Is Justin Trudeau from Quebec

The picture of the Sunnyboy has faded : Why Trudeau could fail Canada's general election

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office with verve and optimism four years ago after his brilliant election victory. A long reign had been predicted. But now it is by no means certain that Trudeau will receive a mandate for another term in the election on Monday. In polls, his liberals are on par with Andrew Scheer's conservatives. An end to the Trudeau era is possible.

Justin Trudeau gathered his constituency candidates from the province of Quebec, including several ministers, in the Botanical Garden in Montreal. The leaves of the trees in front of which the liberal team are standing glow in the colors typical of the “Indian Summer”: red, yellow, brown. But this visit is not a relaxed autumn excursion. Trudeau fights for every single parliamentary seat. Its getting close.

He wants to make this clear, especially to fickle Liberal voters who turn away disappointed because they expected more from the Liberals and could vote for Social Democrats, Greens or Bloc Quebecois. This could cost Trudeau not only an absolute majority of the seats, but also the office.

“We could wake up next Tuesday to a new government led by Andrew Scheer. The only way to prevent this is to vote for the Liberal Party, ”he warns. “We don't need a progressive opposition, we need a progressive government” - by which we mean a liberal government. A red "L" with a red maple leaf is emblazoned on his black jacket.

Tolerant, open, progressive - Trudeau conveyed this image to Canadians in the fall of 2015, but also to other countries, which looked astonished and fascinated at Canada. Supported by the Canadians' desire for change and with unconventional political ideas, he had won the election.

Started with many promises

He promised an end to the austerity policy of his conservative predecessor Stephen Harper, the legalization of marijuana, an equal representation of men and women in the cabinet and a better relationship with the indigenous peoples. He propagated the "sunny ways", a friendlier style of politics. For many Canadians and abroad, he was considered the liberal sunny boy. Canada looked even better when the screeching Donald Trump moved into the White House in early 2017.

Four years later that picture has faded. The election campaign is unexpectedly difficult for the 47-year-old Trudeau. In general, the year 2019 in which he wanted to sail to a convincing election victory is an "annus horribilis", a miserable year. In the spring, the SNC Lavalin affair rocked his government.

Trudeau's image as a feminist has been damaged

The prime minister is accused of trying to influence criminal proceedings against the construction and engineering group SNC Lavalin. In the wake of the crisis, two prominent cabinet members, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, resigned. Her resignation and subsequent expulsion from the parliamentary group scratch Trudeau's image as a feminist.

No sooner had the memory of the affair faded than the parliamentary ethics officer published his SNC Lavalin report, in which he accused Trudeau of violating ethical rules.

And then, four weeks ago, during the starting phase of the election campaign, a photo from 2001 appeared showing Trudeau with a dark-colored face and a turban at a school festival. The photo damaged his image as a representative of a multicultural, racist society. Trudeau had to apologize for the behavior he himself now called racist almost 20 years ago.

Some successes

His election campaign therefore never really got off the ground. Trudeau has a lot to show for it. The economic data should guarantee him his re-election. Unemployment, at seven percent when he took office, has now fallen to 5.5 percent and just over a million jobs have been created.

He has been quite successful in managing relations with the United States and with the unpredictable Trump, who several times acted more like an enemy than a friend of Canada. This absorbed a lot of force. Nevertheless, Trudeau was able to negotiate a new edition of the Nafta free trade agreement with the USA and persuade Trump to lift the punitive tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products.

The CETA trade agreement with the EU is also provisionally in force. Trudeau's government has raised child benefits and lowered tax rates in a broad segment of middle income groups. However, it has abolished some options for deducting expenses from tax. This makes Trudeau vulnerable to allegations that he raised taxes. He enforced the legalization of marijuana and made euthanasia by law.

Criticism from the Greens

Trudeau tries to highlight all of this in the election campaign. Environmental and climate protection is a constant topic. “We need a government in Ottawa that will fight climate change for Canadians,” Trudeau says. Conservatives are constantly attacking the "carbon tax" introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which they describe as a "job-destroying C02 tax". Scheer promises to abolish it immediately.

Trudeau is also being attacked by the Greens and the social democratic NDP: Trudeau did not do enough for them in climate protection and gambled away credit by approving the construction of an oil pipeline for tar sand oil.

Trudeau counters: Under his leadership, Canada has for the first time a plan to reduce climate-damaging emissions, and Scheer wants to abolish it. He warns that “green” voters, with their votes for the Greens or the NDP, will end up helping the conservatives who rely more on oil and pipelines.

Racism allegations against Trudeau

Trudeau has made himself vulnerable. He broke some important election promises. So he canceled the promised reform of the electoral law. Many voters resent him for that. Probably more than those who are bothered by the fact that he broke his election promise to balance the budget again by the end of 2019 after a temporary budget deficit.

"Apparently, the problems this year and the publication of the photo with the colored face are wearing him down," says a voter in Ottawa. The ease of the 2015 election campaign, which he was able to conduct from the attacker's comfortable position, has disappeared. The spontaneity that shaped him is missing. He seems to stick to drafted speech manuscripts and practiced answers to questions.

Perhaps this explains his unexpectedly tame appearance in the nationally broadcast English-language television debate. It was obvious that he tried to win the Canadians over with objectivity. This is actually well received by Canadians, but many had expected a combative head of government.

No response to attacks

To the astonishment of many, Scheer did not react at all to insulting attacks by his 40-year-old challenger that Trudeau was a “swindler and a fraud”. He presented himself cautiously "Prime Ministerial" instead of questioning Scheer's credibility. For which he would have had some arguments, because Scheer had not disclosed until recently that he has US citizenship in addition to Canadian.

Neither Trudeau nor Scheer are very popular with Canadians. "It's pretty clear that neither party leader is thrilling voters," says Nik Nanos, head of the polling institute Nanos Research. He sees liberals and conservatives at 32 percent each. It is "as narrow as a knife fight in a telephone booth".

In Canada's electoral system, however, the percentage of votes is not decisive. It depends on winning most of the 338 constituencies. Each voter has only one vote for the constituency candidate. Whoever has the most votes wins the constituency. 170 seats is the magical limit to the majority in parliament.

Canada is alien to coalitions

For a long time it looked like the Liberals had an advantage when it came to allocating seats. Surveys are now signaling that the social democratic NDP led by Jagmeet Singh and the Greens led by Elizabeth May could win important percentages in the left-liberal spectrum. In Quebec, the regained separatist Bloc Quebecois is troubling the liberals.

The laughing third would be Scheer, who could get seats by splitting votes in the center-left area. Traditionally, the strongest faction is the government, even if it does not have a majority of its own. Canada is alien to coalitions. Perhaps this will change in the event of a close election result.

A campaign bus with Trudeau and his staff pulls up in front of Susan and Ron Miller's pumpkin farm in Manotick, a village belonging to the capital Ottawa. Trudeau is greeted warmly. He has his five-year-old son Hadrien on his hand. He is looking forward to the "pumpkins". Halloween is coming soon, the pumpkin season. He walks through the rows of pumpkins with his father and chooses a nice one.

This visit is a welcome change for Justin Trudeau. He chats with the Miller couple. Hadrien wants to lift a fat pumpkin onto a cart. For this he needs the help of his father. Together they lift the pumpkin. In the final spurt of the election campaign he is challenged more than on the farm and has to handle heavier things so that his era does not end after four years.

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