Numbers are not an asset
Political polls have come a long way from being infrequent snapshots of a specific period in time. In this age of modern analytics, they hold considerable sway gauging the mood of the public. Trending poll numbers now result in resignations and demands for change – starting at the top. Polling is non-stop and nothing is left to chance – from products to politicians.
A recent Angus Reid poll ranked the recognition factor and performances of federal cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inner circle. The holiday message for prominent Atlantic Canadian cabinet ministers is far from positive and should provide much to ponder over the Christmas break. A federal election is coming up in October. The date now seems solid following comments from the PM that he has no intention of going earlier than the legislated date. Polling suggests Mr. Trudeau is slipping in terms of performance and leader preference. For the first time since his 2015 election, he is not the leader seen as the best prime minister.
As the PM’S numbers slide, so do those of his supporting cast. Polling numbers suggest Atlantic cabinet ministers are increasingly vulnerable and the election will be more interesting than might have been believed, even a few short months ago.
Consider Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’regan. The Newfoundland and Labrador MP is among the most recognized cabinet ministers, thanks to his previous career as a national television host. But his performance numbers are falling, largely from recurring problems within his department.
Try as he might to change policy, he admits the mindset continues inside the department which prefers to say no rather than yes to veterans and their concerns. The delays in dealing with wait times for veterans’ benefits have moved seamlessly from Conservative to Liberal governments.
Then there is Agriculture Minister Lawrence Macaulay from P.E.I. He was flying below the radar in cabinet for two years, but his recognition factor shot up in 2018, thanks to NAFTA negotiations and the concessions made by Canada in supply management with dairy, poultry and eggs. Farmers and others were outraged, and Mr. MacAulay’s recognition numbers skyrocketed, while his performance numbers plummeted.
New Brunswick MP Dominic Leblanc, a close friend of Mr. Trudeau, was considered untouchable until Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled he broke conflict of interest rules for awarding a lucrative clam fishing licence to a company connected to his family. His recognition level remains high but his performance rating crashed.
Nova Scotia’s Scott Brison has a high recognition factor but his performance rating also dropped for no obvious reason, except perhaps, guilt by association, although the Phoenix pay system boondoggle is finding a home at his doorstep.
The poll reflects general declining support for Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal government. The numbers are worse outside Atlantic Canada but are growing in this region as well.
High recognition numbers are usually considered an asset. With Mr. Trudeau’s Atlantic ministers, it’s an increasing liability as the region connects failures to names and faces.