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Canada focuses on Justin Trudeau’s political future

And now he’s under fire for abandoning his carbon tax — a surprise move, many say, designed to shore up his support in Atlantic Canada, a reliable Liberal stronghold where the party is losing support to the Conservatives.

Trudeau, 51, is relatively young, especially compared to recent White House residents Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Yet the question remains: has it overstayed its welcome?

Geoff Norquay says the scene reminds him of the months before the dramatic defeat of his former boss, Brian Mulroney. The conservative prime minister was first elected in 1984.

“Every prime minister comes to the seventh, eighth or ninth year in essentially the same state,” the consultant and former senior Conservative aide told POLITICO. “The government is tired. It’s a loss of concentration. He sometimes seems arrogant, or not in power. And political failures are piling up.

When Mulroney’s popularity plummeted in 1992 and 1993, during his eighth and ninth years in office, David McLaughlin had a front-row seat.

McLaughlin, now president and CEO of the Institute on Governance, traveled the world with the Conservative prime minister as his senior adviser and served as his last chief of staff.

He notes several parallels between Trudeau’s current situation and Mulroney’s final months in office, including persistent personal unpopularity and an “outdated agenda” after nearly a decade in power.

Few outside the inner circle knew what Mulroney thought about the timing of his resignation. Senior executives never called formal meetings on the subject, McLaughlin insists.

But once Mulroney’s inevitable departure became the elephant in the room, governing became more complicated.

“You know it’s on (the Prime Minister’s) mind. You know (he doesn’t ignore it). They need to present themselves as not being bothered by it,” says McLaughlin. “It would become an open invitation for sharks into the political waters.”

Trudeau’s father, Pierre, resigned after a now-infamous walk in the snow – and an announcement on February 29, 1984. Rumors are keen to point out that 2024 is also a leap year, a potentially juicy parallel.

But the prime minister has given no indication he intends to step down. His government still exercises control over the timing of the next election, supported by a governing agreement with the left-wing New Democratic Party that could postpone elections until fall 2025.

Trudeau has repeatedly insisted he will lead his party into a fourth campaign. Only two prime ministers have won four in a row. The odds are not in the Liberals’ favor.

An Angus Reid Institute poll shows mixed results for the sitting Prime Minister.

In October, 57 percent of Canadians said in a poll that Trudeau should step down before the next election. His own supporters are divided: 44 percent of liberals say he should stay, 41 percent say he should leave.

Several apparent contenders appear regularly in conversations, including Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, Housing Minister Sean Fraser, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne, Treasury Board President Anita Anand, former governor of Bank of Canada Mark Carney and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Carney, a presumptive Liberal candidate for years, tends to emerge as a leader when Trudeau’s standing at home or abroad collapses.

But any serious discussion on succession quickly fades into liberal territory.

Shachi Kurl, Angus Reid’s president, doesn’t see voters rallying around Trudeau’s potential successors. Three-quarters of Canadians know “a lot or a little” about Freeland. Only half said the same about Joly, with that proportion falling to a third for Champagne, Carney and Anand.

“The Liberals have built an entire party brand around their leader,” Kurl says. “Justin Trudeau East the Liberal Party. How will they change their name in time for the next general election?

Trudeau recently rebuffed calls for his resignation from Percy Downe, a restive Canadian senator and former senior adviser to Liberal MP Jean Chrétien. Facing journalists, the Prime Minister dismissed Downe and his thoughts: “Who is he? WHO? Oh, Percy, yeah. How is he ? Oh, well, I wish him all the best in the work he does.

McLaughlin said Trudeau deserves credit for shutting down the gossip.

“If you publicly give in and say, ‘Let’s talk about this,’ then you run an immediate risk of having your program and your government completely destabilized,” he says. “Resignation becomes inevitable, and perhaps your government will even lose. »

Downe’s rebuke of Trudeau, published in an opinion piece in the Hill Times newspaper, credits the prime minister’s role in leading the party to power – but says the party’s fiscal hawks misjudged their ability to “educate” Trudeau’s supporters on economic management.

“This naivety was replaced by the realization that they were not a serious government about the economy, that they simply did not care and that they would spend money on anything they wanted. was going through my head,” Downe wrote, omitting any mention of a broadly popular policy. emergency spending for Covid relief measures. “The resulting rise in interest rates, increased cost of living and huge debt did not seem to concern them.”

Only another centrist, he concluded, can save the next election for the liberals.

Downe is not a rebel leader determined to replace Trudeau, nor a senator who often makes headlines. But most major media outlets wrote about his criticism, which fueled more speculation and produced more articles.

Trudeau’s apparent downward drag on his own party is both a pillar of political commentary. The Toronto Star recently published a series of polling data to demonstrate the scale of the problem, citing Abacus Data CEO David Coletto’s clear description of the issues:

“After eight years in power, too many people are done with him. He’s a big part of the problem and there’s little trust in him to be able to focus on the things they care about.

It’s the kind of quote that fuels a rumor mill.

When everyone in town is talking about the prime minister’s future, even ill-informed chatter can put staff on edge. Gossip can become “very debilitating,” McLaughlin says, for aides who wonder whether they should continue working on projects that might not interest the next leader.

People love to chat at the boozy bars and parties adjacent to Parliament Hill, where rumors are rife for the chatty mix of politicians, staffers, lobbyists and journalists dining on free poutine and house wine .

Scott Reid, communications director for former prime minister Paul Martin who endured a long struggle for the leadership of the Liberal Party in the early 2000s, witnessed years of chatter about the “Ottawa bubble.”

“At the best of times, Ottawa is chock-full of cock-soaked, confident people who insist they know everything and know best,” says Reid. “When you’re really on the ropes and the gin-soaked crowd is hyped up, it can sometimes be hard to ignore.”

But Trudeau’s fate is unlikely to be decided by those who fill the booths of the city’s modest bars.

If the prime minister decides to step down, Reid says, it will be because he has problems elsewhere in the country: a slow economy, personal unpopularity and no reasonable prospect of return.

For now, Trudeau’s hold on the party is strong. Conventional wisdom is that he deserves one more point if he wants it. Trudeau resurrected the brand after a catastrophic defeat in 2011, and many lawmakers – and even his potential successors – still owe their jobs to him.

No one sharpens their knives – at least not in public.

“They are not rivals. These are not alternatives. These are not people organizing to usurp,” says Reid. “It just doesn’t happen. And that won’t happen.


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