On Sept. 20, Canadians will head to the polls for a snap federal election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an effort to try and parlay his handling of the COVID pandemic into a four-year mandate. The plan was to strike while the iron’s hot, so to speak.
Trudeau’s primary motive is that since the last election in September, 2019, Trudeau has only commanded a minority in parliament, leaving him dependent on rival parties (mostly the left-leaning New Democrats) to govern. Trudeau argues the pandemic has changed Canada like WWIII changed Canada and the rest of the west, and that, due to this change, voters should now choose whom they want to call the shots going forward.
Unfortunately for Trudeau, the resurgence in COVID cases across North America over the past couple of months have left him vulnerable to the criticism that he placed the health of Canadians at risk in the name of “ambition.” This take, along with Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s other criticisms of Trudeau, have apparently resonated with voters, leaving the Conservatives neck and neck with Trudeau’s Liberals according to the latest polls, with early voting just about to begin.
The opposition Tories have 33% support compared with 31% for Trudeau’s Liberals and 19% for the left-leaning New Democratic Party, according to the latest Nanos Research Group survey. The Nanos survey, which was conducted for CTV News and the Globe and Mail newspaper, is based on a three-day rolling average and has a margin of error of 2.8%, according to Bloomberg.
If those numbers hold through the last 10 days of the campaign, Canada is facing another minority parliament in which the government needs the support of another party to pass legislation. Liberals could still win the most seats will losing the popular vote, like they did in 2019. Support for Trudeau has waned as the New Democratic Party has attracted more younger Canadians with more progressive politics.
During a Thursday night debate, Trudeau was attacked frm all sides. O’Toole, who simultaneously criticized the prime minister’s record on fighting climate change and his motivation for triggering the vote, accused Trudeau of having “Great Ambition.”
O’Toole also hammered Trudeau over his failure to secure the release of two Canadian men who were arrested in China likely as political retribution for Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at behest of the US. Trudeau replied with a memorable line: “you do not simply lob tomatoes across the Pacific” to illustrate his “delicate” approach to handling the situation with China.
Trudeau was perhaps shaken by a major loss earlier that day, when the Conservatives won what could be decisive support from the popular premier of Quebec, Canada’s second most populous province. “For the Quebec nation, Mr. O’Toole’s approach is a good one,” Premier Francois Legault said, warning that victory for any other party could prove “dangerous” for provincial autonomy.
When Trudeau was first elected in 2015, he ended nearly a decade of conservative rule under PM Stephen Harper. At the time, pundits in the US, Canada and all over the English-speaking world praised Trudeau’s win – despite his obvious inexperience and other flaws – as a generational shift. But Trudeau seems to finally have run out of steam barely halfway through. And in just a couple of weeks, Canada’s voters might finally relegate the political scion to the scrap heap of history.