Why Justin Trudeau is suddenly the underdog

Paul Wells on what Harper and Mulcair might have to teach Trudeau

 Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Listen to Paul Wells read his column, or subscribe to Maclean’s Voices for on-the-go listening:

Suddenly, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is the underdog. My evidence for this is slim, but I figured we might as well try to beat the rush here. Soon, you’ll be reading no end of “Justin Trudeau: toast?” headlines. There’s a mood in the land. And it’s been a while since the press gallery exhausted its last mood, which was, “Stephen Harper: Snap election, or resignation in disgrace?”

For a while there, the punditocracy was working on parallel and mutually contradictory theories. Some argued that the Prime Minister, worn down by scandal and fatigue, would quit politics while his party still has time to pick a successor before the election. Others claimed that a weird confluence of events, led by the Parliament Hill shootings on Oct. 22 and the Charlie Hebdo massacre in France, was giving the Conservatives a fleeting advantage they must exploit right away with a sudden election call. A few have managed to make both arguments at once.

But it’s getting late for an early election, and it’s even later for an orderly transition to post-Harperism. We may be headed toward something more prosaic: The election’s in autumn, and Harper will lead the Conservatives. This is even likelier, now that more people expect the Conservatives to win that election than the Liberals.

Here I table my slim evidence. In September, the Abacus polling firm found a 14-point gap between respondents who expected the Liberals to win the election, and those who thought the Conservatives would. It was 40-26 per cent for the Liberals (with the NDP at seven per cent). That advantage in expectations has steadily shrunk until, in a new poll this week, it vanished: Now, 34 per cent expect the Conservatives to win, compared to 33 per cent for the Liberals.

I have so many caveats. The Conservative advantage is within the margin of error. Polls testing respondents’ powers of psychic prediction have an even higher fun-to-utility ratio than other kinds. But a swing in perception has been steady over five months, and it’s closely matched by a (less spectacular) swing in declared voting intention: After many months of clear Liberal advantage, Trudeau’s party and Harper’s have been neck-and-neck now for two months in most polls.

And Trudeau has been getting brutal reviews. Pick an issue—his decision to withhold support from the intervention against Islamic State in Iraq; his decision to lure Eve Adams, a former Conservative, into the Liberal caucus; his handling of Liberal nomination contests in a handful of ridings—and most commentary in the papers has been bruisingly critical. One example is Carol Goar in the Toronto Star, who wrote last week that Trudeau’s nearly two years as Liberal leader has been “marred by misjudgments, ill-considered remarks and discarded promises.”

I was struck by the reaction to the column I published here last week, which tore several strips off Trudeau’s ambitious announcement of a national plan to put a price on carbon consumption. The column was widely read and shared on social media, but I’ve seen no attempt to rebut its criticisms. Something similar happened when he published a memoir last autumn. There was a lot in there that was worth debating, but nobody has seemed particularly interested in debating it.

It’s as though people don’t much care what he has to say. It’s as though politically involved Canadians view Trudeau, not as a question—Is he ready? Is he proposing interesting things?—but as a statement, a kind of totem. If you don’t like Harper, you need somebody to replace him and, for nearly two years now, Trudeau has looked like that somebody. If you’re protective of Harper, then Trudeau is a bogeyman, but again, that doesn’t actually have much to do with what he says or does.

The interesting question is what happens when Trudeau loses his aura of inevitability. Maybe nothing much. Under Trudeau, the Liberals are still more popular than they were under Michael Ignatieff after mid-2009. But until now, he was able to float on a tautology: He was popular, so if you wanted Harper defeated, you had to support the Liberals. Nor has the Liberals’ modest decline been matched by an uptick in NDP support. If anything, it looks more like disaffected Conservatives who’d drifted to the Liberals are drifting back. The Liberals are still, today, solidly placed to contend for power.

But if that five-month trend of declining belief in Trudeau’s inevitability continues, interesting things could happen. More of the 2011 Conservative vote, which has been wandering, could return home. More voters who were astonished to vote NDP in 2011 might astonish themselves again by preparing to repeat the gesture. Much will depend on what the leaders do and say.

