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

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.

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

File photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate fatal collision

One fatality in a serious collision on Highway 2A on June 18, 2021.

Participants in Rock Soup Food Bank’s fundraising drag race that took place on June 20, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ PipestoneFlyer.
Rock Soup Food Bank fundraises with literal drag race down main-street

Participants ran in drag down Wetaskiwin’s main street as a fundraiser for the food bank.

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read