As they work on coronavirus strategy, the Liberals struggle with their own poor political health

As they work on coronavirus strategy, the Liberals struggle with their own poor political health

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

Across the country, Canadians are wondering aloud about their risk and exposure to COVID-19. But perhaps there is no entity more susceptible, at least politically, to the novel coronavirus than the Trudeau government. The prime minister’s own approval numbers have plummeted 10 points over the last month, the same timeframe in which it has both faced growing worries over the virus and anger and backlash over the Coastal GasLink pipeline blockades.

This Liberal frailty is heightened by its minority position and weak vote intention numbers. Recent polling shows the party at 26 per cent of decided and leaning vote, a distant second place compared to the Conservatives. In fact, Justin Trudeau’s party now sits closer to the third-place NDP (at 21 per cent) than to the CPC at 34 per cent.

Consider that the Conservative vote remains united and coalesced despite a lame-duck leader in Andrew Scheer, who is disapproved of by a significant segment of his own base. What happens if a new leader, fresh and full of vigour, manages to force an election? Three candidates, Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu, have already declared they will try to do this.

Thus, if ever there were a time government must absolutely undertake the political equivalent of frequent handwashing, avoiding crowded places, stocking up on medication and getting plenty of rest, it is now. The Trudeau government’s response to coronavirus and – perhaps more importantly – how it is perceived by Canadians, could make or break it in over the next six months.

These are anxious times. Worry about the spread of the virus has grown in correlation with the increased number of cases here and around the world. Data the Angus Reid Institute will soon release show significantly more Canadians are concerned than they were a month ago that they themselves will get sick from COVID-19, or that friends or family will fall ill. They’re also less confident in the ability of the health care infrastructure in their own communities to deal with new cases, and less convinced the threat of the illness is overblown than they were at this time last month.

On the other hand, more than half say the federal government has done a good job so far in handling the issue, and about the same number also trust the information the government has been offering about the situation.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

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