In 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had worn out his welcome with many Canadians. A lot of people were tired of what they saw as his cold, dictatorial governing style and general mean-spiritedness. He was also weighed down with the baggage of nine years in office, as many people were unhappy with his performance as prime minister. By contrast, Justin Trudeau presented himself as a bright new hope for the future. His positive energy and optimistic talk about “sunny ways” won over a lot of people fed up with Harper, winning him a majority Liberal government in the 2015 federal election.
Now, eight years later, Trudeau is in much the same place as Harper was when he took over. He’s now worn out his welcome with a lot of Canadians who are unhappy with his performance and the baggage he’s accumulated. The federal Liberals’ critics regularly depict them as arrogant, out-of-touch elites who talk down to ‘ordinary’ people, to the benefit of federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.
Now, Poilievre is in the same position Trudeau was back in 2015. He’s portraying himself as the guy who’s going to put the ‘gatekeepers’ in their place, and put an end to what he calls an out-of-touch Liberal elite forcing its policies on unwilling Canadians. Countries ranging from Italy to Argentina have had major backlashes against their incumbent leaders, to the point they’ve replaced their leaders. Canada’s no exception, and if things keep going this way the next election will be Poilievre’s to lose.
There’s a catch, though.
Journalists like Paul Wells have noted how Poilievre’s based a lot of his appeal on tearing down the Trudeau government and being ‘anti-elite’, but he’s been pretty vague about what he’d actually do if he became Prime Minister. When reporters asked him last month how a Conservative government would reduce pollution emissions, he brushed off the question by saying that the Conservatives’ election platform would deal with it.
When he has given a more concrete answer, like what he’d do about the housing crisis, it isn’t necessarily as simple as he claims it to be. Poilievre would force municipalities to build more homes more quickly, and reward them with more funding if they did. The problem is that the Constitution says that municipalities are a provincial jurisdiction. Given how touchy the Alberta government is about federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, it’d be an extremely interesting situation for both Poilievre and Danielle Smith.
Right now, time is on Poilievre’s side. Unless Trudeau’s minority government collapses, the next federal election won’t be until 2025. Until then, Poilievre can continue taking shots at Trudeau. The problem, though, is that taking shots at the incumbent government will only get you so far. Before becoming Prime Minister, Harper and Trudeau both clearly described what they said they’d do. Sooner or later, Poilievre is going to have to do the same thing.
So far, his answers don’t inspire a lot of confidence.