The Weekly Writ for Aug. 23: Liberals aren't in a normal mid-mandate summer slump
Plus the latest fundraising figures from the Ontario leadership, a swing riding in Manitoba and how well Canadians know Pierre Poilievre.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
It’s been a rough summer for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, at least going by the polls. After nearly eight years in office, Trudeau appears to be experiencing the same fate many past governments have at this stage of their tenure — the bad news and the baggage is piling up and is sapping public support.
But just how bleak are things for the Liberals?
Let’s take a quick look at the history of past governments in a similar situation. In the chart below, I’ve highlighting where previous governing parties were standing in the polls during the summer two years after the last election in what turned out to be their last majority (or, in the case of Lester Pearson, long minority) government.
Granted, this list is biased toward defeat — we’re looking at each prime minister’s final term, after all. But this gives us the chance to see if Trudeau’s current predicament looks like a final term in office. In some ways, it does.
If you look at the other prime ministers who trailed in the polls in this list (Pierre Trudeau in 1982, Brian Mulroney in 1990 and Stephen Harper in 2013), they or their successors all went down to defeat in the subsequent election. Most of the ones who were leading by wide margins (Mackenzie King in 1947, Lester Pearson in 1967 and Jean Chrétien in 2002) all saw their successors win re-election. Only Louis St-Laurent in 1955 stands out, though that puts into perspective the scale of the upset that was John Diefenbaker’s victory in 1957.
The Chief, though, was only leading by a small margin by 1960 and was nearly defeated in the 1962 election.
What does this tell us about Justin Trudeau’s standing today? It doesn’t look good, of course, since it has been hard to mount a comeback.
But it also doesn’t look as bad as what his father faced in 1982 or what Mulroney was facing in 1990. The whiff of fin de siècle that pervaded the final years of the Trudeau-Turner and Mulroney-Campbell governments doesn’t quite match what we’re smelling right now from the Trudeau Liberals’ polling numbers.
They still stink, though. The examples of a government coming back from a polling deficit with about two years to go are few and far between. Mulroney made a comeback in 1988 and … that’s about it. In all the other cases, the government was either leading or was trailing (and lost). There are a few murkier cases where some polls were showing a closer race (Diefenbaker in 1960, Harper in late 2006, Trudeau in late 2017) but I wouldn’t flatter the Trudeau Liberals today by saying they are in a “close race”.
Now, to what is in this week’s edition of the Weekly Writ:
News on who is raising the most money in the Ontario Liberal leadership race, a potential election date change in NWT and on who will be the Conservative candidate in Durham.
Polls on Pierre Poilievre’s popularity, the national race and a local race in Quebec.
The Conservatives move further away from the majority mark if the election were held today.
Another potential Manitoba tipping point in this week’s riding profile.
Dirty tricks and a change of government in the #EveryElectionProject.
A new milestone for Tim Houston.
Programming note: I am taking a short break next week, so there will be no Weekly Writ next Wednesday. I will instead post another instalment in my series on the federal riding redistribution. The next edition of the Weekly Writ will be in your inboxes on Sept. 6.