Justin Trudeau Emerges From By-elections Without Upset But Personal Popularity is Waning

Callum Paton

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau passed his first electoral test this week since coming to power in 2015, protecting his Liberal party’s majority in five by-elections. However national polls show the 45-year-old leader’s personal popularity at home has started to fall even though he is internationally admired.

Reuters reported a comfortable win in the regional vote electing members to Canada's parliament. All incumbents looked likely to keep their seats throughout the campaign, with the Liberals comfortably winning the three seats they held in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. The Conservative opposition retained control of its two Calgary seats.

However, analysts said the Monday poll could be the last straightforward win for the Liberals, who’ve enjoyed a long honeymoon since Trudeau appealed to a core middle class vote and traditional Canadian left of centre values in the 2015 general election.

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"I don't think it means anything at this stage because it was very predictable," Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto said.

"I think once the Conservatives select their new leader, you're going to see a boost in Conservative support - it happens after every leadership convention, and that goes on for a while ... so the more important by-elections will be those closer to 2019," he told Reuters.

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Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Trudeau’s Liberals have retained their majority in parliament but the Prime Minister’s popularity reached an all-time low in January Chris Wattie/Reuters

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Amid growing dissatisfaction with Canada’s economic fortunes and voter resentment over as yet unmet promises to reform the electoral process, Trudeau’s personal political capital is taking a hit.

CBC news reported in January that for the first time Trudeau’s approval ratings dropped to below 50 percent, the lowest level since his election. The fall came as Canada’s ethics office opened an investigation over the Prime Minister’s decision to spend part of his Christmas holidays as a guest of billionaire philanthropist Aga Khan.

The depreciation, although not drastic, is at odds with in Trudeau’s image on the world stage which he has cultivated through championing initiatives like Canada’s resettlement of Syrian refugees.

On Monday, Trudeau announced that Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai will be granted honorary Canadian citizenship. Yousafzai was shot by the Pakistani Taliban after she became an outspoken advocate for girls and women’s education. She is due to address the Canadian parliament on 12 April.

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