Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau; her daughter, Ella Grace; and son Xavier visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India on February 21
OTTAWA – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau no longer looks invincible
After his surprise victory in October 2015, Trudeau has led the field for more than two years in public opinion polls and seems politically vulnerable. And this despite a buoyant economy, which is seen as a steady source in the NAFTA trade talks with President Trump and a weak political opposition.
"Suddenly we saw this decline," said David Coletto, head of Abacus Data, a survey of Ottawa based on his company's most recent survey, completed in early March. "It's the first time Trudeau has become Prime Minister that we have results that are slightly ahead of the Conservatives."
CBC's Poll Tracker, which aggregated and weighted the results of a dozen opinion polls, reported in late March that the opposition The Conservative Party is now at the top with 37.7 percent of voting intentions compared with Trudeau's Liberals with 33.7 percent. The left-liberal New Democratic Party was third with 18.5 percent.
Some observers say they are only medium-term blues and that a Canadian election is not scheduled until the fall of 2019. But the real culprit seems to have been Trudeau's visit to India in February. During the week-long journey, Trudeau was often mocked for wearing Indian garb with his wife and three children.
For voters, Trudeau's global status as a progressive political leader and proud international flag bearer for Canada, Trudeau's images of beefy Bollywood outfits at well-known attractions were a serious comedown.
"When foreign media like CNN and BBC make fun of our Prime Minister, it was a shame for some people and made people wonder if he was the best man for the job," said Coletto.
For critics such as columnist Andrew Coyne of the National Post, who see Trudeau as a charming but intellectually lightweight, the trip to India simply proved their prospect. "The little things that seemed so charming at first glance, all those dashing gestures and glamorous photo opportunities, might initially be frivolous, then irritating – an impression of the nothingness compounded by a series of botched foreign policy excursions, including India The journey was only the last, "Coyne wrote.
Trudeau has been heavily criticized for having invited Jasper Atwal, a convicted Canadian Sikh terrorist from British Columbia, to an official Canadian dinner during the visit. The invitation was withdrawn after it was made public, but not before it inflicted significant political damage on Trudeau and his entourage.
Bollard Nik Nanos says Trudeau's popularity descent is striking because he is completely "self-inflicted". Both the Conservative and the New Democratic parties have new, inexperienced leaders who make no significant impact on Canadians. In fact, Trudeau still leads with a healthy margin as the preferred choice for the Prime Minister.
Trudeau and his family offer a traditional greeting as they arrive at Palam Air Force Station in New Delhi on February 17 (Manish Swarup / AP)
In addition to the catastrophic trip to India, Nanos said that something else was ahead it works. There is a great gender segregation when it comes to supporting Trudeau, and it just gets more pronounced.
Women have always been part of Trudeau, not only for his movie star looks, but also for his progressive social policies and self-description as a feminist. Nanos said the gap worsened as he continued to drive a pro-feminist agenda, with Trudeau losing about one-third of his male support since 2015.
"He was very gender-oriented," said Nanos. "Focusing so much on gender means that other voters, ie men, are not that important."
Nanos believes that Trudeau and the Liberals still have plenty of time to change things. "They need to return to a progressive agenda and focus on the middle class, which appeals to both men and women."
Stephen Azzi, associate professor of political management at Carleton University in Ottawa, said he would be 18 months old do not do too much polling. "Governments tend to hesitate in year 2 or 3 of their mandate," he said. "I think they should be worried, but I do not think it's all mischief."
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