BURNABY, British Columbia – Outside a television studio in a suburb of Vancouver where Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recording an interview days before the country’s election, a man shouted insults, mostly obscene, about Mr. Trudeau and his family while detonating Twisted Sister’s “We Won’t Take It” from a stereo on a cart.
Heckling is something Mr. Trudeau has always faced, but this time the attacks have a new bite. After six years in power, a prime minister who promised “sunny ways” and presented himself as a new face is now the political establishment, with a record and missteps that opponents can criticize. Even as the Liberal Party clings to its grip on Parliament, as observers expect, this murderous election campaign has done it a disservice.
Ben Chin, the prime minister’s senior adviser, said no politician could have maintained Mr. Trudeau’s initial popularity.
“If you’re in power for six or five years, you’re going to have more baggage,” Chin said. “You have to make tough decisions that not everyone will agree with.”
For much of his tenure, opposition party leaders accused Mr. Trudeau of putting his personal and political interests ahead of the good of the nation – of which the snap elections on Monday are the most recent example. . They also had a wealth of material to attack him over controversies involving a contract for a charity close to his family, and a finding that he broke ethics laws by urging a minister to help a large Quebec company to avoid criminal sanctions.
And for every achievement Mr. Trudeau cites, his opponents can point out broken promises.
Anti-vax protesters have invaded its events, some with placards promoting the far right People’s Party of Canada, urging its security service to increase its precautions.
A rally in Ontario where protesters considerably outnumbered police was closed for security reasons, and at another in the same province the Premier was pelted with gravel as he boarded the his country bus. A local Popular Party official was subsequently indicted in this episode of armed aggression.
Mr. Trudeau has many accomplishments since 2015 to highlight. His government introduced carbon pricing and other climate measures, legalized cannabis, increased spending on indigenous issues, and made 1,500 models of military-style rifles illegal. A new plan will provide child care for $ 10 Canadian per day per child.
Although his popularity has waned, Mr. Trudeau’s star power remains. When he walked by the outdoor patio of a cafe in Port Coquitlam, an eastern suburb of Vancouver, for nudges, quick chats and selfies with voters, the crowd quickly grew.
“We love you, we love you,” Joy Silver, a 76-year-old retired teacher from nearby Coquitlam, told Trudeau.
But as Election Day approaches, many Canadians are still wondering why Mr. Trudeau is holding a vote now, two years ahead of schedule, with Covid-19 infections on the rise from the Delta variant, taxing them. hospitals and causing further pandemic restrictions in some provinces or delaying their lifting in others.
He was also criticized for calling a vote on the very weekend Kabul fell to the Taliban, as Canadian troops struggled to evacuate Canadians as well as Afghans who had aided their forces.
“They struggled to answer this question throughout the campaign,” said Gerald Butts, a longtime friend of Mr. Trudeau and a former senior political adviser. “And that’s part of why they’re struggling to get the point across.”
Mr Trudeau has said he needs to replace his plurality in the House of Commons with a majority to deal with the remainder of the pandemic and the recovery that will follow – although he avoids explicitly saying “majority.” The Liberal Party’s political calculation was that it was better to strike while Canadians still had favorable views on how Mr. Trudeau had handled pandemic issues, particularly income support and the purchase of vaccines.
“We are the party with the experience, the team and the plan to continue delivering real results for Canadians, the party with a real commitment to end this pandemic,” Trudeau said in a statement. rally in Surrey, another suburb of Vancouver, standing. in front of campaign signs for local candidates. “Above all, my friends, if you want to end this pandemic for good, come out and vote liberal. “
For much of the 36-day campaign, the Liberals were stuck in a statistical tie with the Conservative Party of Canada led by Erin O’Toole, each holding about 30 percent of the popular vote. The New Democrats, a center-left party led by Jagmeet Singh, fall far behind at around 20 percent.
Kimberly Speers, a political scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, said Mr Trudeau’s personality and fame could work against him.
“The message, from the NDP and the Conservatives in particular, is that this is a takeover and everything revolves around it,” she said. “And that message really seemed to stick to the voters.”
Some scandals during his tenure also helped the opposition. In 2019, Mr. Trudeau’s veterans minister, an Indigenous woman, resigned amid allegations that when she was justice minister he and his staff improperly pressured her to strike a deal. which would have enabled a large Canadian company to avoid a criminal conviction for bribery of charges.
Despite his defense of diversity, it emerged in the 2019 election that Mr. Trudeau had worn blackface or brownface three times in the past. And last year, a charity with close ties to its family was awarded a non-competitive contract to administer a Covid financial aid plan for students. (The group withdrew, the program was canceled and Mr. Trudeau was cleared by the Federal Ethics and Conflict of Interest Commissioner.)
His opponents have also focused on promises they say they have broken, including the introduction of a national prescription drug program, the creation of a new electoral structure for Canada, the reduction of the debt compared to the the size of the economy, the end of widespread sexual harassment in the military and solitary confinement. in federal prisons. The Center for Analysis of Public Policies at Laval University in Quebec City found that Mr. Trudeau fully delivered about 45 percent of its promises, while 27 percent were partially completed.
Mr. Singh reminded voters that Mr. Trudeau is committed to bringing clean drinking water to all Indigenous communities. There were 105 boil water orders in effect in First Nations when Mr. Trudeau took office, and more were added later. The government has restored drinking water to 109 communities, but 52 boil orders remain in effect.
“I think Mr. Trudeau can care, I think he does care, but the reality is that he often did a lot of things for the show and didn’t back them up with real action.” Mr. Singh said at the official English conference. debate.
Mr. O’Toole, for his part, sought to present the vote as an act of personal aggrandizement.
“Every Canadian has met a Justin Trudeau in their life: privileged, empowered and always looking for number one,” he said at a recent event in rural Ottawa. “He was looking for number one when he called this expensive and unnecessary election in the midst of a pandemic. “
Security and secrecy increased during Mr Trudeau’s campaign shutdowns after several of them were disrupted by protesters angry over mandatory Covid-19 vaccination rules and vaccination passport measures imposed by the Prime Minister.
At the rally outside a banquet hall on the outskirts of Vancouver in Surrey, Mr Trudeau, sleeves rolled up and microphone in hand, delivered a forceful speech before plunging into a mostly South Asian crowd eager to pose for pictures with him.
Unlike previous practice, the crowd had been gathered by invitation rather than by public announcement, in part to keep its size within pandemic limits, and there was no sign promoting the event on the formidable doorstep of the remote location. On the roof of the hall, two police snipers in camouflage uniforms monitored the scene.
After the cancellation of an earlier rally in Ontario, Mr. Trudeau was asked whether American politics inspired the unruly protests. His answer was indirect.
“I think we all have to ask ourselves if we want to take the path of anger, of division, of intolerance,” he said. “I have never seen this intensity of anger in an election campaign or in Canada.
It is not possible to translate the results of a larger poll into precise predictions of the number of seats parties will occupy in the next House of Commons. But all running polls suggest that Mr. Trudeau may have alienated many Canadians by calling a snap election and suffered abuse during his campaign, without any political gain. The most likely outcome is that the Liberals will continue to hold power, but not get the majority they were looking for.
If that turns out to be the case, Mr Butts said: “It’s going to end pretty close to where we left off, which is a great irony.”
Vjosa Isai contributed research.