Less than one week ahead of Canada’s federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks set to lose his parliamentary majority after four years in office and a series of missteps.
Opinion polls put Trudeau’s Liberals even with the Conservatives of Erin O’Toole and suggest the ruling party will lose its majority in the House of Commons.
The election comes after a long career in the political spotlight for Trudeau, who has generally avoided deep scandal.
But in September of 2019, he made international headlines when a photo emerged showing a 29-year-old Trudeau at an Arabian Nights party, his face covered in dark makeup, evoking racial stereotypes that seemed contrary to everything he stood for.
He made profuse apologies in ensuing weeks, saying he “should have known better.”
The blackface incident came on the heels of revelations from the Office of Canada’s Independent Ethics Commissioner that Trudeau’s team had breached ethics rules.
The office said Trudeau and his officials had tried in 2018 to undermine a decision by federal prosecutors allowing construction company SNC-Lavalin Group Inc to face a corruption trial. Trudeau said he took full responsibility but declined to apologize, saying he had been trying to save jobs. Trudeau is the only Canadian prime minister formally found to have broken ethics rules.
Trudeau, the son of former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has also broken major campaign promises by scrapping plans to introduce voter reform and allowing budget deficits to mushroom. He also angered environmentalists by buying an oil pipeline to ensure crude exports could increase.
Trudeau has recently faced crowds of angry protesters, most of them opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
But the 49-year-old married father of three, whose colorful socks and classic good looks are often splashed across the international media, may have history on his side. Not since 1935 has a Canadian prime minister who won a parliamentary majority in his first term been booted from office in the next election.
Trudeau won the endorsement of former U.S. President Barack Obama who tweeted: “He’s a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change.”
Meanwhile, liberals cite near-record low jobless numbers, booming growth and lower levels of poverty as grounds for re-election.
Although rivals may dismiss Trudeau’s achievements, diplomats in allied countries say his focus on feminism, the environment and the need for multilateral organizations is important at a time when populism is on the rise and the United States seems intent on shrinking its global ambitions.
(Production: Mana Rabiee, Temis Tormo, Kristin Neubauer, Arlene Eiras, Vanessa Johnston)