Has Justin Trudeau blown it?

Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might have done well to remember the experience of Theresa May before he called a snap election two years before he needed to.

In 2017, with soaring poll ratings, May decided to go the polls to get a bigger majority to neutralise the more excitable Brexiteer wing of her party. Pride came before a fall as she ended the night on June 8th with no majority at all. The campaign was hers to lose and she did that in style. Her claim to bring strong and stable government was in tatters after a u-turn on social care early in the campaign and things just went from bad to worse after that. The Tories thought they could easily trounce a far left Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn, however, found himself unexpectedly popular with young people.

In Canada, Trudeau seems to be having a similar experience. He started the election 5 points ahead and is now round about 3 points behind. CBC’s poll tracker sets out the grim reality.

This is the second time Trudeau has had a poor campaign, so you think he might have learned from 2019 when he lost his majority and the popular vote after sliding through the campaign, losing 20 seats in the process.

And to make matters worse, one of his MPs has had to stand down after nominations close in Kitchener, Ontario in the face of sexual harassment allegations which he denies. Trudeau stood by him just a few days ago. This was quite clearly going to be an issue during the campaign and has cost the Liberals a seat. It’s at best careless.

The last thing Canadians need at the moment is a Conservative Government which would slash all the Covid recovery stuff that the Liberals have done, do away with their childcare expansion, repeal the Liberals’ gun control laws and a whole host of other nasties. There’s a really good comparison of all the parties’ stance on many issues here. The People’s Party are a complete and utter Farage style horror show. They lost their only seat and got 1.6% two years ago but they are on 4.5% in the polls now.

It’ll be interesting to see how the New Democrats do. They are in some ways a better match for us than Trudeau’s Liberals, as the progressive third party in a first past the post set up. They are slightly up on the 19% they polled in 2019, but far from their spell as the official opposition from 2011.

The election winner needs 170 seats for a majority in the 338 seat chamber. The Liberals currently have 157. It seems to me that a Liberal/NDP coalition might not be a bad thing, but whether Trudeau could survive such a humiliation is yet to be seen.

There are still two weeks, and plenty leader’s debates to come. The Conservatives are making a lot of noise about an unnecessary election in the middle of a pandemic. And they may well have a point. Sure, there have been successful elections in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, the US and many other places, but those have generally been when they should have been.

Let’s hope that the Liberals and other progressive parties find some momentum in the final fortnight. The alternative risks hurting those on lowest incomes the most.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Reading the Economist summary https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2021/09/04/could-canadas-conservative-party-win-back-power the Canadian Conservative party appears to have moderated its prior hawkish fiscal stance.
    “Mr O’Toole sounds less hawkish on public spending than his predecessors. Canada’s net debt as a share of gdp stayed flat at around 31% under Mr Harper, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2015. Covid-19 and Mr Trudeau have pushed it higher, to 50%. Mr O’Toole says that Mr Trudeau’s pandemic largesse, such as cash grants of C$500 ($396) a week to laid-off workers, was necessary. He would extend the government’s income-subsidy scheme by agreeing to cover for employers up to 50% of a new hire’s salary for six additional months. As for eliminating the budget deficit, which soared to C$314bn (14% of gdp) last fiscal year, Mr O’Toole says he will do it in ten years, which is three elections away.”
    Caron writes “It seems to me that a Liberal/NDP coalition might not be a bad thing, but whether Trudeau could survive such a humiliation is yet to be seen.” Perhaps the question (at least for the NDP) should be, What would it do to their future NDP support, as the minrity party in a coalition?

  • John Marriott 5th Sep '21 - 7:49pm

    A good analogy with May. Let’s hear it for the Fixed Term Parliament! The answer to Caron’s question is probably yes.

    PS Canadian ‘Liberals’ are not really British ‘Liberals’.

  • Liberal Democrats have strange bedfellows. The Liberals want a vaccine mandate AND vaccine passports to travel. There ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I’d vote for that if I were Canadian. In Vancouver if you are double jabbed but your partner has an exemption (this is a true story) you can’t enter premises together like a cafe to share a coffee and cake.

    As for the gun ownership O’Toole has said that he won’t be relaxing those laws.

  • Short of a major mistake by the opposition or some sort of national disaster, yes.

  • Mr Trudeau isn’t the first Liberal Leader to be over optimistic and to get it wrong about pursuing a general election. I seem to recall something similar in the UK less than two years ago.

  • David Evans 6th Sep '21 - 11:44am

    Very true David. Over optimism by recent Leaders verging to an almost ridiculous extent on ‘We are so right and so we must win’ coupled with leader hero worship by too many supporters does seem to be a characteristic of the last decade or so.

    I would also add the huge focus on ‘Personal liberties for me and people like me’ at the expense of Social liberties for all (like the alleviation of poverty, or better education, or just fair elections in Belarus) is another sad trend in many so called liberal circles worldwide. So beloved of the Identity politics activists on the left, it is very common in the Democrats in the US, the Liberal Party in Canada, and in the UK.

    And then it is such a surprise for commentators when people don’t vote for them and it all goes horribly wrong (Trump, Johnson and Brexit, or Erin O’Toole in Canada). If we want to progress and build the powerbase to actually achieve something, “Bring back real Liberal Democracy” is what I say.

  • So under Trudeau national debt has risen to 50% of GDP. What would the comparable figure be for the UK ? (Rhetorical question !)

  • @ David Evans You might have a long out of body experience and wait, David……. though we were pleased to note Tim is getting the Eden Valley sorted out this weekend.

  • @Chris Cory – Whilst your question was rhetorical, this graph is quite interesting – it gives some historical context to the current level of UK debt.


  • Paul Barker 7th Sep '21 - 12:27pm

    The Liberal Government has certainly been a disappointment, starting with their abandonment of Electoral Reform but they are vastly closer to us than The Conservatives.

    On the theme of the article, The Liberals have an obvious potential partner in any “hung” Parliament, The conservatives don’t – a situation with parallels to our own.

  • Jasper Brannigan 8th Sep '21 - 10:03pm

    Justin Trudeau did not need to learn anything from Theresa May.

    Trudeau should have already been well acquainted with the result of Ontario Premier David Peterson decision to call an unnecessary too-early snap election in 1990 when he already had an impressive majority of 95 seats out of a possible 130 seats in the Ontario legislature and with more than 2 years left before the next election. Ontario voters decided that Peterson had made a serious error of judgment and lack of feeling of the mood of the electorate, The Ontario Liberal Party, instead of gaining seats or maintaining their majority, lost 59 of their 95 seats and Peterson resigned in disgrace.

    A majority of voters in marginal ridings (parliamentary constituencies) across Canada may decide that Trudeau has given them an unwanted opportunity (who wants an unnecessary election during a pandemic?) for seeing whether an a different Prime Minister can do a better job

    Incidentally although Canada was not able to get its vaccinaton rollout properly underway because of problems with vaccine supply, until 3 months after the UK, it now has a higher percentage of its population fully vaccinated compared to the UK, so in the respect alone Trudeau has outperformed the UK clown prime minister Johnson.

  • Remainer Forever 9th Sep '21 - 11:02pm

    Honestly, I would vote NDP were I Canadian, not Liberal. The NDP is more in line with European social liberal and social democrat values – for example they support Canada’s health system covering prescription medication. Imagine if the NHS didn’t cover prescription cost and you had to pay 150 Pounds out of pocket for your asthma inhaler or whatever! The Liberal Party of Canada is more like the US Democratic Party, a big business party that is at least more progressive than the other big business party, the Conservative Party of Canada, which is basically a carbon copy of US Republican Party.

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