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Trudeau’s hits and misses as prime minister (so far), according to Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Sept. 18, 2017. .
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on Sept. 18, 2017. . Chris Wattie/Reuters

After a prolonged political honeymoon, a few broken campaign promises, and a larger-than expected budget deficit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s term in office is set to hit the two-year mark in November.

That means — in about three week — the majority Liberal government will have completed half of its mandate.

An Angus Reid survey of 1,492 Canadian adults released Friday evaluates how the prime minister has done so far.

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The poll looked at Canadians’ overall impression of the government and Trudeau’s leadership and found that 48 per cent of those surveyed approve of the Liberal government’s performance, while 45 per cent disapprove and the remainder were unsure. It noted that younger Canadians were most likely to support the prime minister, and have consistently been his “most faithful base of support.”

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“It is interesting more women view him favourably,” Pauline Beange, a Canadian politics and public policy professor at the University of Toronto, noted.

According to the survey, women in all age brackets are more likely than their male counterparts to support the prime minister.

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Is the Justin Trudeau honeymoon over?
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Canadians were fairly split when it came to his overall accomplishments. Thirty-four per cent said his accomplishments in office outweigh his failures, but 39 per cent thought the opposite.

Angus Reid Forum also took a deeper look into the Trudeau government’s biggest policy hits and misses. Here are some notable ones:

Trudeau’s hits, so far

Gender-balanced cabinet

Canadians surveyed by Angus Reid largely approved of Trudeau’s decision to appoint a gender-balanced cabinet, a move that earned him international acclaim.

About 70 per cent of Canadians approved, while 17 per cent disapproved and 13 were unsure. Similarly, Canadians were also on board (60 per cent) with Bill C-16, which added “gender identity” and “gender expression” as a basis of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

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Trudeau explains thought process behind gender-balanced cabinet
Trudeau explains thought process behind gender-balanced cabinet

Income tax changes

Lowering the tax rate for Canadians who earn between $44,700 and $89,400 was also widely supported (84 per cent) by Canadians; eight per cent disapproved.

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When it comes to the government’s proposed small businesses taxes, Canadians were more split. While many entrepreneurs and small businesses have expressed concern, many Canadians said they were unsure about the changes.

Canada’s reputation in the world

Trudeau’s persona and handling of international affairs have improved the country’s reputation on the world stage, the poll said. About 54 per cent of Canadians think he’s had a positive impact; 16 per cent think the opposite; the rest are unsure or neutral.

Dave Korzinski, a researcher at the Angus Reid Institute, explained that the prime minister’s largely positive tone and support for diversity are resonating with the public.

“Canada’s reputation is thriving right now and a lot of it is the face of the government, and that’s Trudeau,” he said.

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Beange noted, however, that it’s a “long-term Liberal practice” to put more effort into their reputation on the world stage, while Conservative governments typically focus on their approval within Canada.

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Carbon tax

The Trudeau government’s mandatory call for provinces to put a price on carbon emissions has been well-received by Canadians overall, however there are strong regional divides.

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While 52 per cent of Canadians back the move, the majority of respondents in Saskatchewan (67 per cent), Manitoba (50 per cent) and Alberta (59 per cent) disapproved of the move.

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Trudeau’s misses, so far

Budget deficits

“The most disappointment would be in the financial issues,” Korzinski explained of Trudeau’s misses.

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The Liberals promised “modest” deficits of about $10 billion during their mandate, followed by a balanced budget by the next election. The 2016-17 budget was $17.8 billion in the red, and similar deficits are expected next year.

Seventy per cent of Canadians surveyed disagreed with the government’s decision to run larger-than-promised deficits.

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Electoral reform

During the 2015 election campaign, Trudeau promised that the election would be the last conducted on the first-past-the-post system. That won’t be the case, after the government backed away from the electoral reform pledge citing a lack of consensus.

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About 66 per cent of respondents said breaking the promise was wrong, while only 34 per cent said Trudeau made the right decision.

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Settlement with Omar Khadr

The government’s $10.5 million settlement with former child soldier and Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr was one of the Liberals’ most controversial moves.

It left 59 per cent of Canadians disapproving of the decision, and 25 per cent approving and 16 per cent unsure.

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Trudeau himself has said the deal with Khadr makes him angry, but said it was necessary because a Canadian’s rights were violated.

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Would Canadians vote Liberal again?

While Trudeau still has two years left in his term, Canadians were asked who they would vote for if an election were called tomorrow. The answer was split.

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Support for both the Liberals and Conservatives sat at 35 per cent, while the NDP garnered 18 per cent, Green Party got six per cent, and Bloc Quebecois got four per cent.

“This is a really, really interesting time,” Korzinski said, noting that newly minted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is rising in popularity and that could change things in the next election.

“Where support will go is really up in the air.”

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Beange agreed that it’s too early to know what will happen two years from now.

“I don’t think this necessarily is an indication of how people will vote in the election,” she said.

This survey was completed by 1,492 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum, between Oct. 10-12, 2017. It is considered accurate +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.