Trudeau’s opponents know what it’s like to be in a real battle. When Harper became Canadian Alliance leader in 2002, the party was a national laughingstock. When Thomas Mulcair joined the NDP in 2007, the party had never won a seat in Quebec in a general election. They know what it’s like to be so far back, they can’t see the front. Of course, anyone who’s down can, at least theoretically, bounce back. Trudeau did surprise everyone in a boxing match a few years ago. This isn’t boxing.


Why Justin Trudeau is suddenly the underdog

  1. First of all Tom will gain points if he goes after Harper more than he will, by going after Trudeau. Once Tom goes after Harper, Harper will go after Tom and both will eventually flash their Curmudgeon side, and Trudeau will then point and say, you see, this is why nothing gets done in Ottawa, with two Curmudgeons like Harper and Mulcair, nothing will ever get done, only anger and gridlock. Trudeau has a more competent team ready to go in action in the next election, than both the cons and the dippers put together. The Brazman was in a hurry to get in the ring with Trudeau in a boxing match just a few years ago, now he is a doorman. Harper seems to be in a hurry to debate Trudeau, and wants to add a few extra rounds, is that a sign of good things to come I wonder, could lightning strike 2wice? Watch Harper sweat in these future debate, and especially watch the makeup and botox, because youth is going to have a lot to say in these debates as well, youth doesn’t come from a syringe of botox, it only masks the reality.

    • The view that Harper is a sure debate winner is suspect. If Harper and Mulcair two angry almost old men start ganging up on “rope a dope” Trudeau, the audience may not see it the way the Ottawa insiders do.
      And you are right, Harper is looking terrible on the big HD TV these days.Is he well?
      Carefully and strategically goaded, both Harper and Mulcair can show a nasty mean side which is not so good.
      Nice to see Wells helping Trudeau for a change. Trudeau wants to be the underdog in the media going forward.

      • true comments; but during a debate Trudeau could end up looking like the child in an argument with men. who wants a child as PM. but you and carpet bomber make good points. this is an election year which could go either way, but definitely not NDP.

        • That’s all Trudeau has to do to get Harper and Mulcair in their ” Jekyll and Hyde ” moment in the debate, is talk about how the Dippers and the Cons want to take the Charter of Rights apart. Tom wants to abolish the senate and eliminate BOIC, and Harper wants to fire all the appointed SCC and federal judges and have elected ones. While both Tom and Steve want to take the charter apart and destroy our institutions, you will always hear the Grits calling to protect out charter and the existing institutions of our government .

      • Let me get this straight….Junior enjoyed media support up until September…when he opened his mouth and stuck in both feet….he has now lost his traction and is now enjoying the fact he is considered the media underdog…got it

  2. The media needs to move the dial on the terror mantra.

  3. Trudeau’s advantage and liability is that he became leader as a fairly undefined quantity. Being an undefined quantity has been a tremendous benefit in recent US presidential elections: if you haven’t got much of a record, your enemies can’t use it to attack you. I’d argue that being a cipher was key to Obama’s success in 2008. Trudeau’s team would really like to take advantage of that approach, but I suspect the dynamics of Canadian politics don’t really allow it. Our political leaders don’t get to spend 2 years in a bubble leading up to a big election – they have to participate in the system. The liability for Trudeau is being an undefined quantity creates the possibility of his enemies applying their own definition. The Conservative strategy has been simple: he’s not ready to be a leader and is out of his depth. Unfortunately for Trudeau, his team hasn’t produced a compelling characterization of their own. That means that every misstep or error along the way fits the Conservative narrative. The Conservatives’ own narrative for Harper has been that he’s competent. He can be dictatorial, paranoid, secretive, or a control freak, but none of that contradicts the core narrative. I think the Liberals are trying to copy the Obama playbook, only to forget that the other side has read it too and may not play the same game.

    • The Conservatives will use the Liberal argument, its better to vote for the devil you know then the unknown. he is way over his head. his youth with either work for him or portray he needs 4 years in opposition…

  4. Paul time for you to step in and replace Butts!! Or all is lost…..Or maybe Althia, I’m so confused…..

  5. If taking over the Canadian Alliance when they were a laughingstock, or joining the NDP when they had no seats in Quebec is a “real” battle, then isn’t taking over leadership of a party that virtually everyone was writing off; a party that saw a decrease in seats so steady and precipitous that they lost Official Opposition Status to the NDP; a party that had virtually no ground game and no donors and no members, and rebuilding that party into a contender, where people are actually fighting for nominations, and to which people are donating, an example of fighting a “read” battle?

