on CTV et al flogging the dead horse or faux unicorn Energy East as if its ‘energy security for Canadians’, but canceled by the Libtards when it was really about getting ethical Diluted Bitumin from the tar sands to the Irving superport in Nova Scotia for export to US gulf coast refineries or Asia. Its laughable invention and posturing – that darn Saudi oil pouring into Quebec eh ! Causing the ‘oil crisis’

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Bernier is no better than a wet firecracker in Quebec. As such, he’s no Justin in spite of being a son of Quebec.

    Jack was pre-Justin while Tom was pre-Max. The former caught fire while the latter got/will be burnt by the flames.

    Battleground Ontario has to decide who they despise more, Justin or Doug. My money is on Justin substantially pulling it out in Ontario. Without Wynne to whip, voters should be less inclined to punish the federal cousins. They will save their scorn for Ford if he royally fucks this up.

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      Pedant says:

      Yes, alternation is the Liberals’ trump card in Ontario. But even so, this time around it is Quebec that is propping up the Liberals, not Ontario.

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    Pedant says:

    If the Liberals get another majority, it will be entirely due to Quebec. And if that happens, it will be 1980 redux when PET won 74/75 Quebec seats while losing every seat west of Winnipeg. The Liberal wipeout in the West certainly won’t be as bad in 2019 vs 1980, thanks to a weak NDP, but it won’t be too far off. The Trudeau Liberals will then be forced to toe the nation-destroying Quebec line on pipelines and most other issues. The country will be the most divided it will have been in 40 years.

    For national unity’s sake, we should all be hoping for a minority Parliament.

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      Gord Tulk says:

      Not sure how a minority addresses the issue.

      What is needed is what Australia and others have been working on for decades – a protected network of corridors for the transport of people and goods across this country where approvals are not required – they are done in advance – only modern systems of road pipeline rail and wire need be required.

      This was looked at back in the 1960’s but Quebec’s blackmailing of NL over the Lower Churchill prevented progress (and Quebec remains a significant impediment)

      A minority could see cooperation in getting this done but I very much doubt it. And thus the future of the country is dimmer.

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        Pedant says:

        Never said a minority addresses any particular issue. A minority is simply preferable as it will prevent Trudeau’s Quebec base from further implementing nation-destroying policies, or at least make it far more difficult for them to do so.

        Perhaps in a minority Parliament the opposition will even be able to force through changes to the equalization formula. The NDP, to be largely wiped out in Quebec, may be inclined to support the Conservatives on that and overrule the Liberals. Bombardier would also have to kiss goodbye its government backstop.

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    Doug Brown says:

    The Liberals will win a majority. Gerald Butts has crafted a persona that plays to Canadian insecurities: morally superior and yearning to be noticed. By ignoring real problems, such as the oil discount, incurring deficits at the top of the economic cycle, irregular immigration, housing affordability and capital flight, the Liberal pursuit of all things celebrity and meta-progressive will leave a deeply divided country for Trudeau’s successors to pick up the pieces.

    The Liberals are expected to announce an energy industry aid package today. Supposedly, Notley will not attend the announcement. The Trudeau brand has become that toxic in parts of the country.

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      Gord Tulk says:

      At 1.6 billion the package represents 27 DAYS of lost income to Canada because of the federal government’s failure to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide market access to the border

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        Wayne McDonald III says:

        So how do you get this pipeline built?

        Why can’t Alberta get the pipeline from Montana, Idaho, Washington State?

        The fact that the threat of an alternative route hasn’t been explored shows a lack of creativity amongst the legislative class.

        And honestly, you can be as environmentally conscious as me and still understand that pipeline is needed for GDP growth now. Green tech is a slow moving proposition.

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          Gord Tulk says:

          The Short answer is Timelines. and Market saturation. When Gateway and the trans-mountain expansion were conceived years (decades?) ago Keystone was going to expand the access to the Gulf.

          Keystone got delayed and the other two which were reaching new, higher paying, less saturated markets have become moribund. Now, next year AB will have over 1 million BBL/Day more productive capacity than there are pipelines to carry it.

          Starting a new US-based pipe will take ten years minimum and still doesn’t get us to the pacific tidewater market.

          And what business in its right mind would even begin it with Bill 69 about to be passed?

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    Gord Tulk says:

    For the first time the investment community (as vested an interest as there is) is starting to admit there may be a recession on the horizon. The scuttlebutt (from Ernst and Young) is that in 2019 a lot of service jobs in the GTA will be moved to the US due to the tax changes making it more profitable to report income in the US than in Canada for US-based companies.

