SEGOVIA – In about two weeks, Canadian citizens will head to the polls to what is believed to be one of the most contentious elections in recent times. Headed by Justin Trudeau, the Liberal party went from having 36 seats in the Canadian House of Commons to 184, securing a majority after the 2015 national election. Going into these elections however, Trudeau’s past seems to be catching up with him. Uncertainty among analysts on the Liberal party securing a majority in the Canadian Parliament have sparked discussion on whether these elections might turn the tide of Canadian politics, or whether Trudeau’s charisma (Trudeaumania) will seal the deal yet again.
Trudeau’s tenure has not been flawless. Some measures his party put forward have been considered controversial (e. g. Bill C-16) and some promises have not been fulfilled. For example, the targets regarding balanced budgets and federal debt-to-GDP ratios have not been met. Voters who were interested in the end of the first-past-the-post system or those who wanted more accountability through the introduction of Prime Minister’s Questions are disappointed. Some military veterans might be realizing that lifelong pensions are not coming back. These are just some of the proposals the Liberal Party put forth in the 2015 election whose success, or lack thereof, may inform the Canadian public on who to vote for in the upcoming elections.
The electorate however not only puts the liberal political project under scrutiny, but Trudeau’s personal character too. A few weeks ago, Time magazine published a photograph made in 2001 during an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala at West Point Grey Academy, in which Trudeau is wearing an Aladdin costume doing blackface. The photo went viral, with Trudeau having to apologize for this and another similar photo. Racism allegations coupled with other instances of alleged cultural appropriation have caused a significant hit to Trudeau’s public image.
The Liberals and the Conservatives are closer than ever to each other, which can in part explain the sudden appearance of these provocative images. The possibility exists that Trudeau could be ousted as Prime Minister of Canada in the upcoming elections, though having a closer look at his legacy, the current controversy surrounding Trudeau and his opposition will challenge this view.
His main opponent in the upcoming elections is Andrew Scheer, a faithful Catholic that became leader of the Conservative Party in May 2017. While the Liberals may offer toned-down versions of some of the policies offered by the Greens and the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Conservatives offer very different perspectives. For example, the Tories are the only big party proposing the elimination of the carbon tax, in favor of other policies such as the strengthening of cleaner Canadian sources of energy.
Scheer defends freedom of speech and support for families, as well as a change in immigration policy. While this may represent just a small taster of what the Conservatives are proposing to Canadian voters, these ideas may attract voters from the centre of the ideological spectrum, effectively monopolizing the whole right wing at the federal level. The Conservative party’s recent victory in Alberta might be a sign of changing times. In the 2015 election, Conservatives managed to acquire 99 seats in the House of Commons, but CBC News polling projects that number to increase to about 163 seats; not enough for a majority but still a threat to the Liberal party’s grasp on power.
Nevertheless, we should take these allegations targeting Trudeau with a grain of salt. Elections are a battlefield of the survival of the fittest, and the deep archives are a useful commodity for the opposition to further harm the credibility of the incumbent, where context is largely forgotten about. In spite of the turmoil surrounding Trudeau, he is defying expectations yet again, and may see his leadership securing another four years of Liberal Canada. We must not forget, the Trudeau surname itself is a wildcard in Canadian politics.
His secret weapon may be considered the greatest legacy of his father, Pierre Trudeau.
Pierre Trudeau entered the national stage in the mid ‘60s, being appointed Parliamentary Secretary in 1965, and Minister of Justice in 1967. His personality made him very popular in media, creating a sense of “Trudeaumania”. In 1968, he became Prime Minister, an office he would hold for 15 years. It is “Trudeaumania” what lays at the foundation of the Trudeau dynasty. This sense of harmony between the political class and the Canadian people, through a strong personal identity and media presence, is what may give Justin Trudeau enough of a boost to be kept in charge of Canadian affairs for another four years to come. It may be his choice of socks and shoe wear, his preferred color of suit, or just pure charisma. His essence may save him from being politically forgotten and may save the current incumbent from suffering major losses.
CBC News polling sees the “Liberals winning a majority” as the most likely outcome of the election (37% probability), followed by “Liberals winning the most seats but not a majority” (26%). Canadians will, most likely, see Trudeau at the steering wheel for four more years. Even if the Liberal party has to reach a compromise with the Greens or the NDP (or tacit approval from conservatives, even), it is likely that Trudeau will be back in office. Whether actions will speak louder than words this time around, however, has yet to be seen.