    I personally have never believed the LPC would win the next election, and I have publicly stated several times I do not think it is in their (or our) best interests to do so. Running a country with around 150 rookie MP’s is not ideal. Regaining Official Opposition status, preferably with a conservative minority (though that is not necessary) should be enough to solidify Trudeau’s leadership; for now.

    And as someone who prefers Trudeau over Ignatieff, I grow tired of pundits and others who suggest we like him for his name, or his looks, or his hair. While he has not put forth much in terms of substantive policy, I am totally confident he is simply waiting for the election. Furthermore, I agree with this strategy.

    What I like is that he is trying to adopt positions that do not divide the country. He does not pit one region against the other, and he is saying he will govern based on what is the right thing to do, rather than ideology. I like him because I believe that is the right course of action.

    • Paul Wells has probably written more negative columns about Justin Trudeau than almost any other mainstream political commentator. It’s clear that Wells does not like Trudeau since he regularly writes positive pieces about Harper and Mulcair.

      Harper is a brilliant strategist and should never be underestimated. He has always been the favourite to win the next election by virtue of having won a majority last time. But Trudeau is not the underdog. It’s Mulcair that is the underdog. He leads a party that has never won a federal election before and has been behind in the polls for most of the time he has been NDP leader. He trails almost everywhere in the country and is even losing ground in Quebec now.

      It’s actually Trudeau that could teach Mulcair a few things. What Wells overlooks, as you correctly point out, is that Trudeau built up a party that had been demolished in the last election into a competitive position with the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Mulcair has shown none of Trudeau’s political instincts or ability to win support and has continued to decline since he has been NDP leader. Unlike Trudeau who took over a party which was in a weak position, Mulcair took over a party which was at the peak of its popularity and yet he has struggled to gain any traction.

      • A few polls which showed a very minuscule uptick for the Conservatives in Quebec do not necessarily indicate a trend, if anything, it was probably a brief fluke related to security concerns and it appears to be subsiding. Recent polls have shown the NDP rebounding in Quebec, Mulcair’s personal popularity in the province remains significantly higher than Trudeau’s, and their voter base will be more efficient in delivering seats.

        There is absolutely nothing which Mulcair could learn from Trudeau. Mulcair has won widespread acclaim for his handling of numerous issues including the Senate scandals, the mission against ISIS, his announced child care policy and Bill C51. Trudeau, on the other hand, has attracted equally widespread ridicule on all of those files. The more exposure Canadians get to Mulcair, the higher his approval ratings go. Whereas with Trudeau, the opposite trend has been the case – this is not a coincidence.

        Justin Trudeau’s initial popularity had a lot to do with projected desires and instant name recognition, in and of themselves, those two things are not indefinitely sustainable.

        It’s impressive enough that Mulcair has been able to maintain NDP support in his own right amongst Quebec voters, seeing as how the province has only voted NDP once. That is an obvious reflection upon how Quebeckers view Mulcair, which is overwhelmingly positive.

        It’s not over until it’s over, and yes – the NDP is still in the race.

      • Justin Trudeau is not responsible for rebuilding the Liberal party. The last name of his father did that. Justin is just taking advantage of it.

        Justin got his father’s name, and his mother’s brain.

      • I don’t think Wells is biased. K think he’s well informed and he writes columns critical of anyone he thinks should be criticized. My only issue here was that I don’t see how he can describe Harper and Mulcair’s success at building their parties as battles, and ignore that Trudeau did the same.

    • Gayle wrote:

      “What I like is that he is trying to adopt positions that do not divide the country. He does not pit one region against the other, and he is saying he will govern based on what is the right thing to do,”

      Yes, gayle, that’s why when Trudeau is in Alberta, he talks about the benefits of the East West pipeline to ship Alberta oil to Ontario and Quebec. That is why when he’s in Ontario’s manufacturing belt which produces the pipes and machinery to build pipelines he says the East West pipeline is essential…….but when Trudeau talks about the issue in Quebec he says, “The East-West pipeline should not be built because it is socially unacceptable”

      Yeah….he doesn’t pit one region against the other for a very simple reason. What he says, depends upon what area of the country in which he is speaking. He’s not only two-faced, he’s also a flip-flopper.

