One year to election: Trudeau Liberals gear up for tussles on climate, premiers

Analysts say that the Liberals have reason to be ‘fairly confident’

Twelve months from now, Canadians will pass judgment on the Trudeau government and decide whether its first mandate should be its last or if it deserves another four years.

As the one-year countdown to the next federal election on Oct. 21, 2019 starts ticking, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appear reasonably well positioned to win a second term.

But a year is a lifetime in politics and the coming one promises to be particularly challenging for the Liberals, beset by a growing phalanx of hostile conservative premiers determined to put a spoke in Trudeau’s pre-election wheel.

In particular, they’re aiming to upend the introduction of a carbon tax — one of Trudeau’s signature policies, the central pillar of the Liberal plan for combating climate change.

It’s the next big thing on the government’s agenda and it’s the pivotal issue upon which Liberal strategists privately believe the next election will turn. It’s a fight they think they can win.

A recent Angus Reid Institute poll suggests they have reason for optimism.

READ MORE: Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

It suggests half of what the pollster refers to as ”maybe” Liberal voters — soft supporters of opposition parties who can be persuaded to back the governing party — agree with Trudeau on the need for a carbon tax. With his categorical opposition to carbon pricing, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer risks alienating soft Tory supporters.

At the same time, half of those maybe-Liberals also support Trudeau’s insistence on expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to carry Alberta’s oil sands bitumen to B.C.’s coast for shipment overseas — the flip side of the Liberal climate plan, aimed at demonstrating the prime minister’s contention that protecting the environment and growing the economy go hand in hand.

Hence, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s staunch opposition to the pipeline project “is a considerable liability” with soft New Democrat supporters, the polling firm concludes.

Overall, the poll suggests more Canadians are open to voting Conservative than any other party but, at the same time, those open to voting Liberal are the most enthusiastic.

“I would say that for now, if managed carefully and properly, it does look as though, of the three leaders, Justin Trudeau does appear to be heading into the next election cycle from a place of more strength than either of his opposition counterparts,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

“Trudeau’s base is fired up, excited by and very much approving of his job and his performance as leader. “

By contrast, Scheer and particularly Singh remain largely unknown quantities to many voters, she added.

READ MORE: Trans Mountain ‘will be built,’ Trudeau says after meeting with Horgan

That said, the poll also suggests that the Liberals are vulnerable on two particular issues: their management of the influx of irregular border crossers and their failure to deliver on Trudeau’s promise to run modest deficits and return to balance by the end of the first mandate.

Kurl notes that the next campaign will get underway in earnest during the summer, just when another wave of asylum seekers could be pouring over the border from the U.S.

“Every time the Conservatives talk about this issue, it is one that resonates across the political spectrum,” she said.

But University of Waterloo political scientist Emmett Macfarlane notes that the summer could also see more forest fires, flooding and extreme weather, all symptoms of climate change. And that could tip that balance against the Conservatives and their strategy of allying themselves with anti-carbon tax premiers.

“It has as much potential to backfire as to succeed,” he said.

At the moment, Macfarlane believes the Liberals have “a lot of reasons to be fairly confident” heading into an election year.

The economy, he notes, is humming along nicely, unemployment is at four-decade low and voters generally don’t turf a government under those circumstances — although Quebec voters did just that earlier this month.

Moreover, Macfarlane suspects the government will get credit for emerging relatively unscathed from the year-long tumultuous NAFTA negotiations with mercurial U.S. President Donald Trump.

Liberal strategists contend Trudeau will be able to go into the next campaign having done what he promised to do in 2015 — with a few notable exceptions such as balancing the budget and reforming the electoral system.

According to the TrudeauMeter, a non-partisan, collaborative citizen initiative that attempts to track the progress Liberals have made on keeping their election promises, Trudeau has kept 70 promises, 68 are in progress, 42 have not been started and 41 have been broken.

But on some of the big ticket pledges, Trudeau will boast that he has delivered some truly transformational changes to Canada in a short time: legalizing medical assistance in dying, legalizing recreational cannabis, turning the Senate into a more independent, less-partisan chamber of sober second thought, lifting some 300,000 children out of poverty through the enhanced Canada Child Benefit.

If the carbon tax goes according to plan, he will add setting the stage for the transition to a low-carbon economy to that list.

Compared to the more managerial approach of Jean Chretien’s and Stephen Harper’s governments, Macfarlane said: “This is a fairly active government on a number of big files.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Photo submitted/ Rita-anne Fuss
Distancing Diamond Project in Millet for mental health

Distancing Diamonds allow for social distancing community gathering.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Submitted
Montana First Nations councillor gives back to youth

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News Reggie Rabbit is a newly elected… Continue reading

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Most Read