Editorial: Want to move to Canada? Think carefully, Americans.

Over the years, we’ve all heard fellow Americans grousing about moving to Canada if an upcoming election doesn’t go their way. It’s not a bad idea, as Canada is known for friendly people and as a safe place to live and work.

But leaving aside immigration issues, would it be worth it to move? If you ask Canadians these days, you might be surprised to hear them urging you to stay put.

Canadians are in an atypical funk, fed up with longtime Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and hurting from a much weaker economy than the U.S. has experienced in recent years. If you think inflation, interest rates, uneven economic growth rates and the high cost of housing are problems in the U.S., don’t bother looking north for salvation. Canada, arguably, has it a lot worse.

And while their youthful leader has a better head of hair than either President Joe Biden or Republican challenger Donald Trump, Trudeau is probably tearing it out right now as his approval numbers sink. A restless nation is on track to oust him during a federal election widely expected to be held next year.

Trudeau started life as the Canadian version of a Kennedy, part of a bilingual political clan blessed with movie-star looks and sunny optimism. His brand appealed to an audience stretching from French-speaking Quebec to the flinty maritime provinces and across the country’s lightly populated west to tony Vancouver.

He won election as prime minister in 2015 as much on star power as a coherent platform, with his wife, Sophie, a telegenic former TV host, at his side.

Trudeau established his feminist cred by appointing a cabinet balanced between men and women and faced up to Canada’s awful past treatment of its indigenous population. He championed a successful national child-care program, marijuana legalization and a wide-open immigration policy. And he seemed informal and unpretentious: He even showed up at Second City in Chicago in 2019, watching a Mother’s Day show created and performed by his ever-colorful mother, Margaret, and sitting with the regular audience.

Trudeau’s popularity stayed strong for several years, as Canadians watched Americans elect the divisive Trump and then battle over the politics of grievance. Turned out, America’s internal turmoil foreshadowed trouble ahead for Trudeau.

A series of nagging scandals dented his image, and then COVID-19 upended Canadian life, as Trudeau shut down the economy and ramped up government spending. The budget soared as the country borrowed heavily for pandemic relief. Unlike in the U.S. under Trump, partisanship gave way to a unified spirit of shared sacrifice in Canada, and Trudeau’s Liberal Party enjoyed a brief resurgence.

It didn’t last. Lockdowns and vaccine mandates prompted a backlash, culminating in a truck blockade of downtown Ottawa in 2022. Meanwhile, Trudeau took heat for waffling on controversial rules approved in Quebec to protect the French language and ban public servants from wearing hijabs and other religious symbols. Like most western politicians, he’s getting beaten up for his no-win response to the Israel-Hamas war: “Mr. Trudeau has struggled to clearly explain Canada’s position on the ongoing war,” the BBC reported earlier this year, “frustrating allies and opening himself up to criticism.”

Along the way, his storybook marriage fell apart.

By far his most difficult challenge, however, is reversing his poor stewardship of the economy. Canada has a wealth of energy and mineral resources, as well as world-class centers of commerce in Toronto and Vancouver. But the soaring cost of living has punished many Canadians, none worse than the Gen Z voters who were among the most pro-Trudeau.

Runaway grocery prices, rising mortgage rates, anemic economic growth and an acute shortage of affordable housing has made life miserable for young adults, who increasingly see the standard of living their parents enjoyed as far out of reach. In a public opinion poll earlier this year, 70% of Canadians agreed with the statement, “It feels like everything is broken in this country right now.”

Instead of pushing pro-business policies that would restore growth, Trudeau is doubling down on the same ideas that haven’t worked. In the name of battling climate change, he’s put handcuffs on the energy sector, echoing a mistake of the Biden administration.

He’s come up with no good answer for the housing crisis. Partly to accommodate immigration, Canada needs to build an estimated 800,000 housing units annually over the next five or six years just to meet demand. Last year, it built only 230,000. And instead of encouraging new investment, Trudeau has proposed taxing certain capital gains at a confiscatory top rate of 67%. (The top rate for long-term capital gains in the U.S. is 20%.)

No wonder Canadian companies spend less on training, technology and capital investment than their more innovative U.S. counterparts.

Trudeau’s principal political opponent, the conservative populist Pierre Poilievre, likes to repeat the phrase, “Canada is broken,” echoing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Similar to Trump, he has stoked division by focusing on wedge issues like Quebec separatism and culture wars around energy. Canadian voters have rarely been so angry.

So far, Trudeau has offered little to voters upset about the unaffordable price of food and rent, except to raise taxes and promise subsidies, which will continue to stymie economic growth. Canadian law requires an election to be held by the fall of 2025, and Trudeau needs to gain back a lot of ground, or he’s going down like the loonie, worth just 73 cents to the U.S. dollar at the time of writing, even though it achieved near parity in and around 2012.

Americans, whether it’s Trump, Biden or someone else who wins on Nov. 5, better hold off on calling the movers.

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