      And apparently, he thinks Canadians are too stupid to realize that he’s contradicting himself every time he opens his mouth. Trudeau doesn’t know where he stands unless someone tells him where he’s “supposed” to stand. As mentioned earlier, Truduea’s success depends on the stupidity of the Canadian voter. In your case gayle…..he’s at least got one he can count on.

      • Well someone who wildly overstates things like you should not be saying people who disagree with your view are the stupid ones. Just sayin’…

    • I believe someone pretty smart once said you can please some of the people some of the time – he is trying to please all the people which is a mistake. it makes him look like he has nothing, which I believe him to have, nothing but name, hair and youth. the Liberal party has tried to make him something he is not. his youth has attracted many people, his name has brought in donors and his mind will sink him. strategically thinking he has nothing on either the PM or the Leader of the Opposition. To compare; like most people I had a moment of faith and hope when Obama was elected, but once his speech was over he had nothing, sure he won his elections but who was he running against – Trudeau on the other hand is running against two very smart people in a completely different election. Perhaps if he becomes Leader of the Opposition, which I believe may not happen, it would do him and his party good.

      • Sure, well I expect partisan conservatives and NDP’ers to find reasons not to support him. He’s not trying to convince you.

        My pont was that people are sorely underestimating Trudeau and his supporters by assuming his popularity is only because of his looks and his name. While you think he’s trying to be all things to all people, clearly a lot of people disagree.

  6. Did Trudeau and his so-called experienced team of Martin, McGuinty, and Wynne Liberals actually greenlight the Liberal candidacy of the Canadian representative of a Syrian fascist party and supporter of the Assad government in the riding of Nepean?

    Sort of make Eve Adams not look so bad now in comparison.

  7. Having columns like this written about him at this time is just about exactly where Trudeau wants to be March 2015. He sure didn’t want to be leading.

  8. As someone who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive, the Liberals have best represented my own politics over the years – though I did vote PC whenever I thought the Liberals were due for replacement.

    Harper and the CPC are a different entity from the old PCs. I’ll never vote Harper. So the Liberals should have a lock on my vote, right?

    Trudeau’s recent moves – Eve Adams; supporting C-51 – have me seriously thinking of voting NDP federally for the first time. I suspect there are a lot more like me.

    No matter who wins, it will likely be a minority after the election. If Trudeau doesn’t smarten up, a NDP minority isn’t out of the question.

    • Keith,

      For you to claim fiscal responsibility while at the same time expressing your possible vote for the NPD is entirely illogical.

      The NDP and economic feasability are not to be found together in the real world. The NDP like to say they can balance a budget….but frankly, ANY Government can balance a budget if they take more of your money to pay for their bad ideas. Look at many of the MP’s in the NDP benches….running a country is not something to be left up to the “student council” Many of Mulcairs Quebec MP’s are barely out of diapers; and if you listen to them…..are frankly, a bunch of air-heads.

      • My point was that my natural place on the political spectrum is blue liberal / red tory – and until now I have always voted accordingly. That I would seriously be considering voting NDP at this point says how poor I consider the current leadership of the two parties that I would normally gravitate to.

        As to fiscal responsibility…

        We haven’t seen the NDP form a government federally, so we don’t have a history on which to judge them. What we DO know is that every federal conservative government has left the books in worse shape than they found them. Though conservatives like to talk about “tax and spend liberals”, THEY are the ones who consistent rack up debt. In my voting lifetime, only the Chretien/Martin governments reduced the national debt.

        Don’t worry about my opinion of the NDP’s fiscal bona fides; if you want me to vote for YOUR party, start by telling them to get their own finances in order. And “cut cut cut” and stripping our nation of the things I value in order to give the wealthy and corporations tax breaks is not, for me, the appropriate or acceptable way of doing this.

        As I said above – I occasionally voted PC; I’ll never vote CPC while the current crop of criminals and ethically challenged are in charge. Clean house, starting with the PM; then we can talk.

    • Trudeau has alienated a lot of progressives with stand on secret police bill as well as Keystone earlier. He seems to be courting conservative votes, taking us for granted there Keith.
      Another wrinkle of course is that the Liberals and Trudeau would be more than satisfied with Leader of the Opposition.

      • He seems to be courting conservative votes, taking us for granted

        Exactly. Couldn’t agree more. And I think he’s in for an unpleasant surprise.

