Liberals’ once promising prospects appear to be dwindling

A relatively strong handling of the pandemic helped bolster Trudeau’s fortunes, leading to the current Liberal gamble that he had built enough political capital to once again reach majority status. | Reuters photo

As another federal election winds down, it’s discouraging to see so many Canadians once again disgruntled with their options, but I can’t blame them.

Leading into this election, the governing Liberals had spent much of the political capital they earned following their 2015 victory.

Optimism over electoral reform and climate change action, for example, was quickly swallowed up by a litany of scandals and a lack of action.

Justin Trudeau’s personal (blackface) and political (SNC-Lavalin, WE) failures meant he had to trade his majority government for a minority in 2019.

A relatively strong handling of the pandemic helped bolster Trudeau’s fortunes, leading to the current Liberal gamble that he had built enough political capital to once again reach majority status.

Days away from the election, that once promising prospect for him appears to be disappearing.

Any swing voter casting a ballot for the Liberals will now likely be holding their nose while they do it.

His credibility on issues attractive to centre-left voters, like the environment, feminism and Indigenous reconciliation, is questionable at best.

Under Trudeau, Canada continues to be on pace to miss many of its climate targets, despite significant investments and the introduction of a carbon levy. More left-leaning voters continue to critique his pro-pipeline politics.

The firing of former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould (and her tell-all book released during the campaign) further impacted his credibility as a progressive.

Boil water advisories and continued legal challenges against Indigenous communities hamper claims Trudeau makes about being an ally to First Nations.

This election, a considerable number of votes for the Liberals are likely to be about voting against the Conservatives.

For more left-leaning voters, the NDP still isn’t a credible option, particularly in Western Canada, where winning even a single seat will be an accomplishment.

Leader Jagmeet Singh has been unable to inspire the party’s base, and a small army of would-be volunteers are again parked on the sidelines because of it. We aren’t on the eve of another Orange Wave like in 2015.

Conservative voters, meanwhile, don’t have great alternatives if they aren’t satisfied with the leadership of Erin O’Toole.

Despite a relatively cohesive campaign, it’s clear he leads a Conservative party struggling with an identity crisis.

Born out of a marriage between two separate versions of conservatism, almost 20 years later the Conservative party’s battle between those ideologies wages on. MPs and party members are still unclear on where the party should stand on issues like abortion, reconciliation and LGBTQ rights.

Perhaps most damning to the party’s fortunes is that while O’Toole led the party to adopt carbon pricing as part of its official stance, some Conservative candidates continue to campaign against the policy.

Considering climate change is once again ranking high on voter concerns, this is a problem for O’Toole.

The party faithful hasn’t coalesced behind a leader since Stephen Harper, and each of his successors have been compromise picks, failing to appease all members.

O’Toole’s grasp of power over the party doesn’t appear strong. Without strong enthusiasm from within his own party ranks, O’Toole has struggled to sell Canadians on the idea the Conservatives are once again a “big tent” party capable of governing for everyone.

Depending on the outcome of this election, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Conservatives have another leadership race in the near future.

So here we are, once again shrugging our shoulders at our options. I’ve travelled a bit around Canada (five provinces) during this campaign.

Not once have I met a voter genuinely excited about their options for prime minister.

Is that what a healthy democracy is supposed to look like?

D.C. Fraser is Glacier Farm Media’s Ottawa correspondent. Reach out to him by emailing dfraser@farmmedia.com.

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