November 22, 2023 - 7:00am

Justin Trudeau is in trouble. Canada’s Prime Minister, currently in his ninth year in power, can’t seem to do anything right lately. The Bank of Canada has blamed persistently high inflation on the Liberals’ fiscal policy, and the cost-of-living crisis across the country has Canadians turning to food banks at an all-time-record high.

Then there’s the hugely unpopular carbon tax — one of Trudeau’s campaign promises — on home heating oil which was set to go into effect this autumn, but because of nationwide backlash has been put on hold temporarily. The province of Alberta wants out of the Canada Pension Plan, saying it’s entitled to an eye-watering $334 billion, more than half the total amount in the federal fund. And under Trudeau’s watch, Canada’s reputation in foreign affairs has taken quite a beating, with India and China — two of the largest economies in the world — pulling back on their diplomatic relations in recent years.

It’s no wonder that Trudeau has seen his popularity tanking in opinion polls, with more than half of all Canadians saying they think he should step down as leader of the Liberal Party. That may well be the only way forward if the Liberals want to have a fighting chance of winning re-election — their fourth since coming to power in 2015 — when federal votes are next held in 2025. But seeing how quickly Trudeau’s approval ratings are taking a nose-dive, the New Democratic Party is starting to rethink its support for the Liberals, which has kept Trudeau’s minority government afloat since the last election.

The problem is, even if Trudeau were to step down — something he has made clear he has no intention of doing — there’s no real successor from within his caucus who could take his place. In the 10 years since Trudeau won the top spot, the Liberal Party has built its entire brand around his leadership. Trudeau is the party, and the hold he has over those who support him cannot be overstated. He brought the embattled Liberals back from the brink of oblivion when they swept the election in 2015. Having resurrected the party after a catastrophic defeat, many in the Liberal Party today owe their jobs to Trudeau.

Knowing the odds are stacked against him, why is the Canadian Prime Minister not taking the pragmatic approach and letting a new leader rally support for the party before the next election? To say he’s had a rough year is an understatement. Aside from policy failures and an affordability crisis, the Trudeau brand has also taken some personal hits, specifically his separation from his wife of 18 years, irreparably damaging his image as a “family man”. It would be too much for Trudeau’s ego to take if Canada’s Dreamy Boyfriend were forced to break up with his last remaining love, throwing him into an existential tailspin. 

Whatever happens — whether Trudeau steps down or lives to die another day — one thing is becoming increasingly clear: 2024 has a high probability of being an election year, with Canadians likely to vote in a new prime minister.

Hina Husain is a Pakistani-Canadian freelance writer based in Toronto.