Conservatives across the country who are interested in federal politics must be feeling pretty happy right now. Their party is polling fourteen points ahead of the governing Liberals, a significant lead, even if the election is years away. Also, Tory leader Pierre Poilievre, at their convention on Friday, delivered a campaign speech that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, hardly a right-wing extremist, described as the best political speech he had heard since John Diefenbaker.
On the face of it, Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Government are in trouble. Recent polling shows how dramatically the ground has changed for them. The Conservative Party is running ahead in almost all age groups. An Abacus poll, one of the more accurate ones, indicates that Conservatives are leading in all age categories. The results indicate the Conservatives leading with those under 44 and remarkably, among those between 18 and 29 where the Liberals have the support of 22 percent and the Conservatives 37 percent.
All of these numbers are included in a recent column by Susan Delacourt, a left-leaning Toronto Star journalist, who also stated that this is “a huge rebuff to Liberal’s long boast that they speak best to issues for future generations.”
Pierre Poilievre has slipped past Justin Trudeau as the favoured prime minister and a rising number of Canadians now believe that a Conservative Government can best handle the economy. The New Democrats are trailing in third place and realistically, at least for the foreseeable future, can only hope to be a kingmaker for another party.
It is somewhat understandable if Conservatives are euphoric right now, as things have changed dramatically for them in the past year. But metaphorically speaking, they should be very concerned about a walk in the snow.
Some Conservative politicians and a number of their supporters believe that Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party, may pull the plug on the Liberals and force an early election because of the Grits’ slipping popularity and a belief that he can draw some Liberals to his socialist side. In my view, that will never happen.
Long-time pollster John Wright put it this way: “Folks, folks, folks, so many comments that because Justin Trudeau is down in the polls that Jagmeet Singh will pull the plug to go early (to an election). Not a chance. Nada. No Way.” I think he is right because Singh is too comfortable with where he is, dragging the Liberals further to the left and shutting out Conservatives. He may well never have more power than he does now.
As for Liberals themselves, many are tired of Justin Trudeau. Certainly, that is the case within the Liberal caucus in Ottawa. As Susan Delacourt wrote in her latest column, “All indications are that the mood within the Liberal caucus ranges from restive to panicked.” Clearly, the cracks are beginning to show.
If Justin Trudeau were to win the next election, whenever it is called, it would be his fourth consecutive mandate, a record that has not been broken since World War II by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. (Pierre Trudeau did serve four mandates but they were not consecutive as he was briefly interrupted by Joe Clark). But in my view, a fourth consecutive term is not in the cards for our current Prime Minister.
Two things about federal Liberals. First, although history would dictate otherwise, they really do believe they are the natural governing Party in Canada. Power is more important to them than any individual and the Liberal elites have an innate sense about knowing when it is time to change leaders. Second, although the Liberals are better at settling these issues behind closed doors than the Conservatives, who seem to enjoy public bloodletting, there can be little doubt that the back-room machinery is beginning to crank up. Polls currently in freefall, Poilievre rising in popularity, and restlessness within the Liberal caucus will inevitably result in a significant move for change at the top.
In my view, therefore, Canadians should not be surprised if within the next six months or so, Justin Trudeau, like his father before him, takes “a walk in the snow” and subsequently announces that he is stepping down as Prime Minister and as Leader of the Liberal Party.
Conservatives should be very wary of this. Why? Because the matrix will have changed. The Liberals would most likely have at least a year to effect change. Trudeau will be going or gone, and new leadership will be in place well before another election.
I believe that many Canadians are more angry or more unsatisfied with Justin Trudeau than they are with the Liberal Party itself. With a new leader, a fresh face, and someone who will lead the Liberals back to their traditional place as a centre-left party, the gap between the Conservatives and the Liberals will almost certainly narrow.
I will take that back if the next Liberal leader is Chrystia Freeland. She finger-points in an ‘I know best’ attitude, talks down to Canadians, and is too attached to Trudeau’s shirttails. There are others in Cabinet, however, who are not like that, who understand the tradition of real Liberalism as opposed to quasi-socialism, who can keep moderate Liberals from abandoning the ship, and who have the experience and ability to unite Liberals and provide effective leadership.
Unless something extraordinary and unexpected happens in the next few months, I believe it will be a horse race between the Liberals and the Conservatives when the next election rolls around, an election in which I believe Trudeau will not be Liberal leader. Pierre Poilievre will not have Trudeau as a whipping post and will have to focus more on the Liberal Party itself and convince people that Conservatives can do the job better than they can, even with a new leader.
Whether he can do that or not remains to be seen.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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