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Canada: Does Justin Trudeau Have a Chance at Winning the Next Election?

(Prime Minister Justin Trudeau & his spouse: Sophie Gregoire Trudeau)

Part I: The Current Political Landscape for Trudeau

Amid turmoil for Trudeau in this week’s news cycle regarding his separation from his wife, Trudeau is yet again in the public eye. This time, rather than policy-based, Trudeau’s private life is in the midst of Canadian’s minds. Whether the separation will prove beneficial for garnering sympathy for voters or will play into Trudeau’s faltering political career, only time will tell. Coupled with the recent Cabinet shuffle seeing Ministers being added, dropped, and shifted around Trudeau’s sights are completely unshackled towards hauling the next election the best he possibly can.

Nonetheless, Trudeau’s political career is seemingly up in the air based on all conceivable directions. All eyes are on the 2025 election, and many analysts are becoming increasingly unsure about Trudeau’s electability. The latest polls suggest that the Liberals are significantly trailing the Conservatives with the Conservatives edging towards a majority government if an election were held right now. The latest data from top polling firms indicate a national point difference of 5% to 10%. 

When looking at major regional data, the Conservatives are leading healthily by significant margins in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Interestingly, 338Canada - a site that amalgamates polls - is indicating a 90% probability of the Conservatives winning the election. 

Even on Canada’s most pressing issues, polls show that 70% of Canadians believe that the Liberal government is not focused enough on the rising cost of living and the cost of housing. On healthcare, 66% believe the Liberal government isn’t focused enough on that front and approximately 52% believe the Liberals aren’t focused enough on growing the economy. Thus, in terms of public opinion, the public is not at all convinced the Liberals are competent enough for the country’s critical economic issues.

Part II: Trudeau’s Biggest Problems

There’s much going against Trudeau and the Liberals, the biggest issue in Canada is an increasingly unaffordable state of living, with grocery and energy prices up at historic highs. Even though general inflation has dropped to 3%, grocery prices are up nearly 18% compared to last year. For everyday working families, groceries are taking up an increasing percentage of their weekly incomes. 

Housing prices are increasingly rising to unaffordable levels; certain demographics like young Canadians, newcomers, and first-time homebuyers are struggling to make the initial down payment necessary for entry into homeownership. For homeowners on the other hand, the numerous interest rate hikes are increasing monthly mortgage payments by 1.5 to 2 times the amount compared to years prior, the current average mortgage payments are up at over $3000 compared to just over $1400 8 years prior. Mortgage payments going up necessarily causes rents to go up as well, with major metropolitan cities in Canada seeing rents soar to over $2000 for 1 or 2 rooms.

Healthcare is suffering across the country as well, while the federal government has done its part to increase its share of healthcare funding. The ball for improving healthcare outcomes for Canadians is solely under provincial jurisdiction. Unfortunately for the federal government, the blame on healthcare woes eats equally into federal political discourse as does against the provinces. For Trudeau, he can only hope that the provinces buck themselves quickly for tangible improvements in healthcare so that he has something to show for in 2025. Otherwise, the accountability measures provided in the $49 billion healthcare deals signed will be for naught. Realistically, healthcare improvements will likely be seen in the long term rather than in a couple of years as Trudeau might hope and will only likely only take effect after the contractual period of the deal’s 10-year term. 

Part III: How can Trudeau Possibly Win?

But that isn’t to say Trudeau doesn’t have any leverage, far from it - Trudeau has been especially effective in convincing voters that his party is the best on counts of social justice, climate change, childcare, healthcare, and program-based policy initiatives. For all the flack Trudeau has received, he’s still won 3 elections and is heading towards a rare 4th Liberal term. 

Trudeau has been a champion of supporting marginalized demographics like the LGBTQ community, religious communities like Muslims and Sikhs, people of colour, women, and Indigenous people through dedicated funding and party rhetoric. The Liberals are the champions of immigrants, they are effectively, the party of immigrants. And they look to be the party of the tolerant, the party that recognizes all and ensures the constitutional protection of all. 