    • I hear you. I think the Eve Adams thing was a misstep to be sure, but hardly the error in judgment of epic proportions as some have portrayed it. Still, a dumb, dumb move.

      C-51 is another question. I don’t want the bill to pass, but the LPC are in a tough position here. People don’t know what is in it, but they overwhelmingly support it. I am just speculating wildly here, but I assume if Trudeau comes out against it, Harper could call his snap election,making it about national security and this bill. The LPC cannot win on that (the fact that 82% of the country support a bill they know nothing about shows you that). I’m not saying that’s why the LPC adopted a position of “support it for now, amend it later”, but it is why I am not abandoning them over this. Which, of course, is a bit hypocritical given the fact that one if the reasons I support Trudeau is his stated intention to govern based on what is right and not on ideology. These are special and unique circumstances, so I am going to swallow that hypocrisy.

      • I get where you are coming from, Gayle. I’m not as wedded to the LPC as you are, though, and for me integrity is very important. If Trudeau simply wants to chase polls, he’s not for me.

        My vote is still up for grabs, but as of now if I don’t see some real signs of leadership from JT, or an incredibly strong candidate in my riding (and as of now, if there is one the candidate is so low-key that I’m not aware of it), then NDP will get my vote by default.

        • Just checked; there is one – though I’ve never heard of him. He needs to start raising his profile.

        • If I look at all the qualities needed in a leader, Elizabeth May wins on most categories except of course winability. Her essay on the secret police bill was courageous, very perceptive and far deeper than any other leader’s comments. Smartest by far.
          Neither NDP or Green is viable in my riding.
          By the time the election comes around I will likely forgive Trudeau, but he’s put the non Harper voter in a quandary.

          • Agreed. If May were leading the Liberals (or the NDP) my vote would be assured. Easily among the finest Members of Parliament, regardless of party. Too bad she’s leading a fringe party.

        • Oddly enough, I’ve never been “wedded” to the LPC until recently. I’ve been voting NDP for years. But Trudeau won me over.

          I guess I just want Harper gone. This bill is going to stay law if he wins the election, and he will win the election if the poll question is this bill.

          If integrity won elections, Elizabeth May would be Prime Minister. If she were PM, she’d have to park her integrity at the door to get there.

          • If she were PM, she’d have to park her integrity at the door to get there.

            A sad – but all too true – assessment of the state of politics in this nation. And I don’t think we’ve hit bottom yet; certainly not, if Harper gets re-elected.

            The collective stupidity of the Canadian electorate boggles the mind…

      • what is right – just like taking a stand against parachuting in candidates, cause that’s just wrong, or carbon taxing on taxes to get money, not fix emission or perhaps not supporting what the majority want for this Country, cause that would be wrong, right…

  9. I think that Paul Wells is stating what is becoming increasingly apparent to Canadian voters – Justin Trudeau is not who they thought he was back in 2013. His initial honeymoon was understandable enough – being the son of Canada’s most famous and popular former prime minister, he had the benefit of instant name recognition without having to earn it in his own right. After nearly a decade of a divisive and often negative Conservative government, many middle aged voters were willing to project their nostalgia onto Trudeau the Younger. The NDP’s gains across Canada were brand new and untested, and of course, Tom Mulcair (a strong leader by any measure) was only well known in Quebec (where he remains extremely popular). But as happens so often in democracy, what appears obvious and inevitable two years prior to an election often doesn’t pan out.

    Why? Wells numerated many of those reasons, but perhaps the most important is judgement. Let’s face it, Trudeau has made a lot of gaffes since then. At first when the Conservatives released their attack ads framing Trudeau as “just in over his head”, ordinary Canadians reacted with irritation. This was a loud and obnoxious style that they had been subjected to in two previous elections, with two less likeable Liberal leaders. Conservative strategists insisted that the initial reactions weren’t important, only the seeds which they planted. Essentially, the Conservatives would introduce the mantra that Trudeau is an incompetent lightweight, and Trudeau would unwittingly prove them correct. Mulcair chose a different strategy, he simply ignored Trudeau and continued attacking Harper.

