It is not a fun time to be a Liberal MP

On April 20, The Globe and Mail reported that the Liberals had set an internal goal of narrowing the Conservative’s 15% lead by five points every six months. It is going badly.

The hope was that heavy advance promotion of budget initiatives would begin a turn of the tide. Instead, the already formidable Conservative lead has grown.

A May 12 report by poll aggregator 338Canada, almost four weeks after the budget, shows the Liberals with 24% support among voters. The Conservatives have a 20% lead with 44%.

If this was the result on election day the Conservatives would get 220 seats in the House of Commons, compared to 119 currently. The Liberals would drop from 160 to 64, while the Bloc Quebecois would gain six seats to total 38, and the NDP would lose six of their 25 seats.

The Liberals have many liabilities:

(1) To win they need to capture a big share of the voters who move back and forth between them and the Conservatives. Many of the Liberal initiatives point in the opposite direction—universal pharmacare, dental care, and tax increases are dictated by the NDP as a condition of their support. Nine years of broken promises to balance the budget do not sit well with swing voters.

(2) The Liberals falsely claimed that the Canada Carbon Rebate would offset the carbon taxes that Canadians would pay. Their calculations did not account for the carbon tax on home heating fuels, a fact they admitted by providing relief on fuel oil to Atlantic Canadians. They did not do so for less carbon-intensive natural gas, which is prominent in western Canada.
Beyond that, their calculations did not account for the tax’s impact on the cost of municipal and provincial services, nor for how it would inflate the transport costs of groceries and other goods.

(3) The representation of the increase in capital gains taxes was likewise misleading. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed out that the Mulroney government had also increased capital gains taxes, conveniently ignoring that Mulroney included offsetting cuts to other taxes.
The minister’s assertion that only the richest 40,000 Canadians would be impacted is challenged by doctors and young technology entrepreneurs, among others. It certainly won’t help Canada’s productivity deficit.

(4) The Liberals have made a mess of the immigration file, resulting in an unplanned surge of non-permanent residents. That exacerbates the crises in both housing and health care. Their promise to double the pace of home building has no chance of success.

(5) Canada’s defence spending has been well below the NATO standard of 2% of GDP. Recruitment and retention of forces personnel has been weak, resulting in a shortfall of 16,500 below the authorized strength of 101,000.

(6) The biggest problem is that Canadians have soured on Prime Minister Trudeau. Pollster Angus Reid reported that Trudeau’s disapproval rating in April was 66%, compared to 28% who approved. His performative announcements of spending commitments are wearing thin.
Conservative leader Poilievre had 51% disapproving and 39% approving, hardly a sign of collective enthusiasm but much better than Trudeau.

On current form, 60% of the Liberal caucus is facing defeat in next year’s election, with the remainder slotted for five years in opposition. They must secretly wince every time Trudeau asserts that he will lead them in the next election.

A caucus revolt seems unlikely at this point. Some of the putative successors have issues: Sean Fraser was Immigration Minister when they lost control of immigration, and Housing Minister for the farcical housing plan. When Anita Anand was Minister of Defence she failed to deal with the personnel shortage. Chrystia Freeland is too closely tied to the multiple deficits. In all three cases they may have been doing the bidding of the Prime Ministers Office, but they still own it.

Outside the caucus Mark Carney has been regularly visible speaking on public policy issues, especially on economics. For public purposes he has expressed support for Trudeau, but has not denied that he would seek the job if it was open.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre must be feeling good about how things are going. He needs to start looking like a future prime minister. Calling Trudeau a “Wacko” is not a class act.

Much more appropriate is the response to Trudeau’s childcare program. It points out that childcare availability has reduced as a result of the Liberal policies.

The election is 17 months away, and a lot can happen in that time. But it is hard to imagine Canadians regaining their initial enthusiasm for Trudeau.

Will his vanity persist in the face of relentlessly unfavourable polls? Will some Liberal MPs join Andy Filmore in seeking out other elected offices?


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