Go, go, go.
He won’t, of course. Not yet, anyway. But, for many, there can be no doubt: Justin Trudeau must go. If the Liberal Party is to have a shot at retaining power in the next federal election, not a few Grits believe, their leader needs to head for the exits.
The reasons are infinite and incontestable. But here’s just three.
He’s reached his Best Before date: ten years as Liberal leader, nearly eight years as Prime Minister. By any historical standard, that’s a long run, and nothing to be ashamed of. If Trudeau goes, he can go as a three-time winner.
He’s clearly disengaged: he never meets with Liberal MPs, he rarely meets with cabinet ministers, he’s increasingly described – including in the just-released sour grapes manifesto by his former Finance Minister – as aloof and distant. He looks bored with the job.
He’s dragging down his party: this is the reason that should most preoccupy Team Trudeau. For weeks, the Poilievre Conservatives have been inching ever-upward in the polls. Right now, Trudeau is losing – almost certainly because of Trudeau.
Take a gander at the latest Nanos, which ranks as one of the best pollsters around. They took the political pulse of 1,000 Canadians and released the results on January 12.
Nanos found that there is now an eight-point gap between the Tories and Grits: 36 per cent to 28 per cent, respectively. Depending on what the NDP does – they’re at 21 per cent, says Nanos – that means (a) Pierre Poilievre is getting closer to winning and (b) he could win the narrowest of majorities.
Why? Nanos doesn’t say, but we can reasonably assume the usual considerations are at play: the party brand, and the popularity of the party leader. As noted above: Trudeau is dragging down his party, right?
Well, yes and no. While many people obviously (and justifiably) dislike Trudeau, one other fact needs to be factored into the decision-making about his retirement: while voters don’t like Justin very much, they like Pierre even less.
Nanos, again, is the oracle. Notwithstanding all of the scandals and missteps, Justin Trudeau is still favored by 30 per cent of Canadians.
But Pierre Poilievre is preferred by just 28 per cent.
And therein lies the paradox: Trudeau’s party is losing ground against the Conservative option, yes. That seems to be happening because of Trudeau himself, yes. But when the choice is about leadership, and Pierre Poilievre is the other choice for PM? Trudeau wins.
What means, to this writer, is what this writer wrote in these pages a year ago: the Conservative Party of Canada has more money, is better-organized, and has the right priorities (economy and cost of living). All big advantages.
But Pierre Poilievre still looks like the wrong choice. For reasons that are hard to define – and therefore hard to fix – Canadians don’t much like Poilievre, the man.
It’s not necessarily because he rarely smiles or is always pushing the fear button: as Opposition leader, Stephen Harper was the same, and he became Prime Minister. It’s not because Poilievre is so angry so often, either: Harper was the Angry Man of Canadian politics and won a majority.
Fairly or not, Pierre Poilievre’s biggest problem is something ineffable – something no pollster has defined, yet. And, when his opposition is someone as disliked Justin Trudeau, that’s a big problem.
What does it all mean? We don’t need Nanos to answer that one.
Under Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party needs to run the dirtiest, nastiest, most-negative campaign in recent history against Pierre Poilievre. Under Trudeau, it’s their only hope.
And it may just work.