    And the Real Estate community is admitting (see comment on investment community above) that the Vancouver market will be negative this year and that the GTA market is shaky.

    The best thing that could happen for the CPC is a loss by Singh and a Bernie Sanders-like replacement.

    I’m pretty confident that the former will happen – wouldn’t be surprised if some NDs in the riding see the bye-election as a referendum in Singh and vote against him.

    I’m less confident about the latter – but I think the ND have long since abandoned the blue collar motif so there’s a chance.

    Electorally outside of the GTA the Key question is what happens to Quebec outside of the GMA? Bernier is going nowhere fast. Layton is a distant memory as is the BQ. The good results in the bye-election for the CPC may be a one-off. It is in this area that minority/majority and CPC/LPC will be decided.

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    Wayne McDonald III says:

    Gord, really interesting. I’ve heard similar worries from KPMG folks. John Manley and others were clamoring for a competitive tax regime which Morneau failed to deliver, although he should have bet the left flank is toast in ’19. What KPMG will do is drop their fees to try to retain billable hours as migrating Canadian staff to make the transition to New York easier is a considerable pain.

    Long-term the GTA may be in trouble as the BOFAF “backoffice for US firms” is less attractive assuming: a) US economy remains stable, even with the yield curve flattening, b) tax-changes aren’t anticipated to be reverse, c) Canadian subsidiaries do not see increased strength in CAD making that cheap Canadian team less appealling despite obvious administrative/training costs of bring that work state-side, d) etc

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      Gord Tulk says:

      Perhaps I am repeating myself, Warren but allow me to elaborate on what’s happening:

      In the past (IOW 12 months ago) US tax laws made it more profitable to operate branch services in other countries and generate net taxable income in those countries because that income would be taxed at a significantly lower rate.

      Now the the US rate versus Canada’s is roughly half (18% if memory serves, according to my source at E&Y and confirmed by the U of C School of Public Policy) Almost immediately money started flowing into the US from around the world and arguably most torrentially from Canada. (Those cash inflows to the US have had a significant positive impact on that country’s economy)

      Many in the business and advisory world stood pat awaiting the LPC’s fall budget update which was seen as being the LPC’s response to the US reforms.

      What that update delivered was some more aggressive depreciation schedules and green incentives – neither of which was a tax rate cut but a tax deferral. Thus being the top-down progressives that they are they either picked winners(green) or offered some delaying of the inevitable to the old economy (depreciation is not something you hear discussed in the service and tech worlds).

      Literally hours after the update consultancies like E&Y and KPMG across the country were swamped with American clients looking for advice on how to close their Canadian service and other operational nodes and move them to the US. The update clearly telegraphed that the LPC had no intention of cutting taxes to compete with the US (and the rest of the world for that matter). Many of these nodes have been a PIA for years but the financial incentives made them tolerable. Not now.

      Canada wasn’t perceived as much of a ‘player’ before the update and it is far less so one after it.

      Not uncoincidentally, less than a month later we hear of the possibility of recession from the same folks who weeks before (speaking from personal experience) said there was no chance of that happening in 2019.

      This is a HUGE story inside certain circles in Canada today.

      It will become a HUGE story for all Canadians inside of six months…

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        Wayne McDonald III says:

        Gord, I think there is too much partisanship in politics generally. Pretty consistently, we’re been disappointed with governments even when the economy (supposedly up). What’s so wonderful about human behaviour is it’s UNPREDICTABLE and pessimists will always find that things are going badly…’cause it’s a personality type.

        Fortunately, pessimist projections into the future do not make that future a reality. A lot is going on globally, oil prices are rather low, which means Canada’s GDP growth may drop to <1.0%. The tax cuts + the repatriation generated a lot of additional work for KPMG in January 2018. I'm also confident that American firms had priced in their Canadian investments well before the Morneau 'nothing burger' budget.

        My contact at KPMG has been known to engage in hyperbole and is herself very pessimistic and paranoid. Any good consultant ought to be.

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    Jay T says:

    The Liberal Party of Canada seems to have gone out its way to make itself unlike the demographic makeup of Canada. Consider cabinet: out of 35 members 4 are Sikh-Canadians which means 11.4% of cabinet are Sikh yet only 1.4% of Canadian population is Sikh – 8.2x overweighting. Maryam Monsef – 1 in 437 are Afghan-Canadians. Ahmed Hussen – 1 in 245 are Somali-Canadians. Pablo Rodriquez – 1 in 1835 are Argentine-Canadians. If LPC has no interest in most Canadians, it follows most Canadians may lose interest in LPC. We predict France style full rejection of all political parties.

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    Jay T says:


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