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Editorial: Trudeau’s mounting challenge

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered the apology to the residential school survivors on Nov. 24 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered the apology to the residential school survivors on Nov. 24 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. - Evan Careen

The honeymoon isn’t just over, it may have been forgotten by now.

And if Justin Trudeau and his Liberals don’t figure out how to fix things, the marriage may be on the rocks as well.

For the first part of the Trudeau administration, it looked like the prime minister and the Liberal party were made of Teflon. When they made mistakes, all it took was for Trudeau to pop up and crowds would shoot selfie photographs with him. It seemed all, if not forgotten, was at least forgiven.

The government has been able to slide by repeated gaffes and missteps using Trudeau’s own personal popularity — but clearly that would only work for so long.

How long?

Well, it looks like it may have reached the end already.

And if that’s the case, for the first time, Trudeau’s not going to be able to smile his way out of it.

Polls started showing Trudeau’s popularity slipping in January, but the Liberals still led. Tory Andrew Scheer was new and making gaffes of his own. The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh is even newer.

But last week, for the first time, a public opinion poll suggested that, if an election were held now, Trudeau’s Liberals would garner just 33 per cent of support nationally, compared to 38 per cent for Opposition leader Scheer and the Tories.

The poll was done by Ipsos Global Affairs for Global News. Ipsos CEO Darrell Bricker told Global that, “It’s the first time we’ve shown, since before the election, any time the Liberals have been behind. They’ve been consistently four or five points ahead of their nearest competitor; sometimes more than that for the last two years and a bit.”

And the reasons, according to Bricker, are homegrown.

“The remarkable thing about it is very little of it has to do with any of the qualities of the opposition parties,” he said. “This is really people evaluating the government on its own terms and the Liberal Party on its own terms.

“Once the mood starts to sour towards the things that used to make you strong, it starts to stick to everything. The thing that’s really held them up is the prime minister and people’s views of him so when that takes a hit, everything starts to go and that’s what’s happened here.”

What has to change?

Perhaps Trudeau should think about turning from image to delivering on promises made in the last election. Maybe it would be better if Liberals ministers able to deliver substance were brought to the fore, and Trudeau’s image was tugged into the background for at least a little.

At times, the focus on Trudeau’s image has been so strong that even his socks were national news.

It looks like he and his government now have to pull those socks up, or risk making a different kind of news.

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