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Tom Mulcair: Poilievre keeps scoring into the Liberals' empty net

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There really does appear to be a surliness in the land, perhaps fuelled by pent-up sentiments after several years of lockdowns, isolation and kids at home from school. The sudden return of high inflation has no doubt contributed to the resentment.

Several premiers who were riding high after the pandemic have landed with a thud.

Doug Ford and Francois Legault were easily elected to second majority terms as their provinces exited the health crisis. Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick had earlier turned his minority government into a majority.

According to the most recent numbers from the Angus Reid Institute, Higgs, Ford and Legault have the approval of about one third of their voters. If these numbers hold, they wouldn’t stand a chance of being re-elected.

In 2023, the average family with two kids was paying about $100 a month more for groceries than the year before. The money just isn’t there as the cost of everything else has gone up.

Against this backdrop, Pierre Poilievre has been having a field day. His most recent coup is a mockumentary on “Housing Hell.” Now, Poilievre has never met a fact that he wasn’t willing to torture, a bit, but this is just about the best piece of political communication Canadians have ever been treated to, and it’s devastating for Trudeau.

Since 2015, Trudeau has become a meme, repeating ad nauseam that he was there for “the middle class and everyone working hard to join the middle class.” It made you want to throw your shoe at the television, he repeated it so much.

Problem for Trudeau is that it was like so much else with him and his government, just another good line that unintentionally shone a spotlight on everything they talked about but never accomplished.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with local women leaders to discuss affordability and child care, at the Royal Rose Art Gallery & Gifts, in Aurora, Ont., Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Like climate change, which was supposed to be easy because, as Trudeau proclaimed at the Paris Conference, Canada was “back.” Except, nothing happened. Trudeau spent over $30 billion building an oil pipeline and approved a new massive offshore oil project.

Then he dumped a key part of his carbon tax. As Canada’s independent commissioner of sustainable development recently reported, we’ve never met our obligations on climate and have no plan that would allow us to do so. But Trudeau keeps posing, lecturing and posturing nonetheless.

If Trudeau cared about climate, which I believe he sincerely did, why wasn’t he ever able to get anything done? The answer is that he really doesn’t seem to know how things work in public administration. He talks about stuff but doesn’t know how to make it happen.

Home ownership is one of the easiest markers for determining whether or not you’re middle class. For generations, home ownership was an achievable goal for Canadians who worked hard and played by the rules. That’s simply no longer the case and that’s where Poilievre comes in.

Yes, Poilievre grossly oversimplifies when he bemoans gatekeepers as a major cause, as if a thorough environmental analysis should be steamrolled aside.

Where he scores is with his approach based on results. He’s cleverly sidestepping the thorny problem of jurisdiction and is simply saying: figure it out, but you won’t get federal infrastructure money if you don’t get the job done.

It’s telling and seems a tad misogynistic that he zeroes in on Valerie Plante and Olivia Chow in his housing documentary. Sure, they’re the mayors of Canada’s largest cities, Montreal and Toronto. But really, they’re the problem? In Plante’s case it doesn’t even make sense. Montreal doesn’t get one penny from the feds. Because it can’t. Under Quebec’s Executive Council Act, municipalities are not allowed to deal directly with Ottawa.

That being said, the essence of Poilievre’s mega rant scores heavily into the Liberals’ empty net. It really has become much more difficult to own a home in Canada. By targeting investors who are bidding up prices, Poilievre is also showing that he’s not afraid to take on those who would normally be assumed to be closer to the Conservatives.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre rises during Question Period, in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

There’s a whole generation of 18- to 45-year-olds who are listening closely to Poilievre’s policies and prescriptions, and the Liberal slide in the polls proves it.

LIBERAL-DEMOCRATS?...

There’s still plenty of time until the next election and many things could happen.

Singh has been steadfast in his respect of his deal to keep Trudeau in power. The combined Liberal-NDP vote remains higher than that of the Conservatives (hello Liberal-Democrats?)…

But Trudeau is starting to run out of time, both personally and politically.

When he shuffled his cabinet last summer, Trudeau brought in a dozen or so new faces. None has made much of an impression.

When he was asked then why his poll numbers were slipping, Trudeau reverted back to his old habits. He defended his record, apparently unaware of the fact that his record was his biggest problem.

Brian Mulroney likes to joke that his own polling numbers were like shoe sizes as he approached his second election against John Turner. A big bet on a Canada-U.S. trade deal gave him a second majority.

After three elections, the Liberal cupboard just seems bare of big ideas and the few that they did have, never panned out.

Trudeau is going through the motions of claiming he’s preparing for another election, naming his campaign co-chairs and so forth. Trudeau is an excellent politician with loads of confidence and hubris. It’ll take a very long walk in the snow, but he might just come to the realization that his “best before” date has come and gone and offer his party the chance to revive with new leadership.

Otherwise the Poilievre juggernaut is likely to simply continue, unchallenged and unabated.

Tom Mulcair was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada between 2012 and 2017

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