We know, we know. The election is far away. He’s broken some promises. His legislative achievements are modest. The Conservatives and the New Democrats have or are getting shiny new leaders. Commenters are saying that the prime minister is slipping. And, in the post-Donald Trump/Brexit era, the “sunny ways” stuff seems as culturally relevant as, say, Kardashian reruns.
But he’s still going to win. And it’s not just because new Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is Stockwell Day redux with a perma-smirk.
Nor is it because NDP leadership candidate Jagmeet Singh has turned out to be a bit of a letdown, uncertain on his feet in debate and inspiring few. Or because the incorrigible rage-aholic Tom Mulcair is still around, chewing up headlines and scenery, and reminding everyone why they abandoned the NDP in the fall of 2015.
Here are the top 10 reasons Trudeau is going to win again:
- He’s doing the right things. Spending more on daycare, for example, and on defence. Trudeau has had the right instincts on the policy front. To the ongoing irritation of his opposition, he’s not bad at nudging right, shimmying left and then ending up in the centre – which is where most Canadians generally are, too. Triangulation isn’t a new strategy but it’s an effective one. Trudeau is good at it.
- He’s not doing the wrong things. Reopening the Constitution, for instance: he’s not doing that. With the Trump regime busily tearing up vital trade treaties – with the U.S. president pulling out of the Paris climate change accord, the agreement that could prevent the extinction of all species – what does Quebec’s premier want to do? He wants to kick-start divisive, corrosive negotiations about the Constitution, naturally. The politically-tone-deaf NDP promptly agreed with him but Trudeau sure didn’t. The Liberal leader immediately slammed the door on that policy Vietnam, earning the gratitude of the multitude.
- Staying out of the papers. That’s what Jean Chretien and Stephen Harper did, and they both knew a thing or two about political survival. Trudeau has figured out that overexposure leads inevitably to underwhelming election results. So he’s being seen and heard a lot less. Canadians, like most voters, believe politics is improved by silence. Trudeau, at long last, is doing more by being seen less.
- Cooling it with the selfie stuff. Yes, he’s rather good-looking, with a boyish grin and an impressive mane. Yes, his family looks like it stepped out of a J. Crew catalogue. Yes, he makes Trump recall Jabba the Hutt on a bad day. But Trudeau has evidently surmised that the endless stream of selfies suggested to Canadians – even Liberals – that he was a bit egotistical and a bit shallow. So he’s doing it a lot less. We’ve noticed. We’re grateful.
- Opposing Trump’s manifest destiny. At the start of Trump’s corrupt, chaotic reign, Trudeau and team too often resembled latter-day Neville Chamberlains, labouring to if not defend then deny the indefensible. They were proud progressives at home, condemning racism, bullies and Kellie Leitch. But when stateside, they became ostrich-like and didn’t condemn (much less critique) Trump – not once. What did all that cheek-turning get them? Trump-led attacks on the Canadian softwood and dairy sectors, among other things. So they changed course. They’ve mapped out a foreign policy that goes around Trump. This week, no less than the New York Times noticed and approved. About time.
- No scandals of significance – no real scandals, even. The Aga Khan saga? Elbowgate? So-called cash for access? A boastful minister and a couple underwhelming ones? No one outside of Ottawa cares. They just don’t. One solitary ministerial resignation, in the time it took Brian Mulroney to rack up a dozen, that’s it. For a caucus and cabinet so replete with rookies, Trudeau has experienced shockingly few big scandals. And when contrasted with the slime oozing out of the White House, Trudeau looks positively angelic.
- No nasty fights with the provinces. Sure, Brad Wall has been angry a couple times, but such disputes typically work with Wall’s core vote – and, coincidentally, Trudeau’s. Sure, some provinces were briefly upset about health transfers – but they had no choice but to sign on and they eventually did. Apart from Couillard’s short-lived constitutional gambit, all is decidedly quiet on the provincial front. That’s what Trudeau promised and that’s what he’s delivered.
- He’s got luck to spare. Unlike just about every other centrist you can name – in the U.S., Europe, at the sub-national level – Trudeau wasn’t just born with a silver shovel in his mouth. He came into being with multiple horseshoes in his nether regions, too. All of the things that have felled his progressive contemporaries – a global populist surge, terror attacks, hackers and fake news, clumsy campaign strategies – haven’t hurt him one bit. He may be the luckiest guy to ever run for office.
- He’s hard to hate. Mulcair and assorted Tories try, certainly, but they usually just come off sounding bitter and/or jealous. Trudeau (unlike his dad, Pierre Trudeau, and unlike Harper) is the Lloyd Dobler of politics: like that immortal character in the 1989 movie Say Anything, Trudeau is the guy in high school who gets invited to every party, breaks up fights and makes sure no one drives home drunk. He isn’t a straight-A student or the valedictorian, but that’s also why you don’t hate him.
- He’s likable. Trudeau is an anomaly. He grew up surrounded by wealth and privilege, but he embodies neither, somehow pulling off the middle-class artifice. For older voters who adored Trudeau Senior, he offers the occasional Trudeau-esque pirouette – but he avoids his father’s imperial inclinations. For younger voters, seeking a Barack-Obama-like outsider, Trudeau will do the unexpected and unconventional – but he still knows how to get the billionaires at Davos to do his bidding. And so on and so on. In some ways, he’s more of an enigma than his dad: just when you think you know him, you don’t. What remains is a guy who’s kind of impossible to hate.
In politics, that’s a winning formulation. And it’s why Trudeau is going to win for Liberals again in 2019.
(Oh, and happy Canada Day, Trudeau. Something tells me you’re going to have a good one.)
Warren Kinsella is a Canadian journalist, political adviser and commentator.