Canada’s Trudeau rebuffs idea of stepping down in face of slumping support

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rebuffed the idea of stepping down amid slumping poll numbers and the rise of the country’s opposition Conservatives.

During a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, when asked whether he would resign as his party’s leader, Trudeau told reporters he had more work to do.

“The next elections are two years away. I’m continuing to do my job. There’s a lot of important work to do, to deliver for Canadians in these difficult moments. I remain enthusiastic and relentless with regards to this work,” he said, speaking in French.

Trudeau led the Liberal Party to victory in 2015’s federal elections, ending nearly a decade of Conservative-led governments. But he has since seen his support slip amid growing frustrations over high inflation, soaring housing costs and other issues.

He also bore the brunt of public anger over COVID-19 lockdown measures and other public health policies across Canada, becoming a regular target of anti-vaccine protesters and right-wing politicians.

An Abacus Data poll from late August found that 56 percent of Canadians believed Trudeau should step down and let someone else lead the party, compared with 27 percent who said he should run again.

The Angus Reid Institute, another Canadian research firm, put Trudeau’s disapproval rating this month at 63 percent.

Justin Trudeau stands in front of his new cabinet
Trudeau announced a major cabinet shuffle in July amid drooping support [File: Blair Gable/Reuters]

The findings come as the right-wing Conservative Party of Canada has seen a jump in support under its new leader Pierre Poilievre, a populist career politician who took over the helm of the party in September of last year.

Abacus Data said last week that a recent national survey showed public perceptions of Poilievre were improving, while the Conservatives had 40 percent support among voters compared with 26 percent for the Liberals.

That is the Conservative Party’s largest lead over the Liberals since the 2015 election, the firm said. “The primary driver, in our view, is the negative impression people have of the Liberal government and Prime Minister Trudeau,” it added.

The drop in support for Trudeau has been a focus of Canadian media reports ahead of a Liberal Party caucus retreat this week.

Several Liberal parliament members told the public broadcaster CBC News — on condition of anonymity — that “they don’t feel the prime minister listens to their views or solicits their advice”.

Others have called on the government to better communicate its policies amid relentless attacks from Poilievre, who has blamed Trudeau for the country’s ills.

“Did any prime minister ever inherit a richer legacy? Did any prime minister ever squander it so thoroughly?” Poilievre said during a speech at a Conservative Party convention last weekend, referring to Trudeau’s takeover from his predecessor, Conservative Stephen Harper.

“After eight years, Justin Trudeau is not worth the cost and he is not worth the country that we know and love,” he said to raucous applause.

Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre speaks in parliament
Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre frequently hits out at Trudeau and the Liberals [Blair Gable/Reuters]

Immigration Minister Marc Miller told the CBC this week that Liberals are unsure how to respond to Poilievre.

“There’s a tension as to how to engage … whether you fight fire with fire and bring yourself down to a level of politics that you yourself have sworn to your electors you would never engage,” Miller said.

“There is a struggle and attention generally as to how to deal with a person like that, that Canadian politics, in particular, hasn’t seen much of.”

On Wednesday, Trudeau sought to focus on the issues before he joined the Liberal retreat in London, Ontario, calling on Canadian cities to do more to address a housing crisis and pledging federal government support.

“We have two good days of conversations [ahead] with the deputies, in which we’ll have very frank conversations,” the prime minister told reporters in French when pressed again on when a party leader should step down.

“But I can tell you that the team is ready to confront all the challenges we face as a country,” said Trudeau, pointing to rising costs of living and housing. “There’s work to do, and we’re staying focused on that.”

The next Canadian federal election is scheduled for October 2025, but Trudeau could trigger a snap vote before then.

Source: Al Jazeera