Trudeau’s Turning Point?

3 minute read

In the midst of poor polling numbers, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are hoping that recent events and renewed government focus can turn their fortunes.

Most important of these, and least under their control, is slowing inflation. While the rebound has been slower than expected, the post-COVID inflation surge is winding down. Confirmation of this came last week via the Bank of Canada’s decision to hold rather than raise its benchmark interest rate.

This is undoubtedly good news for the government and even better news for Canadian consumers who have dealt with high inflation and rising interest rates on everything from grocery bills to mortgage payments.

But for most Canadians, Bank of Canada interest rate decisions are abstract events with little immediate effect. A political win will only come once consumers see and, most importantly, feel the impact. This is the case south of the border where, despite a strong economy, President Biden’s polling numbers are still in a slump.

Determining how to translate lower inflation and eventually lower interest rates into improved consumer confidence will be ‘job one’ for the government in their upcoming fall economic statement and over the next 18 months.

One file where the government has more control is housing. Newly installed Housing Minister Sean Fraser’s common-sense communication style and his willingness to engage at the ground level is an asset to Trudeau’s front bench. Fraser is working hard to reverse this file from liability to asset.

The response to international events, which typically forces a reactive posture, has been more mixed. The government has had to react quickly to a horrific and perilous conflict in the Middle East.

Within hours and days of the terrorist attack, both the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister had engaged their regional counterparts and travelled to the region. In contrast to slow responses in previous emergencies, the Canadian military speedily organised evacuations from Israel, an important win for new Defence Minister Bill Blair.

Taken together, the Liberals now have a spring in their step. One can see it in their improved message discipline, as evidenced by the government’s Tuesday ‘Team Economy’ press conferences which drive the week’s media cycle.

Likewise, the government has made a concerted effort during Question Period to refocus the political argument on choice rather than change. And it shows on the Liberal Party’s social media feeds by highlighting rising stars like Liberal MP’s Arielle Kayabaga and Jenna Sudds who reflect key voter groups in crucial ridings.

Critics may argue a competent government would never let these traits slip in the first place. But after eight years in power, having weathered crises and political scandals, and a COVID curveball thrown in for good measure, it is understandable how a government might lose its focus. 

While too early to call it a comeback, the Trudeau Liberals are hoping that the past few weeks will stop the political bleeding. The question now is whether the government can seize the momentum and build on these positive developments, utilising the supply and confidence runway to rebuild its popularity.

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