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  • Writer's pictureAlessia Balducci

Trudeau’s popularity is in rapid decline. What is going on in Canada?

Updated: Jun 22

Canadian Liberal PM Trudeau’s approval rating is barely at 30%, while his conservative opponent, Pierre Poilievre, is leading the polls.

Comments under Justin Trudeau’s recent Instagram posts. © Canva edit by Alessia Balducci

“As a longtime liberal, I’m voting you out”, “Time to resign, #we have had enough”: these are a few of the several hateful comments on Justin Trudeau’s Instagram, and if we combine them with recent media coverage – “If you think Biden has troubles, just look at Trudeau”, “Polls show that youth now hate Trudeau more than ever”, … – the picture is not looking any better. So what is going on in Canada? What is Trudeau doing so wrong? 

Housing crisis and skyrocketing grocery bills

Two basic needs are a real struggle for many Canadians right now: housing and food. 

The Canadian housing market is out of reach for most citizens. “I was looking at homes the other day and the studio apartment that I really had my eyes on was 1.2 million dollars … for a studio? Hello? What?” says Alec, 23 year-old from Toronto. He’s a contract analyst for the provincial government and a part-time florist. In Toronto, the average price for a home is 1.1 million dollars. In Vancouver it’s 1.3 million. 

Even less demanded provinces saw a rapid price increase, mainly Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The liberal government, now in power for the ninth year in a row, blames the pandemic for this, together with decades of governments insufficient funding in the market. On May 3, 2024 it published a plan to build more homes - ideally apartments and multiplexes - at a faster pace. In the meantime, the population keeps growing, newcomers keep arriving and the struggle to find even just a room hits new records. 

Dr. Jovian Radheshwar, professor in the department of Political Science at Douglas College, Vancouver, believes it’s inevitable that more people will move to Canada. “The question is,” he says, “are we going to invite them, welcome them, and house them sustainably? Or are they going to be desperately knocking at the border, running away from a collapsing global warming planet?”

Apartments in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia © Alessia Balducci

On top of this, even the ones who have accommodation, often have a hard time paying their grocery bills. The amount of people in Canada who live in food-insecure households is 8.7 million. Canada has a total population of 39 million people. 

Food-insecurity in Canada between 2019 and 2023. Graphic made with Canva. © Alessia Balducci

Marginal and moderate food insecurity goes from worrying about running out of food and having a limited selection to a compromise in quality and quantity due to a lack of money. Severe food insecurity, which is affecting 2.3 million people, means missed meals and, sometimes, starvation for a few days. Moreover, this data doesn’t represent Indigenous People who live on-reserve, which is half of First Nations people in Canada. They are likely to be struggling even more. Even though child benefits and social assistance programs can help tackle the issue, numbers show that they're insufficient now. 

Trudeau’s communication skills

“I feel like he is good when he's scripted and doesn't have to face questions. He's an excellent presenter, but he gets flustered very easily,” says Dr. Radheshwar. “It makes me think the guy's not all that bright, like he's just kind of being told what to say.”

“There’s always some level of disconnect with politicians, it’s difficult to relate to them,” explains Alec, the 23 years old from Toronto. “Trudeau seems like a nice person, but I’m also not actively listening to what he’s saying. You can promise me the world, but I won’t believe it until I see it.”

Professor Radheshwar says Trudeau’s really out of touch with the people. “The most common bumper sticker you see in Canada, especially where I live [Vancouver, known as a more left-wing city], is F. Trudeau,” he says.

Some F. Trudeau bumper stickers on, from a list of 319 options available © screenshot by Alessia Balducci

Then, he suggests the PM could go on the streets and talk to who’s frustrated with him. Let them vent and then address their points. But “I don't know if he has it in him to change,” he says, “he thinks he's entitled to the prime ministership, you know?”

The rise of the conservatives: Pierre Poilievre could be the next PM

Meanwhile, growing on people’s frustration towards the Liberal Party is the opposition leader, Pierre Poilievre. He became head of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) in September 2022 and his party is now almost doubling the Liberal’s chances for the 2025 federal elections. 

2025 Canadian Federal election projections. Source: 338 Canada. Graphic made with Google Sheets. © Alessia Balducci

Poilievre has been a parliamentarian since 2004 and has held various positions, including Minister of Democratic Reform and then Employment Minister under Steven Harper’s conservative government (2006-2015). 

In the latest years, he built a strong political personality on direct attacks to the government, which he claims to be staffed by “elites and self serving snobs who look down on ordinary working class Canadians.” Through slogans like “Axe the tax”, “Let’s make common sense common again” and “Trudeau’s not worth the cost” he’s now rapidly climbing the political ladder. 

Instagram post by Pierre Poilievre, Conservative Party of Canada leader. © screenshot by Alessia Balducci

“If he gets elected, nothing will change,” comments Alec. “Maybe taxes will be a percent less?  Cool, amazing, still nothing's gonna change much.” About the housing crisis, for example, he’s not sure it’s really possible to only blame one person or one party, given the complexity of the issue.

Recently, some have called Poilievre the Canadian Trump. “The manufacturing and exploitation of resentment is a thread that connects far right politics globally,” explains Dr. Radheshwar. 

Canada in the bigger picture: global dissatisfaction? 

“I get the feeling that people are passively upset with the Liberal government,” says Alec, “but when are people not upset with the government?”

Among the G7 countries – whose leaders met last week in Italy for the G7 summit –  Italian PM Meloni and US President Biden are the only ones with a higher approval rating than Trudeau. 

G7 leaders’ approval rating in percentage points. Graphic made with Google Sheets. © Alessia Balducci

“If you look at politics like a person who looks at physics would look at his subject,” says Dr. Radheshwar, “the variable appears to be knowledge.” Social media spreads a lot of easily accessible information, which creates a huge quantity of things to feel upset about. Plus, “It's clear that people are fed up with inauthenticity, they see through it a million miles away,” Radheshwar explains, and it only makes sense that they blame whoever's in power, regardless of their party affiliation. 

However, using people’s resentment as leverage to win an election (2024 in particular is the election year, with as many as at least 64 countries calling their citizens to the polls) is a risky move. Instead of hateful and loud words, we need considerate and thoughtful actions. Rather than just letting politicians use our fear and anxiety to get a seat in the house, we should pay attention to what they say and what they’re actually proposing, to avoid going to the voting stations with just anger and smoke in our eyes. 

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