    At first neither strategy appeared to be working, as both Conservative and NDP polling numbers took a tumble. The media seemed obsessed with Justin Trudeau, his every vague mumblings on pot and Senate expenses were treated as serious, fleshed out policies. Journalists initially ignored his weak performances and scant attendance in the House of Commons, and instead focused on photo-ops with the public. The Liberals adopted a strategy which mitigated Trudeau’s weaknesses and capitalised on his strengths, by essentially avoiding serious policy discussions in the House and focusing on “public outreach” (basically photo-ops and meet and greets). In 2013, this appeared to be working. Canadians wanted to believe that Justin Trudeau was the man of the hour, they no longer trusted Harper and didn’t know Mulcair.

    Unfortunately for the Liberals, things never remain static in a democracy. The warning signs that Trudeau might not be up for the job were present at first, it’s just that they were sometimes subtle and Canadians weren’t ready to pay attention. His performance in the House of Commons was, by all media accounts, unsteady and scripted; his comments regarding “China’s basic dictatorship”, “a hockey related Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “whipping out our CF18s” seemed immature at best, and his attempts at addressing serious policy concerns became predictably vague and empty. It’s great to say that you want to help the middle class, but a little bit of elaboration, even something symbolic, would have given him more credibility. All the while, NDP leader Tom Mulcair gained a reputation for being thoughtful, articulate and serious on files issues such as military intervention, pipelines, anti-terrorism legislation, child care and taxation.

    Justin Trudeau also attempted to wade into some of these conversations with policy proposals, but even when he did suggest something coherent, it was largely out of tune with what Canadians want or care about. I’ve never seen an opinion poll expressing support for a winner-take-all, preferential ballot, or anything to suggest that a Senate appointed on the advice a vaguely described “panel” would address the numerous concerns Canadians have with that anachronistic institution. Canadians do not like the country’s pot laws, and perhaps on this one issue Trudeau was bold (albeit vague and hypocritical) in calling for legalisation. But even there, he hardly could have picked an issue that would resonate with Canadians less. As of late 2013/early 2014, none of this mattered of course. Much of the media (particularly the Huffington Post) were content to cover Justin Trudeau’s comings and goings, and analyse to death every angle of his “policies” and favourable opinion polls.

    But then things began to inevitably change – Harper committed Canada to a military mission in Iraq. After a period of reflection, the NDP chose to oppose the mission because its parameters were vague. Mulcair was articulate, eloquent and logical in the House. The Liberals also chose to oppose it, but Trudeau barely explained why. A lone shooter caused havoc on Parliament Hill, it was hardly an act of terrorism, but the mentally ill shooter’s self-identification with ISIS made Canadians feel less secure. Mulcair articulated an elaborate $15 a day child care program, Trudeau’s response? A vague commitment to affordable child care (that could mean a lot of things). Increased powers for CSIS – say what you will about the Conservative legislation, for the time being it’s popular, but it has also received strong criticism – regardless, the NDP took a strong stance against it, yet Trudeau opted to vote in favour of it, despite publicly calling it dangerous. The media narrative around his rationale was pretty much universal – he was being opportunistic and unprincipled.

    Then, of course, there has been the drama surrounding Liberal riding nominations. Possibly the most ill-thought promise Trudeau has yet made. Not only have these allegations damaged Trudeau’s credibility and led to multimillion dollar lawsuits, but it’s reopened divisions in a notoriously fractious party. The defection of Eve Adams? Maybe it had more to do with Dmitry Soudas and getting access to his secrets, who knows? But, polls indicate what should be obvious, that aside from likely Liberal voters, most Canadians don’t buy her version of events. Why else would someone who never publicly articulated a policy difference with Harper (plenty of Conservative do on a regular basis), all of a sudden want to switch to the Liberals after being barred from seeking a Conservative riding nomination? Canadians aren’t stupid.

    Wells was right to state that MANY things will happen over the next seven months. Absolutely nothing is inevitable, Trudeau could prove himself to have qualities which has so far not demonstrated. But Wells was absolutely bang on to state that his “aura of inevitability” has rightly faded. Admitting my own personal biases, I also think that it is a mistake to completely write off the NDP. They are going into this election stronger than at any other point in their history. They have fundraised almost as much money as the Liberals, Mulcair is becoming increasingly popular across Canada and his personal ratings are through the roof in Quebec, their polling numbers are still mostly respectable, and they are still polling very healthy numbers in Quebec.

    It’s not over, until it’s over.

