Justin Trudeau is in trouble and progressives are nervous

The Canadian election takes place Monday and just this week there have been at least three distinct pieces with headlines suggesting Trudeau is fighting for his political life. Here’s a bit of the one published today by the Financial Times (the others are at Bloomberg and Yahoo):


That disparity between the soaring rhetoric that powered his sweeping victory in 2015 — “sunny ways” and “doing politics differently” — and his performance over the ensuing four years has come to haunt Mr Trudeau.

“If you set yourself up to be a paragon of virtue and lord it over everyone, you need to continue to be virtuous,” said Lydia Miljan, an associate professor of political science at the University of Windsor, who draws a direct line from Mr Trudeau’s handling of the SNC controversy to his troubles now. “When the mighty fall, they fall hard.”

Mired in two scandals, one professional and one personal, Trudeau has decided his best bet is to run against two people who aren’t in the race: Donald Trump and Doug Ford, the brother of deceased former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford.

He isn’t running for federal office, but Doug Ford’s name is everywhere in and around Canada’s largest city: in local debates, on doorsteps as candidates canvas and in attack ads…

Ragging on Ford has become Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s favorite pastime.

Last week, he mentioned Ford seven times in about 30 minutes — equaling references to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer — during a campaign stop in Markham, a suburb in the Greater Toronto Area, or GTA. This bellwether battleground has about as many seats in Parliament as the entire province of Alberta, making it key to forming a majority government.

There’s a strategy behind this. Trudeau believes his survival will depend on winning the suburbs around Toronto, areas he won easily four years ago. But his fortunes have declined since then, so now he’s running a campaign trying to frighten Canadians away from voting for his opponent. Another target of that campaign is President Trump:


Trudeau has avoided criticizing the American president, but after weeks of stagnant poll numbers, he embraced the role of Trump’s foil, saying he is the only candidate who can stand up to Trump and “the forces of populism and chaos around the world.”

“The challenge for Trudeau always was trying to keep this big, high-profile, international expectation that he’s Obama’s successor, the progressive hero of the global world,” said Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “With Trump, being the inheritor of Obama’s progressive mantle doesn’t do any good.”

Trudeau got an assist in his role as Obama’s successor this week when Obama himself endorsed him. The Associated Press points out the hint of desperation behind this:

Sensing Trudeau is now in trouble, Barack Obama made an unprecedented endorsement by a former American president, urging Canadians to re-elect Trudeau and describing him as a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change.

Trudeau was asked if he had requested that endorsement and he didn’t deny it. So the desperation didn’t arise with Obama, it’s coming from within Trudeau’s own camp.

So what do the polls say? They have shown a tight race for weeks but today Toronto Sun opinion columnist says Trudeau’s chance of pulling out a win is looking slim:

Looking at all the polling available, Scheer and his Conservatives will win the most seats come Monday.

That includes the latest polling done for the Toronto Sun as part of the DART & Maru/Blue Voice Canada Poll.

Nationally, this poll puts the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals with a four-point lead. DART has Scheer’s party at 33% voter support compared to 29% for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and 21% for Jagmeet Singh’s NDP. The Greens come in at 7% and the People’s Party at 2%.

“The polling suggests a minority parliament for either the Conservatives or the Liberals, dependent on two major factors — voter turnout and geography,” said pollster John Wright, a partner at DART.


Usually the party that wins the most seats forms the government by forming a coalition with one of the smaller parties, but NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has already said he won’t form a government with the conservatives. So there are a lot of wrinkles left to iron out next week, but it appears to be dawning on many people this week that Trudeau is in real trouble. We’ll find out Monday if the experts and the polls were correct. As we saw here in 2016, that’s not always the case.

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