The 2015 Canadian election made Justin Trudeau prime minister with a large Liberal majority in our House of Commons. This week, it is prudent to predict that the next election prescribed by legislation for Oct. 21, 2019 will be a Liberal majority or minority, although recent public opinion surveys suggest that a Conservative minority or even a majority is becoming feasible.
Historically in Canada, a political party with a strong majority gets a second term in office. Pierre Trudeau, for example, lost his majority from the 1968 election in the 1972 one, but recovered it in 1974 and later in 1980. John Diefenbaker saw his huge Conservative majority in the 1958 election fall to a minority in 1962 and was voted from office in favour of Liberal Lester Pearson in 1963.
The bloom is clearly off the rose currently for Justin Trudeau and his government among most Canadians. According to the survey by the respected Angus Reid Institute, at the time of the 2015 election Trudeau’s favourable approval rating nationally was 64 percent compared to 30 percent disapproval. Near the end of 2018, only approximately 35 percent of Canadians approved and 58 percent disapproved of his performance as prime minister.
The institute’s related survey on approval ratings for Trudeau’s ministers revealed that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland enjoyed the highest approval, followed by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Ominously, the bottom group of ministers included Finance Minister Bill Morneau, with 23 percent of respondents saying his performance has been “good” and 43 per cent saying it has been “bad.”
Each voter probably has a slightly different reason for favoring a particular election candidate for Parliament, but these factors are likely to influence votes in Trudeau’s favor next October:
- He and his family project a positive image in Canada and internationally in both English and French;
- His cabinet has an equal number of women and men, with his strongest minister being a female Foreign Affairs minister;
- There is a clear recognition among Canadians that his government is seeking reconciliation with Canada’s indigenous peoples;
- Our national economy is doing well, with unemployment at a 43-year low of 5.6 per cent. It has operated near capacity for the past year; about half a million more Canadians are employed now than when his government took office in 2015;
- The government clearly recognizes the danger of climate change and global warming and is seeking to reduce both;
- NAFTA, which governed $2-billion worth of trade daily for 23 years among the three participating countries, was successfully renegotiated with the Trump administration despite its attempts to change it as much as it could to favor Americans.
Issues working against Trudeau include:
- Failing to reduce a large federal government debt. By Oct. 21, his continuous deficits since 2015 will have added approximately $100 billion to Canada’s national debt, inevitably bringing more inflation and pain for those on fixed incomes;
- Abandoning his commitment to adopt proportional representation (P.R.) as used by virtually all of the world’s successful democracies. A special committee, formed with representatives from all five parties in the Commons, in late 2016 recommended P.R. following a referendum. In 2017, however, the government dropped support for electoral reform, saying deceptively, “A clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged…”;
- Perceived neglect of urgently-needed new pipeline capacity to move Western Canadian oil across the country and to both coasts. A major consequence of the failure to get products to markets is that the number of Canadian oil drilling rigs is reported to be down to 70 units-less than 10 per cent of the number a decade ago;
- His handling of the demand by Ontario’s and Quebec’s new governments for federal compensation for the thousands of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-U.S. border at unofficial entry points. If only half of them are genuine refugees, as alleged, public confidence in Canada’s generally well-regarded immigration system could lessen;
- Legalizing recreational marijuana. There is concern about a concomitant increase in the use of street drugs, especially ones laced with dangerous substances, such as fentanyl. The opioid poisoning crisis took an estimated 4000 lives last year alone, about 16 Canadians are now hospitalized daily, and Ottawa is seen to be doing little to respond.
When IPSOS asked people in 25 countries during 2017 which countries were a force for good in the world, Canada came out on top. Canadians continue to seek a better country, building on our successes to date. This might result in part from a willingness to change governments when we are disappointed. Many voters will be weighing this factor next Oct 19th.
David Kilgour, a lawyer by profession, served in Canada’s House of Commons for almost 27 years. In Jean Chrétien’s Cabinet, he was secretary of state (Latin America and Africa) and secretary of state (Asia-Pacific). He is the author of several books and co-author with David Matas of “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for Their Organs.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.