The new conservative mood in Canada and the fate of Justin Trudeau

Oct 21st, 2023 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward (who still likes Justin Trudeau), ‘ Self-Portrait. Oct. 2023. Acrylic on canvas. 20” x 26”.’

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2023. The October 18 Angus Reid polling report, “Majority — including two-in-five past Liberal voters — say Trudeau should step down,” underlines what now seems an unavoidable winter of discontent for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

From one deep-background angle, on the 338Canada list of federal political polls from October 18, 2021 to October 12, 2023, the last Trudeau Liberal polling lead was at the end of May this year : now almost five months away.

Pondering the same source you might also conclude that the seriously great age of Liberal polling hegemony ended more than 20 months ago, in the middle of January 2022 — not long after the September 20, 2021 federal election that it at first seemed PM Trudeau was wrong to have called. (With the prospect that without 2021 there would have been another fixed-date contest this fall, about now, Trudeau’s call two years ago has improved somewhat with age!)

It similarly seems impossible not to quietly acknowledge such midsummer 2023 headlines as “Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau are separating after 18 years of marriage” ; “Not a fairy tale ending: The unanticipated split of Trudeau and Sophie” ; and “Justin Trudeau thanks Canadians for respecting family’s privacy after split with wife.”

“Probably one of the most good-looking prime ministers in history”

From an August 22, 2017 article in Esquire magazine, entitled “Justin Trudeau Is the Best Dressed Man in Politics … The Canadian prime minister is never not on his A-game.”

Note as well that Justin “Trudeau is only the second prime minister in Canadian history to announce a separation while in office. The first was his father, Pierre Trudeau, who separated from his wife, Margaret Sinclair, in 1977.”

Pierre Trudeau went on to lose the 1979 Canadian federal election to a Joe Clark Progressive Conservative minority government. But then he happily won something of a surprise 1980 election, just in time for the 1980 Quebec sovereignty referendum (that the NO side Pierre Trudeau helped lead finally won by a 60%–40% vote).

Michael Seward, ‘Goin’ Nuts. 2023. Acrylic on canvas. 40”sq.’

There have also always been sides to Justin Trudeau that touch on worlds beyond the nuts and bolts of Canadian federal politics.

An online piece from early this past August on his separation from the Sophie Gregoire who had seemed so central to his political career is one case in point : “The unanticipated ending of the almost two-decade-long partnership came as a surprise to Canadians.” But “Justin … is probably one of the most good-looking prime ministers in history and his marriage falling apart has always been a scenario his fans feared.”

Like father .. and mother ??

In some ways Justin Trudeau does seem more like his beautiful, emotional mother than his high-minded intellectual father. And both his mother (from BC) and father (from Quebec) stood for sides of Canada that have never been altogether popular in some parts of the country and among some Canadians.

A Brennan MacDonald CBC News report late this past August offered some intelligence on all this : “Pointing to the appearance of flags and bumper stickers across the country that use profane language to call out Trudeau personally, a reporter asked the prime minister if he is a political liability for his party.”

In beautiful downtown Mississauga, ON, Saturday, July 15, 2023!

Justin Trudeau replied : “Don’t write off Canadians just because they choose to wave a nasty flag. Don’t write off a neighbour who chooses to put a bumper sticker … There are people who are hurting and there are people who are lashing out and we need to be there to reassure them that they’re going to be able to succeed. That their kids and their communities are going to be able to succeed, even though the world is changing in very scary ways … Politics is never going to be a game of unanimous support. It’s about a whole bunch of thoughtful, good people coming together to try and figure out the best way forward.”

It is certainly true that “Politics is never going to be a game of unanimous support.” But there is also certainly something not quite convincing about the “whole bunch of thoughtful, good people coming together to try and figure out the best way forward.” (Again it seems more like his mother than his father talking here.)

Adding up the pluses and minuses in 2023

I still think there is something to the argument advanced by Daniel Block in the Washington Monthly back in late September 2021 — just after the “snap” (as opposed to “fixed date”) election that didn’t quite give the Trudeau Liberals the majority government they thought they saw in the opinion polls : “Justin Trudeau May Be the World’s Most Successful Progressive Leader … You don’t have to like him. But hear out his accomplishments.”

Michael Seward, ‘Anti-Portait. 2023. Acrylic on canvas. 24” x 30”.’

At the same time, like many others I have finally been disappointed by the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau. In particular like many others again I have long felt that Canada will not even start to become the more or less serious country I’d like it to be, until we politely wave goodbye to the colonial and imperial British monarch as head of state.

I had hoped Justin Trudeau would share this view, in the grand Liberal tradition that gave us both Lester Pearson’s Canadian flag of 1965 and Pierre Trudeau’s Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms of 1982. And I had hoped the son of Pierre would at least take a few serious steps towards the ultimate goal, in the spirit of the “free and democratic society” alluded to at the start of the Charter in the Constitution Act, 1982. To discover that in fact a rather seriously elitist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a monarchist of sorts himself has been a vast disappointment.

On the other hand, I still think as well that the March 22, 2022 Delivering for Canadians Now, A Supply and Confidence Agreement negotiated by the Liberal Justin Trudeau and the New Democrat Jagmeet Singh has proved largely successful. Mr. Singh’s various public contributions at and after his party’s recent convention suggest (to me at least) that the “SAC Agreement” just might last until the next fixed-date election on October 20, 2025. (And furthermore, as an example, I do like the recent CARICOM meeting of Caribbean nations in Ottawa, hosted by the Trudeau Liberal Government of Canada.)

On the new conservative mood in Canada (energized by women apparently!)

At the Canada CARICOM Summit in Ottawa, October 19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.”

On CTV recently I heard the Liberal insider Elliot Hughes advance an intriguing distinction between 2025 (or whenever before then) as a “change” election (obviously not good for Liberals in office since 2015) or a “choice” election (good for Liberals if it finally is an extended contest between Pierre Poilievre and Justin Trudeau).

If I find I finally do have a choice between these top two Canadian federal party leaders in the next election (which I still suspect I probably will), I will without any doubt vote for Justin Trudeau (so to speak : or at least his Liberal party down on the ground, on the ballot I mark in my electoral district or, in the older lexicon, riding). But I am of course not part of the new conservative mood in Canadian opinion polling — paralleled, eg, by the new conservative mood that nourished the 61% NO vote in the recent Indigenous Voice referendum in Australia, and that continues to thwart fair approval ratings for the Democrat President Biden in the USA.

Keeping up to date. Available online for $45 in Canadian currency.

If some new conservative mood in Canada and various similar places elsewhere is at the very bottom of Justin Trudeau’s current opinion polling troubles (and I believe it is), recent polling also suggests another path forward for a Prime Minister Trudeau still himself confident that he’s the Canadian political leader who can win the 2025 or at least next election.

On the mid- afternoon of October 15, 2023 the almost always interesting Polling Canada tweeted (er posted) :”Since the polls have shifted towards the Conservatives in recent months, a growing share of women have moved towards voting blue over red or orange. Men on the other hand have only cemented themselves in their voting pattern.”

If this proves the most strategic connection ahead, Justin Trudeau‘s stature as “probably one of the most good-looking prime ministers in history” may finally rescue and even raise PM Trudeau’s political career to its greatest height — as he becomes the first Canadian prime minister since Wilfrid Laurier to win four consecutive terms in office!

Or someone else less good-looking may succeed Justin Trudeau as Liberal party leader. But think of it : If we’re all going to spend the next two years looking at TV clips of the far from handsome Pierre Poilievre and “probably one of the most good-looking prime ministers in history,” who is the greatest plurality of all voters, coast to coast to coast, going to choose in the end??

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