Less rhetoric and more action would go a long way. Photo credit: Getty Images/David Chan
Next week, politicians will flock back to Ottawa to debate the many problems facing the country, making for what is sure to be a busy parliamentary session. Cost of living, healthcare, the winter boondoggle of a travel season, and defence spending as the war in Ukraine rages on are all likely to dominate the crowded agenda.
For avid watchers of the nightly news, all eyes will be on the Prime Minister and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. For his part, Poilievre has spent the first month of the new year riding high, with several polls over the last few weeks putting the Conservatives squarely ahead of the governing Liberals. Coupled with a strong desire for change, things couldn’t look more favourable for the new leader.
Most impressive, however, might be the hold that Poilievre has on the Conservative caucus. This time last year, the party was in a full-on revolt with no end in sight to the anonymous leaks that were coming from within its own ranks. You wouldn’t know it from the looks of the party today.
To the public eye, the Conservative team appears to be united, serious and ready to win. In the face of a strong opposition that isn’t tripping over its own feet, is there anything Trudeau can do to regain his foothold in the polls?
First, the Prime Minister needs to stop with the platitudes and get serious about solving problems that are within the jurisdiction of the federal government. One area where the Trudeau government stands to benefit significantly from is on the issue of healthcare. With a rumored 10-year healthcare deal on the horizon, and provincial leaders set to gather in Ottawa in February to finalize the details with the Trudeau government, this could all but neutralize a contentious issue that tends to rear its head every election cycle.
Secondly, the Prime Minister needs to match his tone with the mood of the Canadian public when it comes to the country’s finances. Reports from last fall suggested the Finance Minister had asked federal departments to match any new spending with cuts as part of considerations for Budget 2023.
In any positioning of the federal budget, Trudeau needs to send a signal to Canadians who are seeing more of their paycheques go to maintaining their household budget, that he not only understands, but is focused on reducing spending on bloated government programs. Anything less will result in a further plunge in the polls for the Trudeau government, who already trail the Conservatives when it comes to which government is best placed to handle economic issues.
In March, President Joe Biden will make his first official visit to Canada. Rather than virtue signal, Trudeau can use this as an opportunity to highlight Canada’s world-class manufacturing and natural resource industries. Selling Canada as an innovation powerhouse to our closest neighbor, while highlighting the economic benefits of cross border trade would be a welcome headline for the Prime Minister.
There are ample opportunities for reputation rehab in the coming months, but governments that have weathered as many elections as Trudeau often lose sight of the public pulse. We need only look to the previous Harper government to know how this story could end if the Liberals fail to get serious and start delivering for Canadians.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.