Trudeau Is Better At Campaigning Than Governing

Opinion polls show the Conservatives and Liberals in a tight race. The safe bet is that we will have another minority government. After narrowly trailing Erin O’Toole two weeks ago, Justin Trudeau is now a nudge ahead, all well within the margin for polling error.

Trudeau is highly skilled at torquing an issue to demonize his opponents. O’Toole’s strategy of remaining positive has not been a success. He has only recently started to talk about Trudeau’s flaws. Trudeau’s six-year track record provides lots of material to work with.

On climate change, Trudeau criticizes O’Toole for not matching his recently increased goals for reducing greenhouse gases. Ambition is not achievement. Trudeau promised in 2015 to “end the cycle of federal parties setting arbitrary targets without a real federal/provincial/territorial plan in place.” He has done exactly that.

As a practical matter, he made no progress in his first mandate. Emissions in 2019 were a bit higher than they were in 2015 when Trudeau was elected. The reason they went down in 2020 was the impact of COVID on the economy, especially air travel.

In 2015, he promised to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Nothing happened. He renewed the promise in 2019, promising to get it done in within twelve months. Nothing of substance happened. In June 2021, the government passed a bill that ordered itself to work on it and report on progress annually.

Meanwhile, paralysis has gripped federal responses to law-breaking. Having invested $12.6 billion in the Trans Mountain pipeline, the government was reluctant to deal with illegal blockades. It took more resolute action by the government of British Columbia to get it done.

The government reacted incoherently to unlicensed fisheries in southwest Nova Scotia, leading to violence between indigenous and non-indigenous fishers. More recently, there was a substantial federal response to out-of-season fishing in St Mary’s Bay. But one week before the election, the boats doing that work were pulled out of the water with no explanation given.

Guns provide another example of Liberals passing meaningless laws that give the impression of real action. O’Toole unwisely said he would replace the Liberals ban on certain firearms and was accused of being in the pockets of the gun lobby. As Globe and Mail columnist Robyn Urback points out, Trudeau’s “ 2020 ‘ban’ of some 1,500 so-called assault-style weapons, which was really just an arbitrary reclassification of some firearms; prohibited many scary-looking and notorious types of guns while leaving others that are functionally identical legal for purchase, sale, and use.”

In 2015, Trudeau pledged to balance the budget by the end of four years, a promise that was immediately abandoned. In 2019, he said that the debt-to-GDP ratio would be held at 30%. That has also been abandoned with a new ratio of 50% being targeted. Most of that increase is from non-COVID spending promises.

Even that high level is likely to be exceeded. The ongoing cost of the most expensive promises only begins to be included in the last year of their projection.

Trudeau claims that O’Toole would subvert Canada’s publicly funded health care system by allowing private companies to be part of the system as if there was anything new in that.

He conveniently ignores that—under his watch, Scotia Surgery in Halifax, Shouldice Hernia Hospital in Ontario, and Cambie Surgery in Vancouver among others provide both publicly insured and privately paid services.

Diagnostic imaging services by private companies operate outside the public system but facilitate access to it. Physiotherapists provide some services that are publicly funded and others that are not. Ambulances are operated by private companies.

On vaccines, O’Toole says civil servants will have to be vaccinated or provide regular negative test results. Trudeau says they will all have to be vaccinated and that O’Toole is supporting anti-vaxxers. What will Trudeau do with the unvaccinated? Fire them, even if they qualify for medical exemption? His response would ultimately be the same as O’Toole’s.

Trudeau dismissed the idea of proof of vaccination technology when it was raised at the beginning of the year. The platform pledge to provide it is months late.

Meanwhile, Canadians have witnessed Trudeau’s many flaws. His episodes of dressing up in brownface or blackface occurred less than a decade before he was first elected. He pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and lied about it.

He has repeatedly been chastised by the ethics commissioner, including for accepting a free all-expenses-paid family trip to an island in the Bahamas, and more recently for awarding a $1 billion contract to the WE charity for which his wife, mother, and brother have been handsomely paid as speakers.

The non-profit Angus Reid institute tracks Canadians’ approval ratings of Trudeau every month. This month’s report has 61% disapproving and 36% approving, with only 3% not sure/can’t say.

If Trudeau nevertheless wins again, it will be a credit to his skills as a negative campaigner, and O’Toole’s failure to counterpunch.

If O’Toole wins the opposition, parties will confine him to the promises within his centrist platform.

There are more than a few Liberals among the 61% disapproving of Trudeau. They might be glad to have a chance to choose a replacement.


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