The Long Honeymoon


The image to the right is of Justin Trudeau campaigning in Trinity Spadina. It is by Alex Guibord and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons license.

Despite his last name, people keep on underestimating prime minister Justin Trudeau. We saw it during the campaign. We saw it when he fought Senator Patrick Brazeau in a boxing ring and won. And we saw it a couple of months after his unexpected victory in the 2015 election, when pundits and opposition critics eagerly looked for his political honeymoon to end.

It’s now one year since the 2015 election, and these critics are increasingly frustrated. Trudeau has kept only a handful of the promises he’s made during the election campaign. Others are plodding along so slowly people are wondering if they’ll ever get past the finish line and some, like his promise for electoral reform, are being backed away from.

And yet, an Ekos poll taken last week still shows him and his party with 46.6% popular support, significantly higher than the support he received during the 2015 election. The Conservatives and the NDP are both below their 2015 election day support (the NDP considerably so), and only the Greens can point to gains.

Underlying this frustration with the numbers is frustration with the Canadian general public. Why won’t they turn on Trudeau? Are they asleep?

Maybe, yeah. We forget that although political kvetching appears to be our national sport at times, most people don’t pay attention to politics, especially when there isn’t an election imminent. When’s the next election? 2019.

In the meantime, they have a leader who is far more charismatic than the one before, who is at least saying populist things, and has moved against some (but not all) of the previous government’s hated legacy. With the exception of certain issues (such as electoral reform), they don’t see the need to get angry, and they certainly don’t see the need to be angry for the next three years, which is for most when they’ll have a chance to actually do something about it.

And look what’s coming up next year: our 150th birthday — the feel-good event of the Canadian century.

I predict that the federal Liberals are going to continue to ride high straight through to Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, buoyed by Canadians’ nationalism and nostalgia. Only in late 2017, or early 2018, will the Canadian public really start to take a serious look at whether or not Trudeau has lived up to his promises. The judgement then could be brutal.

So, Trudeau still has about a year to ensure that his Sunny Ways are more than just photons and hot air. And the opposition parties can take comfort in the fact that there’s still lots of time to prepare for the 2019 election. It may be frustrating to see Trudeau wearing so much teflon now, but you were never going to go to the polls now, so what’s the point? Keep your powder dry, and prepare yourselves to put your best foot forward for the 2018 re-evaluation.

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