About a week ago I commented on the apparent fact that while the Liberal Party of Canada’s brand remains strong its “face,” Justin Trudeau is sinking in popularity. Now Andrew Coyne, writing in the National Post, says that’s not quite so … both are declining in popularity. He says that even though Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh remain, essentially, unknown and are far behind Prime Minister Trudeau in measures like being preferred for prime minister, having the qualities of a good leader and makeing a positive vs negative impression on voters, the recent polling which, essentially has the Conservatives and Liberals tied, is “a matter of Trudeau’s decline, not his rivals’ rise.” Mr Coyne coins a useful phrase: “live by the socks, die by the socks,” and he says that if the public turns against the leader then the party will sink with him and, “Sure enough,” he says “polls show the decline in Trudeau’s fortunes mirrored in the party’s.“
What turned so many Canadians against Prime Minister Trudeau so quickly?
“The immediate explanation for the prime minister’s cratering appeal,” Mr Coyne writes, “is the recent official visit to India, conceded on all sides to have been a disaster. There’s no doubt this has taken its toll — Ipsos finds more than twice as many Canadians of the view that the visit was “negative for Canada-India relations” than the contrary … [but, he adds] … if the India visit accelerated the decline, it is also true that the prime minister’s appeal has been fading for some time. The India trip may have crystallized certain perceptions of him, but the ingredients have been evident for a while. People do not form impressions of a leader’s character and abilities instantaneously, but only as the result of an accumulation of incidents and impressions.“
He explains that brilliant Liberal campaign in 2015 deflected the CPC’s wholly accurate attack theme that Justin Trudeau was “just not ready.” But, he adds, Prime Minister Trudeau’s support began to fall in every poll in early 2017, “just after the decision to abandon electoral reform. Add to that the long list of other broken promises; the ethical lapses, from pay-for-play dinners with Chinese billionaires to vacations with the Aga Khan; and the bullying of Parliament, so reminiscent of the prime minister he replaced, and you have a recipe for disillusionment.“
In circumstances like those, Andrew Coyne says, “the little things that seemed so charming at first, all those dashing gestures and glam photo ops, might well come to seem, at first frivolous, then irritating — an impression of unseriousness compounded by a series of bungled foreign-policy excursions of which the India trip was only the last … [then] … Throw in, last, the government’s increasing fixation on pursuing its own ideological hobbyhorses, with ever greater fanaticism, at a time when unease over the economy is growing, of which the blind complacency of the recent budget is a vivid example … [and] … What was merely irritating now looks positively dangerous.“
Mr Coyne concludes with a question: “Can the Liberals regain the advantage? Of course: the election is still 18 months away …[he says, and] … So long as the economy continues on its present pace, voters tend to leave governments in place. But if it should not, the Liberals might wish for their present popularity.“
The Liberal Party picked Justin Trudeau for the most cynical of reasons: sex appeal. But he is, to be charitable, a vacuous ninny, and now the Liberals must find some way to restore his very thin veneer of “niceness” and then polish with a gloss of performance seriousness … the latter will be harder than the former. Prime Minister Trudeau, I have been told by people who have met him, is genuinely pleasant. But he’s not a real grown-up, is he? He’s a handsome, charming, trust-fund kid with no particular skills or knowledge beyond having fun.
The socks just about sum up the man, don’t they? Many people found them fun, at first, but now the big holes in his performance are making many Canadians wonder if they bought a pig in a poke.