If it’s broken, fix it

3 minute read

Much of what Canadians value feels broken and voters don’t view the Trudeau government as the best candidate to handle the repair job. The country is looking for a leader and a party who they believe has the ability to get results on the issues they see as most important to them. 

In January, Abacus Data found that over 40 per cent of voters ranked their top three issues as the rising cost of living, healthcare, the economy and housing affordability. Respondents also gave the Liberals poor marks when asked what party would do best on dealing with those concerns. The Trudeau government must flip the script on issue performance and convince voters they can deliver results. 


It’s certainly no secret that the pandemic brought our strained health system to the breaking point. Some provinces and regions fared much worse than others, but it was a national failure that most Canadians experienced first-hand since the pandemic began. This has led to calls for an increase the federal health transfer with the sticking point being whether or not Ottawa would impose conditions on provinces in exchange for funding. 

Trudeau and the premiers now appear to be close to an agreement with Ontario and Quebec making concessions on sharing health data with Ottawa. Trudeau also seems ready to compromise. He recently characterized Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s health changes, including steps toward increased private delivery, as innovation. 

Those comments drew the ire of longtime Liberal Judy Sgro, who said it was disappointing to see Trudeau describe Ford’s changes as innovation, and Jagmeet Singh who tweeted Tuesday that Trudeau remained silent as premiers pushed for “US-style for-profit healthcare.” 

There is a risk that Trudeau’s comments could be seen by his own caucus, the party base and the electorate voters as a repudiation of long-held Liberal values. Trudeau seems prepared to take that risk because he needs to deliver results. And, that result will likely come in the form of a new national health deal.

Cost of living, the economy and housing

As we enter a new stretch of sittings in Parliament, Trudeau and his team must also make some headline-grabbing moves to position themselves as competent on pocketbook issues. The rising cost of living is the number one issue for most voters. Coupled with the economy, these are the issues where the Liberals are most vulnerable to the Conservatives.

The prime minister could shuffle cabinet to shake things up and show that the government is acting to improve execution on key economic targets. Perhaps we’ll see newly elected MP Charles Sousa enter the fray. 

Sousa, a former Ontario finance minister who is seen as fiscally prudent and a strong performer, would be a good cabinet pick. His presence in cabinet would also help to back up Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s message of fiscal prudence framing the spring budget.

Team Trudeau needs to sell the message that they can deliver on the growth file after taking some heat from former finance minister Bill Morneau’s recent book and a deep dive into shortcomings on innovation and growth by two Globe and Mail reporters. Both of those commentaries advanced the idea that the Prime Minister’s Office was more concerned with the political impact of policy announcements than program delivery on realistic targets.

For stakeholders

Organizations and individuals who engage with Ottawa should remember that Trudeau and his government are feeling pressure to take back the initiative on top issues, and confront the growing sentiment that the established approach isn’t working. Cabinet ministers and the PMO could be willing to compromise to deliver stronger results more quickly. They may also be more open to new ideas that show progress and action on economic growth, innovation, the cost of living, and healthcare. Think about how the government’s new political reality impacts your advocacy strategy and goals.

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