Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the Freedom Convoy of truckers and their supporters has resulted in a significant drop in his popularity. According to a Nanos poll, almost half of Canadians (47%) disapprove of his handling of the protest while just 20% approve. This Angus Reid tracking poll suggests a similar dynamic. Trudeau’s popularity has never been high. Last September, his approval rating stood at about 27%.
But the rest of the poll urges the question “What about his handling of the protest don’t Canadians like?” That’s because he gets strongly positive marks for declaring a state of emergency (63% Approve; 38% disapprove) and freezing bank accounts (65% Approve; 34% Disapprove). Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is strongly approved of for its support of the Trudeau policies (64%; 35%) while the Conservative Party is equally disapproved of for its opposition (64%; 35%).
How to rationalize all those figures? Obviously, the same people approve of the state of emergency, the freezing of accounts and the NDP’s support, but oppose the Conservative’s opposition. And another smaller set of people approve of the Conservative’s stance, but disapprove of the other three issues. The percentages are almost identical regarding each question. So, with all that support for Trudeau’s actions, why has he lost popularity among the very people who support those decisions?
That’s hard to tell, but I suspect it has to do with his divisive rhetoric or perhaps his decision to hide from, rather than treat with, the truckers. Certainly, against the backdrop of a Ukrainian Prime Minister who swears to fight to the bitter end even if it means his death while 200,000 Russian troops attempt to destroy him and his country, Trudeau’s fleeing before the onslaught of friendly truck drivers who wanted nothing more than to make their own choices about COVID vaccination doesn’t look good. His profile in abject cowardice can’t be playing well with blue collar voters or probably Canadians generally.
Then there’s his absurd and outrageously divisive rhetoric. Perhaps Canadians who wanted the truckers’ strike to end so life could return to normal and were willing to countenance temporary suspensions of basic rights and liberties to do so nevertheless understand, as Trudeau so plainly does not, that the protesters aren’t “Nazis,” “white supremacists,” “Islamaphobes,” or any of Trudeau’s other false and inflammatory terms. Perhaps they see that their mere disagreement with the truckers doesn’t make the protesters evil, beneath contempt or unfit for civil society. They might understand, again as Trudeau plainly does not, the core feature of the right to free speech – that even unpopular ideas deserve expression. They may grasp the fact that those who supported the convoy, like those who opposed it, are all Canadians worthy of the name and of the rights and respect that status should confer. Perhaps they’re fed up to their back teeth by the progressive preference for hateful division over respectful co-existence.
I can’t be sure of the exact cause of those seemingly discordant poll results, but I can say that politicians might want to pay attention to what they say and how they say it. Trudeau’s terms of abuse may constitute business as usual within progressive ranks, but not elsewhere. And everyone might consider the possibility that, once again, everyday people are more decent and sensible than those who govern and who’ve appointed themselves our betters.