Early this year I wrote in a Doppler opinion piece that a tipping point for PM Justin Trudeau had arrived. Since then, things have deteriorated for Trudeau, and most Canadians now see that Canada is headed in the wrong direction on many fronts. The impact of this on the Liberal Party is clearly evident, with a recent poll showing them trailing the Conservatives by 12 points, continuing a national declining trend. Even more telling is the cratering support of younger voters that was key to Trudeau’s past election wins—just 16 percent support of voters under 30, compared to the Conservatives at 39 percent. The reasons for the slide are obvious.
First, housing affordability continues to decline as interest rates & costs rise. Despite PM Trudeau’s promises to address it dating back to 2015, things have only gotten worse, as the average home price has almost doubled since then. Trudeau’s recent attempt to distance his government from the issue points to confusion and even desperation. The lack of a national plan to address the impacts of his rapidly increasing immigration/temporary visa levels has made things much worse.
This, along with rising costs of everything, have led to increasing financial anxiety. Since 2017, money remains the top stressor and about half of Canadians are now living paycheque to paycheque. Personal debt has rocketed up, rising almost 60 percent since 2015 (to over 100 percent of GDP), worst in the G7 and highest of all industrialized countries. Canada’s government debt also rose faster than any OECD country, with national government debt now standing at 66 percent of GDP and general government debt at double that. Declining average real income, lagging Canadian productivity/capital investment (2nd lowest in the OECD) makes things even more difficult for Canadians.
All of this has also added to the healthcare crisis, and almost 70 percent of Canadians are now pessimistic about seeing improvements in the near term. It’s also contributing to opioid-related harms increases (doubled) and violent crime rise (up 30 percent) under Trudeau’s watch. Canadians see these as very serious issues and they want action, not words.
On Trudeau’s signature file, climate change, results are underwhelming. His government boasts of $120 billion in environmental spending while his carbon tax steadily rises, now joined by a new Clean Fuel tax. Despite this, Canada’s emissions declined about 7 percent since 2015 and much of which was due to the COVID pandemic’s lingering economic impacts. In British Columbia, where fuel taxes are highest, emissions have actually risen since 2015. Carbon taxes haven’t lowered emissions, but they have fuelled inflation, helping driving costs up across the economic spectrum. This is not sufficiently accounted for under the federal Climate Action Incentive Payments. Additionally, cost increases tend to gobble government energy rebates. This certainly looks to be the case for new windows, heat pumps and EV’s. Banning combustion engine new car sales by 2035? Sorry, not happening. Trudeau doesn’t seem to understand affordable energy is a necessity, not a luxury, and that it still drives economies.
The hard reality is our 1.5 percent share of global emissions is dwarfed by developing countries, the highest being China. If Trudeau was really serious about climate change, he would ramp up export of Canadian natural gas to help displace far dirtier global coal consumption. Ditto for nuclear power technology. But he’s not, and when it comes to China, crickets again. Instead, we get critical words for Canadian energy giant Suncor from Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault while attending the recent China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, which is basically a Chinese government propaganda tool. How pathetic is that!
Despite Trudeau’s high spending ways (not his ‘sunny ways’), Canadian climate-resiliency investment is mostly absent, as this year’s unprecedented wildfires have so clearly demonstrated. Likewise, under-investment in electrical system infrastructure continues, making the doubling or tripling of capacity needed to meet Trudeau’s 2050 net-zero emissions target virtually impossible. That cost could well reach several trillion dollars.
So as the new session of parliament gets underway, watch NDP leader Jagmeet Singh leverage Trudeau’s polling decline by pushing for his top unfulfilled priorities in exchange for propping up the government. With higher interest rates, persistent inflation and now a shrinking economy, his timing is problematic, but he knows Trudeau wants to avoid an election at all costs. Politics first. As pressure on the Liberal party mounts, expect more ‘fear attacks’ from Trudeau targeting the Conservatives, painting them as extreme, scary and lacking plans. It won’t work. Blaming global factors for his own lack of results won’t cut it either.
The winds of change are blowing stronger. I remain cautiously hopeful.
Dave Wilkin is a Professional Engineer, with a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto. His career spans over 40 years in Information Technology, banking, energy and consulting. A former resident of Huntsville, Ontario, he now lives in Burlington, but still spends time at his Huntsville area cottage.
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