Just over two years after his election victory, Justin Trudeau’s popularity is running into political headwinds. For the first time, the prime minister’s popularity has fallen below the 50 per cent mark, according to a survey by the Angus Reid Institute.
Of the Canadian’s polled, 46 per cent say they approved of Trudeau, compared to 49 per cent who do not. Even millennials, the demographic that was key to securing his victory and sustaining his popularity thus far, have cooled to him. Just over half, 56 per cent, of millennials say they approve of the prime minister, a significant drop from the 68 per cent approval he enjoyed when he was first elected.
Trudeau’s support has dropped even further in the two older age brackets. His approval dipped to 45 per cent with 35-54 year-old Canadians, down from 58 per cent when he was first election. Approval dropped to 40 per cent with Canadians 55 years-old and above, down from 63 per cent in November 2015.
The Angus Reid Institute found that support for Trudeau has also dropped in every province across the country with the largest decline in support in Atlantic Canada, which dropped by at least 15 per cent in the past year. This is particularly troubling as the Liberals swept the Maritimes in the 2015 election.
Trudeau has also haemorrhaged significant support in Quebec, where the Liberals won 40 of 78 seats. Quebec’s seats are particularly important to any party wishing to form a majority government or head the Official Opposition, but particularly more so for the Liberal government. Aside from Trudeau’s Papineau seat, six ministers in the federal government have Quebec seats, including the ministers for international trade, transport and Canadian heritage.
As the Angus Reid Institute noted, the slide in Trudeau’s popularity took place over a quarter where Finance Minister Bill Morneau faced an ethics investigation after it was revealed that he did not place his shares in Morneau Shepell in a blind trust after being named minister. Members of the opposition have repeatedly demanded his resignation, although there has been no sign that the prime minister would consider it.
Morneau’s personal finances could be a source of the decline in Trudeau’s popularity. His embattled finance minister has the lowest performance score of any cabinet member, according to earlier polling by the Angus Reid Institute. Having Morneau at the helm of the Department of Finance could be overshadowing the improvements in an economy that has posted the best growth in the G-7 nations, according to the International Monetary Fund. Canadians have also grown concerned about the federal government’s spending, despite the Liberals’ platform stating that the government would use deficit spending to kickstart the economy.
When it comes to the economy, Canadians do not feel that much has changed. Just 42 per cent of Canadians polled say they are satisfied with the state of the economy and 26 per cent say they expect the economy to worsen in the next year. Only 17 per cent of respondents expect the economy to improve while 55 per cent expect the economy to remain the same.
But that doesn’t mean Trudeau’s unpopularity is translating into gains for the other party leaders. Jagmeet Singh was the only one to garner a net positive rating. Some 39 per cent of Canadians polled have a positive view of the NDP leader, compared to 33 per cent who said they do not, but his party has failed to pick up any seats in a number of by-elections that have been held since Singh won the NDP leadership race.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has a 36 per cent disapproval rating and 35 per cent approval, while 29 per cent hadn’t formed an opinion about him, even though he has been the party leader since May 2017.
Despite having a net negative approval rating for the first time, support for Trudeau is still far above Scheer when respondents were asked who would make the best prime minister, but nearly an equal number of people say they are sure who they wanted to be prime minister.
The Liberals have performed better than expected in the recent by-elections. The party has managed two victories in what were previously Conservative ridings, in Lac-Saint-Jean, Que. in October and Surrey South-White Rock, B.C. last week. The by-election defeats were a poor showing for the leader of the Official Opposition after six months on the job.
Nevertheless, those victories may be one-offs given that 46 per cent of respondents say that it is time for a change in government, a number that has gone up 16 per cent since February 2017. That is compared to 32 per cent who say they did not think it is time for a change in government.
If either opposition party is to make gains against the Liberals, they haven’t shown the ability to do it yet. Despite the sentiment of the Canadian public, the Liberals have held onto every seat they’ve contested and it looks like they won’t end their winning streak anytime soon.