From regional conflicts to an affordability crisis, 2023 unfolded with storylines that captured Canadians’ attention from coast to coast to coast. There were even a few surprises, like the Leafs making it out of the first round of the playoffs, and remember those Chinese balloons? Let’s take a look back at 2023:
Canadians welcomed 2023 amid economic challenges. Interest rates climbed, inflation surged, and the economy experienced a slowdown. Despite these issues, the Liberal government remained competitive in national polls, holding 31% of the intended vote and trailing the Conservatives by only four points. The Prime Minister saw a dip in his approval ratings due to inflation, but negative impressions of Justin Trudeau were stable at 49%. Notably, Pierre Poilievre had yet to become a household name on the national stage.
February brought increased geopolitical tensions, triggered by the discovery of suspicious Chinese balloons flying over Canada and the United States. This incident marked the beginning of a series of events shaping Canada-China relations. The government responded by banning TikTok on government devices due to security concerns. Reports emerged about Chinese ‘police service stations’ operating in Canada, and bombshell leaks from CSIS alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections. The Prime Minister weathered a turbulent February, allowing the Conservatives to open an eight-point lead in national polls.
In an attempt to reverse their fortunes, the Liberals unveiled Budget 2023 in March, but it lacked one thing – crucial housing measures during an affordability crisis. Abacus polling revealed a strong desire for change among voters, leaving the Liberals and Conservatives nearly tied in the polls by the end of the month.
The spring and summer witnessed a series of setbacks for progressives, with the United Conservative Party securing a sweeping majority in Alberta, despite strong efforts by Rachel Notley’s provincial NDP. The worst wildfire season on record and a prolonged port dispute in British Columbia further impacted the Liberals’ standing in western Canada. Poilievre wrapped up a summer of rebranding and ended August with a commanding 12-point lead over the Liberals.
As Members of Parliament returned to their seats in September, the Prime Minister made an explosive announcement referencing “credible allegations” that Indian agents were behind the assassination of a Canadian Sikh on home soil. Opposition members were quick to criticize the Prime Minister for damaging Canada’s global image. Despite a positive outcome for progressives in Manitoba with the provincial NDP securing a majority government under Wab Kinew, the federal Liberals continued to slide in the polls, trailing by 15 points.
The fall session did not get easier for the Liberals as they continued to grapple with affordability and cost-of-living challenges. Even after a carbon tax flip-flop, the ‘Red Wall’ in Atlantic Canada began to crumble.
It has put Poilievre and the Conservative Party in the driver’s seat heading into 2024, as the Tories look to build on their largest lead since the Liberals were elected in 2015.
As we look ahead to the new year, the question looms: will 2024 provide the Liberals with a fresh start, or will voters continue to grow tired of the current government? Will the shine wear off of Pierre Poilievre, or will the Conservative movement continue to grow?
And what about the NDP? Can they continue to get wins out of the supply and confidence agreement and position themselves as a credible alternative to progressive voters unhappy with the Liberals?
The political landscape seems poised for a change election, and all eyes will be on how these narratives unfold in the coming year.