There comes a time during the term of a world leader when the electorate looks back at the accomplishments that have been made and reflects on whether the politician has been competent or not. That time has come in Canada, as the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is halfway through his term, and recent polls suggest that Trudeau has lost a lot of popularity over the course of the last four months.
Canadian politics in the age of Trudeau is compelling yet ambiguous; and to Americans the spectacle that is Canada is unknown and perplexing. In short, Americans must understand that Canada’s political structure differs greatly from that of the United States. For example, there are three main political parties in Canada: The Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic Party. The New Democratic Party lies on the left of the political spectrum while the Liberals lies on the centre left and the Conservatives on the centre-right of the spectrum. The current political leaders are Justin Trudeau (Liberals), Andrew Scheer (Conservatives), and Jagmeet Singh (New Democrats) and the Canadian electoral system differs greatly from America’s Electoral College system. In Canada’s electoral system (First Past the Post), each area of the country is separated into different ridings, and these translate into seats. The winner of each riding only needs to receive a plurality of the votes (the largest number of votes) instead of a majority of votes. This leads to a distortion of the popular vote of the Canadian electorate. In Canada’s most recent general election, Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority government despite only receiving about forty percent of the popular vote. In the 2011 Canadian general election, Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party also received around forty percent of the popular vote.
With all that being said, it becomes apparent why Trudeau cannot become complacent. Sixty percent of the electorate did not vote for him in the last election. This becomes all the more confusing when we grasp the state of Canadian politics and how we got here.
Two months before the last election I had no doubts that Justin Trudeau would prevail. The excitement, especially in downtown Toronto, was palpable. He had made promises that excited the country and it was easy to recognize his appeal and understand what made him so popular. The prime minister during the year 2015 was Stephen Harper and people were ready for change. Harper has been prime minister for more than nine years and the choice for Canadians who yearned for change was between Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. Canadians chose Trudeau because of his charisma and his attractive promises to the nation.
Trudeau was elected due to promises like legalizing marijuana and changing the current electoral system to a more proportional system that does not distort the choice of the Canadian electorate. Legalization of marijuana is looking more and more like a promise that will be kept and the Prime Minister Trudeau’s plan is to legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018. Trudeau’s promise to change Canada’s electoral system will not come to fruition after he reneged on that promise.
The first two years of Trudeau’s mandate have been interesting because of how frequently he has angered voters on the right and left of him. Members to the left of him and those in the New Democratic Party have become infuriated with his refusal to invest large sums into protecting Indigenous youth and for refusing to focus on income equality. They argue that while he proudly exclaims his affinity for feminists and gender parity he has abandoned Indigenous children and those struggling Canadians working hard to join the middle class. These very same detractors argue that due to Trudeau’s wealthy upbringing he is not the one fighting for the common folk. Those on the right of him and those in the Conservative Party would argue that Trudeau has spent too much and that he promised to have deficits of around ten billion and instead the current deficit under Trudeau’s government has been between the high teens and mid-twenties in billions of dollars. Those on the right of him would agree with his detractors on the left in that his Trudeau’s wealthy upbringing has given him a distorted vision of what Canada stands for.
Trudeau has gotten a lot of criticism over the last two years and he has also been regarded with much adoration. Criticism and adoration come with the job when you are a world leader, but Trudeau has also proven his immaculate political strategy. He cancelled his electoral reform plan when it became clear that changing the electoral system would make it more difficult for him to get a majority government and he has refused to buckle to the demands of conservatives and leftists. This has maintained his base and given him a substantial lead in the race to the prime minister’s office in 2019. Trudeau has lost some support in polling numbers in recent months, but he is still track for another majority government.
The reality is that during the first two years of the Trudeau mandate, Canadians have seen both a benevolent and erroneous prime minister who is nowhere close to as deplorable as his opponents would like Canadians to believe, while also not being anywhere close to being as superb and sublime as the Liberal Party wants Canadians to believe.
The jury is still out as to whether Justin Trudeau is competent and should be re-elected to a second term. The jury has made its decision on one thing: it is absolutely a perfect time to become engaged in Canadian politics and learn what is really going on in Canada.