There is an interesting article, albeit a somewhat discouraging one for Conservatives, in the Hill Times, which says that polling (done before the Indian fiasco) indicates that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s personal approval rating has dropped nearly 10 points since last May, but the Liberal Party of Canada has yet to take a hit, polling as strongly as it did when the Grits won a majority in the 2015 federal election, according to the latest poll from Campaign Research.” The prime minister’s personal approval rating is down ~ and my guess is that it will go down even further after the India vacation/photo-op ~ but the Liberal brand remains strong … strong enough to earn another majority government in 2019 unless the Conservatives can do something to change voters’ perceptions.
I think Justin Trudeau had nowhere to go except down, given the enormous goodwill that accompanied his election. Canadians, in 2015, were, to be charitable, tired of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s introspective nature and his laser like focus on a balanced budget. The suburban middle class voters liked his boutique tax cuts but they didn’t like them enough to give him and the Conservatives four more years in power. Justin Trudeau campaigned on “real change” and that included big spending on undefined social issues, running deficits and looking at the world through a different, rose coloured lens. Canadians didn’t know what kind of change they wanted or even what kind of change the Trudeau Liberals were offering … it didn’t really matter, it was time for a change and Justin Trudeau, not Thomas Mulcair, was the anti-Harper.
In two years the Liberals really have not done a lot in the way of “real change” but a substantial number of Canadians, 35% to 40% still approver of what they are doing while only 30% intend, right now, to vote for the Conservatives and the NDP’s vote has fallen to the 16% level.
Only abut half of Canadians say they know much of anything about Andrew Scheer or Jagmeet Singh. Mr Scheer is, I am assured (I have never met him) a nice man and Mr Singh is young and exotic and sexy … but neither has “connected” with Canadians the way Prime Minister Trudeau managed. Some analysts have said that Prime Minister Trudeau’s trip to India was all about countering what many Liberals will fear will be Jagmeet Sing’s appeal to ethnic voters in the suburbs around Vancouver and Toronto …
… there are probably 30 to 50 seats on those two maps that the Liberals could lose in 2019 IF Scheer and Sing can change voters’ minds about the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau. IF the NDP can gain a lot of ground, many of those seats can go to a Conservative who “comes up the middle” with only 35% of the vote when the progressive vote splits fairly evenly (say 25% each) between the Liberal and NDP candidates.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP need to offer Canadians something new, something that the Liberals have failed to promise or on which they have failed to deliver. There really isn’t much “new” out there. The Liberals have, ever since Jean Chrétien’s famous Red Book, wallpapered the country, from coast to coast to coast with promises on every conceivable subject. But they haven’t delivered. Even though Bill Morneau’s budget is relatively tame this year the Canadian financial forecast flatly contradicts the Liberal promise of small deficits and a return to balanced budgets in 2019/2020. The Liberals promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees but now we have tens of thousands of people crossing our border improperly and claiming refugee status. The immigration and border security system is broken … the goals are probably OK but the management stinks. Those are, at last, two issues on which the Liberals should be vulnerable.
I think that the Conservatives need to do two big things:
- Use a team approach that reminds Canadians that the Party is more than Andrew Scheer and that tells Canadians that the Conservatives share their diverse values; and
- Offer some concrete proposals on lower taxes, a road to balanced budgets ~ not an immediate slash and burn campaign against the social safety net, immigration and border security, and jobs maintaining and repairing the national infrastructure.
The Conservative team needs to be attractive to suburban, middle class, moderate voters. The Conservative programme needs to be the same. Canadians don’t care much about foreign and defence policy but there is room to promise greater efficiency by, for example, cutting the size of the various headquarters in the Canadian military and getting rid of some of the many, many, many admirals and generals and then adding some able seamen, troopers and corporals. Not many Canadians care where the Canadian embassy in Israel is … a few do and their votes count, but it’s not a big deal in Surrey, Saskatoon or St John’s. The Liberal’s “Investing in Canada Plan” is, actually, a pretty good idea, but it is monumentally inefficient: it requires coordination by 13 separate government departments, that’s a recipe to do nothing. Surely the Conservative Party can offer a sound plan that will create jobs for Canadians and save money. Those are the sorts of things that can win votes in the suburbs and even in the city centres where people really do care about rapid transit. The environment matters to Canadians, too and, therefore, the Conservative Party has to be green … it is possible to be environmentally sound and to support e.g. the energy industry and pipelines at the same time. It isn’t a natural fit for many but it can be managed. Clean water and clean air are not antithetical to business and jobs. Conservatives have to share Canadians’ values … that means that the religious right cannot dominate the Party’s platform; most Canadians, broadly and generally, support a woman’s access to safe abortions; most believe that homosexual men and women can marry and adopt children; most do not believe that being a single parent is some sort of social disaster.
But not all the news is good for Liberals … now, in a prediction that seems to take on board Justin Trudeau’s Indian fiasco, Global News, citing an Ipsos poll, says that “If a federal election were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would win … [because] … According to a new Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News, public reaction to a recent troubled trip by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India two weeks ago might be a symptom of a growing problem … [and the poll says that the] … Liberals would win 33 per cent of the national popular decided vote if Canadians went to the polls this weekend, while Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives would receive 38 per cent of the same vote and win the election.” But one poll is no reason for the Liberals to give up hope or for the CPC to start celebrating. Justin Trudeau may have damaged the Liberal brand but it is still strong and Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh are still unknown.
A sudden jump to 38% for the CPC means, at best, a weak majority, more likely a minority government unless Jagmeet Singh can bring a good slice of progressive vote back to its natural home in the NDP.
A comment on social media seems to sum things up for many: “Yes, that’s the problem we don’t really have good leaders and the Liberals have the worst…that ‘s too bad.” I think a lot of people share that view: they like and respect the Liberal Party but they worry that Justin Trudeau is, indeed, “just not ready,” but they cannot or will not switch their vote to either the CPC or NDP because they don’t know the leaders and the “brands” have too much baggage ~ socialism for the NDOP and angry, old, white men foe the CPC. The CPC, especially needs new faces …
… we, Conservatives, have a young, diverse party in parliament and waiting in the wings. Canadians need to hear more from the team about policies that will appeal to the hard working, middle class, diverse, suburban voters. Andrew Scheer cannot be expected and should not be asked to do it all alone. That’s the mistake that I think the Liberals are making: Justin Trudeau is carrying too much and he;’s not strong enough. The ‘brancd” cannot compensate for bad leadership and even the best leaddrs cannot compensate ofr an unpopular brand.