The Conservatives on the other hand continue to harbour and pander to a portion of their base that is unfavourable against marginalized peoples. This base of the Conservative Party is the remnant of the right-wing Reform Party of the early 2000s. As a showcase, Poilievre’s recent debacle on taking a picture with a man wearing a ‘straight pride’ shirt forced him to publicly apologize and restate his position as an ally of the LGBTQ community. Although the Conservative’s official party platform supports the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people, the Conservatives are also the party that holds MPs and supporters that are staunchly against the queer community. 

The Conservatives have also taken heat on including misogynistic tags on their Youtube videos explicitly targeting the young male demographic that is becoming increasingly hostile towards women. Under Harper, the Conservatives were quite open to implementing policies that the Muslim community railed against such as the barbaric cultural practices hotline and forcing women to remove their head coverings during citizenship ceremonies. Harper went on to claim that the niqab (a full-body veil worn by Muslim women) was “rooted in a culture that is anti-women." To this day, many Muslim women (and the community as a whole) are reluctant to vote Conservative due to that grave blunder.

The Conservatives are playing a risky game trying to dance between the hoops of the tolerant and intolerant all while trying to garner support from both sides. A risky debacle to be sure, but one that could prove to be effective in bringing together support from both sides of the political aisle. 

Trudeau’s Policy Accomplishments are not to be Underestimated

Contrary to what the public or political pundits may argue, Prime Minister Trudeau has been one of the most influential politicians of our time. Even though Trudeau lost his majority mandate in 2019, Trudeau has arguably done more in his subsequent minority governments than his sole majority one. Here are some of Trudeau’s accomplishments that completely outshine his many predecessors: 

- A more impartial Senate

- A more neutral federal court appointment process

- Increasing constitutional protections for queer communities against employment, educational, or hate-based discrimination

- A Universal Canada Child Benefit

- Reversing Harper’s suggestion of pension eligibility from 67 to 65

- Updating Canada’s internal free trade laws through CAFTA

- On track to protect 30% of Canada’s lands and oceans by 2030

- The legalization of marijuana

- Lifting nearly 90% of boil water advisories on Indigenous reserves

- Reconciling billions in funding for righting wrongs against Indigenous peoples

- Investing 10s of billion in public transit projects across the country

- Investing over $100 billion in infrastructure over 12 years since 2015

- Introducing a pan-Canadian carbon tax to reduce emissions and rebate Canadians

- Investing 10s of billion in sustainable infrastructure and energy projects as of Budget 2023

- $49 billion in new money for healthcare over 10 years starting in 2023

- A universal pan-Canadian childcare system aimed at reducing fees and increasing access

- Billions in housing investment aimed specifically at providing access for marginalized Canadians

- A long-term housing infrastructure fund expected to come in the fall to address housing supply

At the end of the day, many voters may rightly argue that Trudeau has passed and implemented more policies than any other leader in recent Canadian history, and they would be correct in that assessment. Previous leaders such as Harper, Martin, or Chretien hadn't done much in terms of expanding the scope and role of the federal government in cooperating with provinces to enact social and economic improvements. Leaders of the past were laissez-faire, Trudeau, on the other hand, is quite obviously a dirigiste (aka an interventionist). If the progressive bloc of Canada (which easily represents over 50% of the population) votes in support of yet another Trudeau term, then it'll be entirely because of Trudeau's policy progress.

Taking Pharmacare Hostage Next Election 

On the policy front, Trudeau has 3 primary policy items that will make headways for voters to consider his candidacy for PM. Trudeau’s government has made investments worth 10s of billions in improving both healthcare and childcare. Both of these policies (especially the latter) will have generational impacts on Canadians for decades to come. But even under the guise of positive policies the Trudeau government has implemented, other policies the government has promised still remain.

One of the big things that the Liberal Party has championed for decades is a national publicly subsidized drug program. Compared to other iterations of the Liberal Party, Trudeau’s administration in particular has been acutely committed to implementing the program since 2015. As of yet, the party has made very little progress on the policy but that may quickly change as the election nears. Just as the party had done on childcare in 2021, the Liberals may look to quickly sign multi-billion-dollar deals with the provinces before the wake of an election. 

