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EDITORIAL: Slipping ratings

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to be in Charlottetown Aug. 13.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. — Submitted photo

Political polls have come a long way from being infrequent snapshots of a specific period in time. In this age of modern analytics, they hold considerable sway in gauging the mood of the public. Trending poll numbers can now result in resignations and demands for change — starting at the top. Polling is non-stop and nothing is left to chance.

A recent Angus Reid poll ranked the recognition factor and performances of federal cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inner circle. The holiday message for prominent Atlantic Canadian cabinet ministers is far from positive and should provide much to ponder over the holidays.

A federal election will be held in October. That date seems solid following comments from the PM that he has no intention of going to the polls earlier. Polling suggests that Trudeau is slipping in terms of performance and leader preference.

The PM’s numbers are slipping and so are those of his supporting cast. Polling numbers suggest Atlantic cabinet ministers are increasingly vulnerable and the election will be more interesting than believed, even a few short months ago.

Consider Veteran Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan. The Newfoundland and Labrador MP is among the most recognized cabinet ministers, thanks to his previous career as a national television host. But his ratings are falling, largely because of recurring problems within his department.

Polling numbers suggest Atlantic cabinet ministers are increasingly vulnerable and the election will be more interesting than believed, even a few short months ago.

Try as he might to change policy, he admits there is a mindset inside the department which prefers to say no rather than yes to veterans and their concerns. The delays in dealing with wait times for veterans’ benefits have shifted seamlessly from Conservative to Liberal governments.

Then there is Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay from P.E.I. He was flying below the radar in cabinet for two years, but his recognition factor shot up in 2018, thanks to NAFTA negotiations and the concessions made by Canada in supply management with dairy, poultry and eggs. Farmers and others were outraged, and MacAulay’s recognition factor skyrocketed, while his performance ratings plummeted.

New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc, a close friend of Trudeau’s, was considered untouchable until Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled he broke conflict of interest rules in awarding a lucrative clam fishing licence to a company connected to his family. His recognition value remains high but his performance rating crashed.

Nova Scotia’s Scott Brison has a high recognition factor but his performance rating also dropped, for no obvious reason, except perhaps guilt by association, although the Phoenix pay system boondoggle is finding a home at his doorstep.

The poll reflects general declining support for Trudeau and his Liberal government. The numbers are worse outside Atlantic Canada but are growing in this region as well.

High recognition numbers are usually considered an asset. With Trudeau’s Atlantic ministers, it’s an increasing liability, as the region connects failures to names and faces.

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