    • You are articulate, but your post is full of historical revision and wishful thinking. Not to mention, like your conservative cohorts, you like to blame the media for Trudeau’s popularity.

      Trudeau’s name is as much a hindrance as an advantage. All three of the party leaders suffer in comparison to Pierre Trudeau. Unfortunately for Justin Trudeau, he’s the only leader who is ever compared to Pierre. The name Trudeau is most certainly not an advantage in the west. And yet he is regularly making appearances here to build up support.

      See, Trudeau’s first job has been to rebuild the Liberal Party. While both the CPC and NDP had a solid infrastructure, the Liberals did not. Now they do. He has been so successful at connecting with Canadians that Mulcair stopped complaining about Trudeau’s attendance, and started emulating him by getting out more and trying to connect with voters too.

      In fact, Trudeau has done all this in the face of an incredulous opposition, and an incredulous media. He was written off by many before he had even begun. And while I like Paul Wells, and often agree with him, ( even, to a large degree, with this column), I cannot help bug think many in the media are now saying to themselves ” see, we KNEW he would screw up!”.

      What is absolutely hilarious, however, is how people like you rewrite history to conform to your view. Mulcair has been outstanding in QP. I agree. Please tell me how being an effective cross examiner qualifies you to be Prime Minister. He’s still shackled to an ideological view that is not overly popular, and is insufficiently flexible to allow him to make decisions that are in the best interests of the country. For example, the NDP position on Senate reform is honorable, but impossible to accomplish without throwing the country into destructive discussions on constitutional reform. How is that possibly better for the country than a reasonable compromise that takes partisanship out of the Senate and avoids a constitutional crisis.

      • @gayle1
        Perhaps being an effective cross examiner does not in itself qualify one to be PM, but it does demonstrate an ability to think critically on one’s feet. As such, it should be a necessary (but not sufficient) quality for being a PM. Trudeau is sorely lacking here, and nothing suggests that is changing in the near term.

        It’s too bad Mulcair isn’t leader of the LPC. If that had been the case I might have actually had a party/leader I could vote *for*, rather than having to have to pick the least bad of 3 choices.

        • I see your point, however I do not want my Prime Minister to ever make a decision of fundamental importance for our country by “thinking on his feet”. I want someone who is contemplative and who seeks advice.

      • 1. Thank you, I like think so

        2. Gee, lot’s of assumptions here. Mulcair is shackled to an ideology that most Canadians don’t support, is he?

        Is that why opinion polls show majority support for a national child care program? Or some system of proportional representation? Majority opposition to corporate tax cuts? Majority opposition to cuts to either the CBC or healthcare transfers? And, of course, majority opposition to the cancellation of the federal long gun registry? Is that why opinion polls oscillate between majority support for Senate abolition or an elected model, but are never in favour of a government appointed Senate (vaguely described “panel” or not)?

        Is that why the NDP dropped all references to “socialism” from its constitution (in reality, they ditched real socialism after the Winnipeg Declaration)?

        Senate abolition will throw the country into a “constitutional crisis”, will it? When Liberals talk about our supposedly inviolable constitution (it’s barely more than 30 years old), they sound an awful lot like Tea Party Republicans south of the border. Most developed democracies amend their constitutions regularly, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Seeing as how the vast majority of Canadians strongly oppose the existence of a government appointed Senate, and many conservatives have expressed their theoretical support for abolition should reform prove impossible (Christy Clark of BC, Brad Wall of Saskatchewan), it sounds doable to me.

        A national referendum expressing a solid Yes vote should be enough to push any reluctant premiers into agreement. Of course Senate reform should be done separately from other, necessary, constitutional reforms (ie, getting Quebec’s signature and addressing legitimate First Nations aspirations). But hey, don’t let me ruin your fun – you hang onto those assumptions of yours.

        • I stand by what I insinuated, Trudeau’s popularity has largely been fuelled by the media. Vague, blanket statements such as “connecting with voters” sound great, but what do they actually mean? Photo-ops, appearances at summer BBQs and shopping malls, Liberal rallies with the party faithful? Do you really think that random stunts like that have an influence on the majority of potential Liberal voters (who have never met and will never meet Mr. Trudeau)?

          From what I have observed, and I follow the news regularly, 90% of Trudeau’s coverage, particularly during the summer months, has consisted of fluff. The serious policy discussions, effective questioning in the House of Commons, articulate interviews, etc have all been the product of Mr. Mulcair (and to a lesser degree, Ms. May).

