How Justin Trudeau lost his grip

by ZI-ANN LUM at

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau could lose Canada’s next election because he’s just not as angry as the country he leads.

The prime minister has been getting smoked in the polls. His rival is a savvy and fiery conservative dismissed at the outset by Trudeau’s inner circle as too cantankerous for mainstream appeal.

In the year since taking over Canada’s Conservatives, Pierre Poilievre has tapped grievance politics and assembled a coalition of populists, social conservatives and center-right moderates that would make him the favorite if a vote were held any time soon. Conservatives sit ahead of Trudeau’s Liberals with a 10-point lead.

Poilievre likes to repeat that “Canada is broken.” High inflation, runaway grocery prices, rising mortgage rates and a housing crisis help make the case. Canadians are worn out, anxious and mad. But it’s not just the politics of far-right fury that’s tripping up Trudeau. Fallout from the Israel-Hamas war is hitting hard in key swing ridings where the divisive issue has become a litmus test for the Liberals’ progressive agenda. The public mood continues to sour. And there’s no break in sight as the economy flirts with a recession.

Brand Trudeau, built on earnest optimism and legend as Canada’s first political dynasty, is struggling. When Trudeau was first elected, Vogue declared him “the new young face of Canadian politics.” Today, after a series of political miscalculations and missteps during the past two years, Trudeau’s personal approval is in freefall, and, with it, the Liberal brand, which has been inextricably linked to his celebrity persona. While an election is not imminent, by law there must be one within the next 21 months.