The Niagara Independent, January 5, 2024 – Canadians enter the new year in an anxious mood, many wondering about their personal finances and a growing number worrying about the state of their country. From the year-end interviews of Canada’s federal political leaders one thing is certain: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre intend on increasing their political attacks and counter-spins to jostle for better positioning in the hearts and minds of the voters. It is a safe prediction to make that the combatants’ mudslinging will be caked on in 2024.
There has been no glimmer of hope for Trudeau in recent polling numbers as a series of polls confirm the Liberals are trailing the Conservatives by double digits. A 338 Canada poll has Conservatives at 39 per cent and tracking to win 191 seats, Liberals at 27 percent for 83 seats, NDP at 19 per cent for 28 seats, and the Bloc at 7 per cent nationally to win 34 seats in Quebec. Abacus Data, Nanos Research, and EKOS polling firms all closely mirror these numbers that signal the likelihood of a sweeping Conservative majority in the next federal election.
Seven of ten Canadians want Trudeau to resign before the next election, according to Ipsos. About one in two Liberals think he should step down – and are already favouring a new leader in either Mark Carney or Chrystia Freeland, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. This week a Nanos Research survey revealed one in two Canadians would prefer an election ASAP – most probably for the opportunity to kick Trudeau to the curbside.
And yet, considering the bravado of Trudeau in his latest interviews, Canadians will need to wait until October 2025 for a federal election. Trudeau has indicated he intends to see his 2022 parliamentary pact with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh through its full term. What is more, Trudeau says he will stick around to lead the Liberals in the 2025 election.
In an early December La Presse interview, Trudeau stated, “There is no doubt for me that yes, I continue, I have to keep going, and I still have a lot to offer. I still have a place in politics.” Trudeau repeated this reflection in a series of his year-end one-on-ones.
In a Global News interview, Trudeau characterized his motivation to stay as a dutiful fight: “I made a commitment in 2015 to a whole bunch of young people who came out to vote for the very first time. I am not giving up on them … I am not giving up on the progressive vision of progress that we have been fighting for every single day over the past years.”
Trudeau rabbit punched his way through other interviews in a similar style: “There’s a lot of work to do … and we are going to continue fighting for them every single day…. I wouldn’t be the person I am and be willing to walk away from this right now.”
At no time in any interview did Trudeau suggest that the current difficulties being felt by Canadians were a result of his government’s stewardship of the country’s affairs. When asked to critically assess any of his government’s perceived failings, Trudeau pivoted to frame the issue as an unfortunate result of the global reality or a Conservative misinformation campaign. Regarding the latter, he dismissed Poilievre on a couple of occasions as a master of “smoke and mirrors” who had no solutions.
Not only did Trudeau roll with the punches, but he promised that in 2024 his government would “double down” on all their policies: fiscal, immigration, international commitments to UN and WEF, and his green policies – from increasing the carbon tax to doling out more subsidies. As Trudeau asserted to Global News, “This is exactly not the time to be slowing down. The context we’re in right now — where progress has become so fragile because of global and large macro events — is the time to be doubling down and rolling up our sleeves, and that’s what I’m here for.”
There are two further points on the Liberals’ year-end narrative that forecasts what Canadians will hear repeatedly in 2024. Trudeau tells us that the fall 2025 election will offer “a choice similar to the one in 2015” where Canadian voters will need to choose the future direction of the country: the Liberals’ progressive and globally responsible path or the Conservatives’ slash-and-burn dystopian alternative. Also, it is evident that the Liberals will smear the Conservatives and their leader with ugly Trumpisms – and a prime example of this was a Liberal Party New Year’s message rallying their troops for a by-election in the Durham, Ontario riding: “While Pierre Poilievre and his Conservatives continue to push for deep cuts that would gut the middle class and import far-right American-style politics here to Canada, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are focused on making life more affordable and building an economy that works for all Canadians.”
Undoubtedly, this Liberal slop will be met with equally messy salvos launched by the Conservatives. Poilievre used the opportunities of his year-end media encounters to distinguish the difference of approach and leadership style between him and Trudeau. Poilievre peppered his interview responses with examples of current affairs and how a Conservative government would be taking a different tact.
For example, in his Toronto Sun interview, Poilievre stated on the Hamas-Israeli war, “We have one position, unlike Trudeau, who says one thing to one group and the opposite thing to another group. Our approach won’t please everybody, but at least we’re honest with people about where we stand.” He went on to accuse Trudeau and the Liberals of flip-flopping when Muslims, who were major funders of the Liberal Party, threatened to withhold donations. Poilievre said, “Then, he [Trudeau] sent out MPs from his caucus who represent Jewish ridings to claim that they disagreed with him so that he could say one thing to one group and exactly the opposite to another group. The message is regardless of where you stand on the Middle East, Justin Trudeau will tell you anything you want to hear, and then when you turn your back, he’ll betray you.”
By way of contrast, Poilievre stated he would not mince words when condemning Hamas and its genocidal attack that provoked the war: “We all want an end to the violence as soon as possible. The only way for that to occur is for Hamas to be disarmed, for the hostages to be returned, and for the murderers of Oct. 7 to be surrendered. If those things happen, of course, there should be peace, and then we can work towards a Palestinian state and a brighter future for all the people who treasure the Holy Land.”
On the matter of how a Conservative government would curb government spending and better manage the nation’s fiscal affairs, Poilievre provided specifics with his responses. In one interview he said, “I would get rid of the $35 billion Infrastructure Bank that hasn’t completed a single project in the five years of its existence. I would get rid of the $54 million ArriveCAN app, the $1 billion so called Green Tech Fund which $150 million has already been diverted to Liberal and government insiders – it has been misappropriated. I would get rid of that fund all together. I would bring in a pay as you go law that requires government to find a dollar of savings for every dollar of new spending to root out waste and mismanagement, and to incentivize bureaucrats to optimize use of dollars….” He continued to cite examples of Liberal boondoggles and waste in making the point that the Conservatives are capable of running a tighter ship.
The issue that the Conservative leader spent the most time discussing was the Liberals’ carbon tax – an issue that Poilievre has been railing against throughout 2023 in his cross country “Axe the Tax” tour. Poilievre pulls no punches when he states Trudeau “lied to Canadians.” Trudeau lied that the carbon tax would not exceed $50 per tonne, would ensure the government met its emissions targets, and Canadians would be financially better off with his tax rebates.
As Poilievre matter-of-factly states, the “carbon tax didn’t work. It has not reduced emissions and it has impoverished everyone… Now he wants to quadruple the tax by 2030 and after that it might go higher – and that is what they have told us. So, they are now admitting it will be quadrupled, how much is it actually going to be raised? I will axe the tax. The next election will be an election on the carbon tax and there are only two options on the ballot… You vote for Pierre Poilievre and you will axe the tax. You vote for the other four parties and you will quadruple the tax.”
Through 2024 Canadians are sure to hear countless fighting words from both Poilievre and Trudeau in anticipation of their forthcoming election contest – a date that is seemingly set for a full 21 months from now. Until then, it will be constant mudslinging to see what sticks.