          What exactly has Trudeau done since April, 2013 to demonstrate his qualities as a leader? His values? His competences? What is he actually good at, aside from looking good in photos and striking poses?

          Was he a respected, effective Member of Parliament prior to 2013, according to most sources – No. Has he discussed any policy related issue in a meaningful, in-depth way – the consensus again is largely – No. Call me a negative nelly, but I stand by my accusation, the man is famous for being famous.

          • This is a case of voters projecting their desires onto a brand, and the media picking it up because it was trending. It was great for the Liberals while it lasted, but it cannot last forever. Don’t get me wrong – Trudeau *could* prove himself to have attributes which have so far gone unseen (I’m clearly not rooting for him), but it is far from inevitable or likely.

  10. Its not that Trudeau is good.

    Its that the alternatives are worse.

    None of the parties really represent the people who make Canada work. They all pander with other peoples money and debt to the unborn, while pretending to do us good for the money they confiscate for waste, bloat, buddy deals, inflated contracts and coporate-union bailout lobby driven vote buying.

    Democracy is really a farce when back room money, media buy the ballot options and options for the middle class backbone do not exist in reality, only in the illusions for our money. So tax greedy we even tax foods.

    • everything you said describes Trudeau and the Liberal’s also, I don’t understand the alternative comment; would that not mean all of them are a bad choice…

      • would that not mean all of them are a bad choice

        Yup. That’s what he’s saying. Until recently, I agreed with him that Trudeau is the best of a bad lot; now I’m not so sure.

  11. Margaret’s Boy is FAR more voter-appealing than Iggy. But Iggy (as a Harvardian-emigre) had to get “up to speed”. As an accomplished academic, he was a fast study. He just wasn’t a voter-appealing candidate (like Presto a while back – lots of understanding of issue/options/solutions … but no communication skills) PLUS all of Iggy’s ideas had to be vetted by the Liberal backroom’s preconceived notions-of-Canada (ie new ideas cannot besmirch what WE did in previous admins).
    As a result, Iggy didn’t have a chance …

    Case here with Justie is the opposite – he’s so voter-appealing, it’s a shame he has no ideas of his own (can’t fault the boy for that, he has no life experience, no economics, no -you name it), but he has a sparkling smile and a recognizable Liberal name (women@53%, check, 1970’s immigrants-larger 905 presence, check)
    He did give a beautifully-rehearsed speech/eulogy at Daddy’s funeral (and one other time that escapes me)
    So all that we can REALLY and ESSENTIALLY say about Margaret’s boy is a) he’ll be great in 15 years b) he has chutzpah for trying anyway c)he must think we’re idiots if he thinks he can get away with it and d) all the Liberal backroom pap (see Iggy above) slides out sooo convincingly but it’s got no substance FROM him.
    So Paul, write the prior to-2019-election headline “HM Loyal Opposition Leader, Justin Elliot Trudeau (name added in 2017 for Anglo-angling) decides to spend More Time w his Family – Takes over spokePersonality Job on The Nature of Things from Ben Muldoon”

    • So women and immigrants like him because we are easily persuaded by good looks and name recognition, and have no interest in substance?

      The saddest thing about your post is that you have embodied the stereotypical bigoted conservative, and don’t even know it. Don’t worry though, you’re not alone. A quick read of all the other posts here that say the exact same thing as you is proof of that.

  12. It will be an interesting 8 months.

    If you are a Conservative or NDP supporter and believe that the debates will show Canadians that JT does not have the requirements to run the country, you may be right, but it will not be seen that way.

    The ‘consortium’ is firmly in Justin’s corner. They will referee this bout. They will declare the winner. Enough boxing talk, well not yet.
    The media will decide who tossed the knock-out punch. Justin has already declared that he will restore the CBC’s funding. The NDP went him one better, they will give them more. The Conservatives better realize that the best they can do is draw. They will not win the debate, short of JT waving a crack pipe around and demanding that Putin be called poutine.

    Justin has many faults, his stance on terrorism, his expenses before becoming leader, his carbon tax plot, his inattention to his MP role and family, his immature gaffes, etc.

    The opposition and the gov’t must not wait until the debate to expose Justin’s inadequacies.

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