Is Canada broken?
Most Canadians apparently think it is.
The political debate about whether the country is broken or not has been going on for a few weeks, now. On the one side is Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who says that it is – or, at least, that it “feels” broken.
On the other side is Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who says Canada isn’t broken at all.
Back in November, Poilievre told a press conference that “most everything in Canada is broken and Justin Trudeau carries a good deal of the blame.” A few days later, Trudeau responded, telling lobbyists and staffers at the annual Liberal holiday that “Canada is not broken.”
Then, after the Christmas break, and as the Tories were kicking off a two-day caucus retreat, Poilievre doubled down. Said he: “Everything feels broken.” Pause.“Oh — I just offended Justin Trudeau. He gets very angry when I talk about these problems.”
Trudeau was unmoved and unimpressed. In late January, the Prime Minister said: “Mr. Poilievre has no real solutions. He’s just trying to exploit people’s anger and concerns. When you twist the facts or make things up for political gain, that’s not responsible leadership.”
The punditocracy weighed in on one side or the other, as it always does. (This writer, for what it’s worth, opined that the country isn’t broken – its politics and politicians are.)
Inevitably, the pollsters decided to step in to name the winner of the debate.
And: it’s Pierre Poilievre – and it’s not close, either. Because most Canadians agree with him. To them, the country indeed feels broken.
The pollster Leger went first. They issued a survey last week, and it found that nearly 70 per cent of respondents – across Canada – agreed with the view that “Canada is broken.” A whopping 30 per cent even told Leger that they “strongly agreed” the country was broken.
Four per cent said they were happy. Thirty-seven per cent said they were only “somewhat happy.” And the majority – 50 per cent – said they were very or somewhat angry.
Abacus, another polling firm that tends to offer optimistic perspectives on the Trudeau government, got into the field. They asked 4,000 Canadians for their opinions on the “Canada is broken” argument. And, in the resulting poll released Thursday morning, they found that Leger got it right.
Abacus’ numbers spell big, big trouble for the sunny ways of the Trudeau regime. The Ottawa-based firm found that nearly 50 percent of Canadians are dissatisfied with Canada – and more than 20 per cent of them are “very dissatisfied.”
Out on the prairies, where Poilievre does well and Trudeau doesn’t, the dissatisfaction with the country was most pronounced – around 60 per cent in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But over in vote-rich Ontario, things aren’t going too swimmingly for Trudeau’s side of the debate, either: there, nearly 50 per cent aren’t happy at all.
What’s causing the unhappiness, the dissatisfaction, the “Canada is broken” sentiment? It varies from region to region, and demographic to demographic – which explains why Poilievre cleverly points to an array of issues as the source. Crime, cost of living, taxes, even airline travel woes: Poilievre now regularly offers up a laundry list of misery, and it gets heads nodding.
And not just older white and white-haired heads, either. The polls show that Poilievre – who remains unpopular with female and Quebec voters – is beating the even-more-unpopular Justin Trudeau because he is talking about the main issue Canadians outside of Ottawa are talking about.
Namely, that Canada is broken.
Because Canadians increasingly think it is.
[Kinsella was Jean Chrétien’s special assistant.]