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Once the golden boy of progressives, Trudeaus star power is waning as Canada heads to polls

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Once Canadas poster-boy for progressive values, Justin Trudeau swept to power in 2015 on the promise of change and a new way of doing politics. But now hes battling for political survival as Canadians prepare to vote in a general election on Monday.

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Canadas tightly contested race is largely being seen as a referendum on Trudeaus leadership. He and his Liberal Party are neck-and-neck with their main rival, with the Conservative Party led by Andrew Scheer having steadily made strides in a campaign Trudeau has described as one of the “nastiest” in Canadian history. And if the polls have it right, he has suffered a fall from grace from which he is unlikely to recover.

With his government teetering on either losing its majority or having to govern as a coalition, Trudeau appealed to liberal voters on Thursday, stoking fears of a split vote handing a victory to the opposition Conservatives.

"It is very possible that Canadians will wake up on the 22nd (of October) with a Conservative government that has made eliminating the only real plan that Canada has ever had to fight climate change its top priority, and which will cut spending and bring back austerity measures," Trudeau warned during a whistle-stop in Trois Riviere, Quebec.

The 47-year-old rose to power four years ago after 10 years of conservative rule with promises of “sunny ways” and a different approach to politics. Armed with a highly progressive policy agenda Trudeaus early years were focused on pushing through a litany of reforms to fulfill his campaign promises of change. The self-proclaimed “feminist” – who appointed women to 50 percent of ministerial posts, repaired damaged relations with indigenous people and vowed to act on climate change – earned the praise of world leaders including US President Barack Obama, who marveled at his political accomplishments.

But this time Trudeaus campaign bears little resemblance to his first, with his government assailed by a series of scandals that have dimmed his star power and threatened to split his partys left-leaning support base, possibly toppling his government.

The fall of a change agent

Trudeaus popularity took a dive midway through campaigning after Time magazine published photos and a video of him wearing blackface makeup to parties in the early 1990s and as recently as 2000. Trudeau apologised but his personal ratings appeared irrevocably damaged at a time when he was already trying to rebuild his credibility after firing Canadas first indigenous attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

A report issued by Canadas ethics commissioner in August found that Trudeau had made “flagrant attempts to influence” Wilson-Raybould to abandon the prosecution of Montreal construction giant SNC-Lavalin. While prosecutors were seeking criminal charges for fraud and bribery against the company for its actions in Libya from 2001 to 2011, Trudeau and his aides pressed for a deferred prosecution deal that would allow the firm to pay a fine.

His leadership, however, had begun to falter even earlier.

In 2018, a decision to buy an oil pipeline costing €2.4 billion to export oil to foreign markets sullied Trudeaus environmental credentials. His government said it would invest the profits in green technology, but many Canadian environmentalists saw the move as a betrayal. On Sunday, young climate activists rallied outside the prime ministers campaign headquarters in Montreal to protest against the governments purchase of the pipeline. The move has also played directly into the hands of his opponents. The left-leaning New Democratic Party, which in the final leg of the campaign has surged in polls, issued a four-word statement responding to Trudeaus climate plan: “You. Bought. A. Pipeline.”

Critics say his attempts to implement a broad progressive agenda may end up costing him politically. By trying to please everyone “that drew criticism from the right for not having gone far enough in economic development, and from the left for having bought the pipeline", Daniel Beland, a political specialist at McGiRead More – Source