Trudeau can crow about the economy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals head into the fall election campaign with one huge advantage: The economy is hot.

At 5.5 per cent, Canada’s unemployment rate is near historic lows. Inflation-adjusted wage rates are rising again, and the stock market is rocking.

Even hard-hit Alberta is doing better.

While worrying signs are emerging about the future of the world economy overall, in North America, at least, things are fine.

Last week’s decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve to goose the American economy by reducing interest rates marginally means the boom Canada’s largest trading partner now enjoys is virtually guaranteed to last at least another few months.

This is good news for Canada.

Voters whose economic fortunes are on the way up are usually less inclined to throw the bums out.

None of this means the Liberals have a lock on the Oct. 21 election. In election campaigns, anything can — and often does — happen.

But it does mean the governing party is going into this campaign with one built-in advantage. Whether this will be enough to overcome the disadvantages of incumbency is not clear.

Certainly, there are disadvantages. Once in power, politicians almost invariably disappoint. Trudeau has been no exception. He broke one promise to reform the voting system. He broke another to balance the budget by 2019.

His attempts to curb global warming have satisfied few. On the one hand, are those who find the government’s approach too timid. On the other, are those who think his methods, such as imposing a carbon tax, are too draconian.

Trudeau argues this shows the Liberals are hewing to the middle way. That’s one explanation. Another is on this file, he has managed to please no one.

The Liberal government has made significant efforts to help Indigenous people improve their lives. But so much remains to be done that these efforts have earned it little political credit.

As for Trudeau himself, the patina has faded. Canadians are no longer gaga over his star quality. Many, I suspect, are sick of it.

In 2015, he was able to present himself as someone new. Now, he is a known quantity.

Andrew Scheer’s opposition Conservatives understand this, and they are doing their best to rubbish Trudeau. They present him as a self-absorbed dilettante who is out of his depth in serious matters of state.

They focus on scandals, real and imagined — the SNC-Lavalin affair, the alleged attempt to silence critics of the government’s China policy, the holiday spent on the Aga Khan’s private island.

They calculate if they can persuade enough disillusioned Liberal voters to abandon Trudeau, they will win.

The Liberals’ response has been puzzling. Instead of emphasizing their record, which is what incumbent governments usually do, they are focusing their attention almost entirely on what their Conservative opponents might do if elected.

To that end, they are inventing bogeymen to tie Scheer to — such as former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper or Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Negative campaigning is not new. But there is something odd about the Liberals’ campaign to date. In a strange way, they are acting as if the Conservatives were the government and they, the feisty Liberals, were the opposition.

Which, I suppose, is fine. But it does make it harder for the Liberals to do what most incumbent governments would do when faced with a strong economy: Claim credit.

Thomas Walkom is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Just Posted

Ad firm says controversial billboards promoting Bernier’s party staying up

OTTAWA — The owner of billboards currently showcasing ads that seek to… Continue reading

Police say someone fired paintballs at people outside drug consumption site in Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Police in southern Alberta are investigating after they say… Continue reading

Is federal carbon tax killing jobs? Experts say answer isn’t ‘black and white’

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government says the federal carbon tax is killing… Continue reading

New book assesses Trudeau government’s record of living up to pledges

OTTAWA — A new book arriving on the eve of the federal… Continue reading

Walk raises awareness, money for overdose awareness in Red Deer

More than 90 people gathered in Red Deer to break the stigma… Continue reading

WATCH: Snakes, lizards and more at the Western Canadian Reptile Expo in Red Deer

The 10th annual Western Canadian Reptile Expo is this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday and Sept. 3 The Tony Connelly Singers provide an opportunity to… Continue reading

A look at policy areas scrutinized by a new book on the Trudeau government

OTTAWA — A group of two dozen Canadian academics took a deep… Continue reading

Father of suspected B.C. killer seeks access to video taken before son’s death

VANCOUVER — The father of a suspected killer of three people in… Continue reading

Extinction bites: countries agree to protect sharks and rays

GENEVA — Countries have agreed to protect more than a dozen shark… Continue reading

Trudeau and Trump hold face to face meeting on sidelines of G7 summit

BIARRITZ, France — Justin Trudeau met face-to-face with U.S. President Donald Trump… Continue reading

Study reveals new details of overseas Cold War intelligence effort by Canadians

OTTAWA — Canada enlisted citizens who travelled to Communist countries during the… Continue reading

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

BIARRITZ, France — As leaders of the now-fractious Group of Seven countries… Continue reading

Central Alberta Bucs fall to Calgary Wolfpack in crazy AFL Championship game

The Central Alberta Buccanneers came up just short in pursuit of their… Continue reading

Most Read