As a result, Trudeau would essentially take Pharmacare hostage and force the electorate to vote either Liberal to be in support of the policy or Conservative if against the policy. Such a tactic may seem heartless, foolish even; but the desire for politicians to win elections using any strategy in their minds is not to be underestimated. It is therefore plausible that the next election will dictate the potential implementation of more social programs if Trudeau wins.

But after nearly a decade of fatigue, the Conservatives have a real shot at winning by calling for “common-sense” policies that prioritize affordability, tough-on-crime laws, higher salaries, and adequate housing. For the average Canadian, the Conservative rhetoric on what Canada needs is daggers more effective than what the Liberals are clinging to since 2015 whether that be Pharmacare or else.

Part IV: How will a Post-Trudeau Liberal Party Look Like?

The Liberals winning the next election hinges on Trudeau’s campaign performance, the state of the economy, and the policies that the government has enacted since 2015. The only hope Trudeau has is that these 3 factors clutchly work in tandem to squeak him a win in 2025. 

However, whether the Liberals win the next election or not impacts the future of the party’s politics either way. As the years go by, the Liberals are only more likely to think about both Trudeau’s successor and the party’s future vision. 

It may be that a future Liberal Party reenvisioned under a different leader takes the party’s politics to the right of Trudeau. A new leader may even distinguish themselves as starkly and fundamentally different from Trudeau, an antithesis to Trudeau’s regime and politics. Equally likely, Trudeau’s successor may be an individual who represents the continuation of his legacy, with well-thought-out modifications to policies that may over time become favourable within the Canadian populace. 

More importantly, this individual must carry the same edge, charisma, and aura of celebrity status that Trudeau has. They’ll require an ability to galvanize their supporters and give Canadians a reason to vote for a change in not only a leader but the country as a whole. 

The Likely Future Liberal Leaders

But who exactly will take the reigns of the long-standing Liberal Party tycoon after Trudeau’s departure? For some, the choice is obvious; Trudeau’s second-in-command Chrystia Freeland is the natural candidate. Freeland is competent, qualified, and experienced enough to take Trudeau’s throne today if the situation arose to it. Unfortunately for her,  her close proximity to Trudeau may well be her downfall. Opponents readily point to her suboptimal performance as finance minister during an era of unprecedented inflation, exorbitant housing costs, a stagnating economy, and an uncertain economic and environmental future. Not to mention rumours indicating that Freeland may be more interested in a high-ranking position within the UN or NATO than continuing politics. Freeland's era within Canadian politics may easily come to a close just as Trudeau exits the scene as well.

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, Francois Phillipe Champagne, seems to be the perfect post-Trudeau copy. A fully bilingual populist that’ll potentially shift the Liberals more centrist just in case economic woes become the party’s most extensive future critique. As a Minister, Champagne has been responsible for procuring some of Canada’s largest sustainable private investment projects like the Volkswagen battery gigafactory, Stellantis battery factories, new subsidies and tax credits for clean infrastructure and energy projects, and attracting more EV manufacturing in Canada. But Champagne is relatively unknown, and many pundits argue his personality doesn’t shine. Champagne seems more fit to be in the backlines rather than be representative as the face of the Liberal Party.

The final candidate is Melanie Joly, a Quebecois with excellent French and modest English skills, she’s a young politician that’ll be able to garner the Liberal base if she can get her campaigning skills and energy levels in order. Joly has held strong cabinet positions as Minister of Canadian Heritage, various positions as Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Official Languages, and now as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Although Joly is within Trudeau’s inner circle, she nonetheless is a bit separated from public scrutiny unlike Freeland due to the nature of her ministerial positions. While I personally think Joly is the current favourite candidate among inner Liberal circles (and potentially handpicked by Trudeau), her fervour for leadership is yet to be seen.

In any case, all possibilities point to Trudeau’s eventual departure whether he wins the next election or not. But more than that, the future of the Liberal Party is now at the crosshairs of political pundits - be it a prediction that the party may transition to its more neoliberal roots or entrenching itself as the only viable progressive party with a leader that can match the same grande mystique that Trudeau cultivated in 2015.

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