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Disastrous 2023 Signals Liberal Downfall


Twenty twenty three will go down as the year the house of cards came crashing down on Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government. 

Long simmering scandals, unpopular policies, and sheer hubris finally caught up with the once untouchable Trudeau. 

Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, Trudeau’s fall from political grace was as sudden as his ascent. 

The latest numbers from veteran pollster Nik Nanos reveal a government in free fall – support in tatters, record low approval, and headed for humiliating defeat come 2025. 

Even former Prime Minister Stephen Harper predicts a fast approaching end to the Trudeau era. Trudeau’s dream of an enduring Liberal dynasty lies shattered, the broken shards a testament to reckless ambition laid low. 

Twenty Twenty Three was a disastrous year for Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberal government. According to long-time pollster Nik Nanos, the Liberals broke unfavorable records in public opinion that spanned over 17 years of tracking. The government seemed plagued by Justin Trudeau’s questionable policies and scandals, with everything that could go wrong, going terribly wrong.

The annual tracking conducted by Nanos Research over the past 17 years showed the Trudeau government registered the lowest positive performance score ever. Only 23 percent of Canadians positively rated the Liberal government’s performance, with only 5 percent rating it as very good, and 18 percent as good. 

This is a staggering 37 point drop compared to when the Liberals first took office in 2015. It is also lower than the final year of the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper. In Harper’s last year before being defeated by Trudeau’s Liberals, over one-third of Canadians assessed the Conservative government’s performance positively, with 16 percent for very good or 21 percent for good.

So not only are the Liberals seeing a massive drop in public perception since taking power in 2015, they are now polling worse than Stephen Harper’s Conservatives before their defeat. Harper himself has taken note of the declining fortunes of Trudeau’s government.

In a recent interview he offered a scathing assessment of Trudeau’s Liberals and their handling of foreign policy. Harper described the current approach as “seeking non-strategic autonomy that seemingly fights with everyone for no apparent reason.” He sees the Liberals picking unnecessary battles and isolating Canada on the world stage.

Beyond foreign affairs, Harper painted a bleak economic picture under the Liberals. He disputed claims that the American economy is doing well, arguing that the per capita income of Canadians has actually been declining the last couple years with few prospects for growth.

Harper directly attributed the decline to Liberal mismanagement, resulting in the government trailing the Conservatives by 20 points in current polling. He bluntly predicted the Liberals will be defeated in two years time in the next election.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Justin Trudeau and the battered Liberals may not even make it to the 2025 election. With polls continuing to crater and the public decidedly turned against them, the simmering discontent could reach a boiling point. There is historical precedent for Canadian governments collapsing from lost confidence votes long before their mandate expires. 

If the present trends hold, the Liberals could face a parliamentary revolt or pressure within their own ranks to remove Trudeau and try to renew under a new leader. While 2025 may seem the destined date of reckoning, public impatience could spell the end far sooner for Trudeau’s troubled government.

While acknowledging governments in trouble sometimes introduce new policies to turn things around, Harper sees no hope for Trudeau’s Liberals in that regard. In his assessment, the Liberals have two long, fruitless years left before Canadians will seek change and hand power back to the Conservatives.

Harper pulled no punches in critiquing Trudeau’s leadership and the Liberal handling of the economy and foreign affairs. He sees their defeat as inevitable in the next election, barring a major turnaround in fortunes that Harper views as highly unlikely at this stage.

Harper’s bleak outlook on the Liberals’ prospects extended beyond just the economy. He was equally critical of their management of Canada’s foreign affairs and international reputation.

The Liberals scored the lowest positive rating of any government over the past 17 years, with only 3 percent of respondents saying Canada’s reputation globally had improved in the past year.

In a remarkable turnaround, the Trudeau Liberals went from recording the highest performance and international reputation scores over a 17-year tracking period, to plumbing the lowest depths. 

Public opinion also shifted along generational lines, with Canadians under 55 harboring more negative views of the government compared to those over 55 years old. The dramatic swing underscores just how far the Liberals have fallen in the public’s esteem since their heady early days in power.

On the question of whether Canada was headed in the right or wrong direction, the Trudeau Liberals found themselves tied for the lowest score in 17 years – matching the dismal results of the final Harper Conservative government. Only 31 percent of Canadians surveyed felt the country was on the right track. 

Sentiment skewed particularly negative among Westerners, men, and middle-aged respondents. The Liberals’ current 31 percent right-direction rating marked a new low for their governance, a far cry from the optimism of 2015 when they first took office with double the support. Their fall from grace in the public consciousness could not be more stark.

There appears to be no silver linings for the beleaguered Liberals. With these dismal results, it is not surprising the Liberals are now trailing the Conservatives by double digits. Justin Trudeau also lagged behind Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre by double digits in Nanos’ weekly tracking of preferred Prime Minister, underscoring the Liberal leader’s diminished standing.

More importantly, the trend lines and relationships between the parties had also shifted. From 2015 to August 2023, the Liberal and NDP trend lines had an inverse relationship – when Liberal support rose, NDP support fell, indicative of a consolidation and deconsolidation of progressive voters. 

But since August 2023, the NDP numbers decoupled from the Liberals. The NDP no longer appeared to benefit from declines in Liberal support. Instead, the relationship now seemed to be primarily between thecs, with the Liberal slide since August boosting Conservative fortunes rather than the NDP. This suggests former progressive-leaning Liberal voters were swinging to the Conservatives.

This realignment away from the Liberals and toward the Conservatives represents an unraveling of the progressive voter coalition that propelled Trudeau to power. Over the past four months, the Liberals saw their support dwindle among once-loyal demographics. 

Liberal political support weakened among voters under 55 in both Ontario and Atlantic Canada – once strongholds. Although the Liberals remain comparatively stronger among female voters versus males, support levels among women are at or near the lowest since 2015.

Looking at these dire numbers, 2023 was the worst year for the governing Liberals since their political exile a decade prior.

Of course nothing is ever final in politics, and one should never underestimate any politician’s capacity for blunders – whether front-runner or underdog. For the Liberals, it would likely require a massive mistake by Poilievre.

However, time is running out to change the trend lines.

The lone good news for the embattled federal Liberals is that an election is not immediately imminent. The bad news is that hoping for an opponent’s implosion while struggling to reverse these dismal numbers could be wishful thinking. Every government has an expiry date. For Trudeau’s Liberals, the date may have come and gone in 2023.

After a disastrous 2023, the once high-flying Trudeau Liberals seem destined for a humbling election defeat come 2025. A victim of self-inflicted scandals, questionable policies, and sheer arrogance, Trudeau appears to have led his party into a political death spiral. Barring an extraordinary turnaround, the Conservatives stand ready to deliver the final blow to Trudeau’s crumbling regime. 

The Liberal leader would be wise to bow out gracefully while he still can, before the impending humiliation of removal at the ballot box. The unraveling of the past year stems directly from Trudeau’s failed leadership. The Liberal dream now lies in tatters, and the broker of that dream must accept his share of the blame.

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