Slumping badly in opinion polls, with voters angry about housing and inflation, Justin Trudeau is facing calls to leave, even from stalwarts of his own political party.

The prime minister may not have to face voters until 2025, thanks to a power-sharing deal with the NDP, which gives him some runway to try to turn things around.

But that’s also enough time for Trudeau to resign or be forced out of the leadership of the Liberal Party by his increasingly restless caucus of 158 members of parliament — especially as surveys find a strong desire for change among Canadians.

For months, polls have shown the Conservative Party, led by Pierre Poilievre, ahead by 10 to 15 points and gaining ground nearly everywhere. Those numbers, if they were to hold up in an election, would likely produce a large majority government for the 44-year-old opposition leader and end Trudeau’s reign with a thud.

It’s the deepest funk Trudeau has endured during his eight years in power.

“This has been something that’s been building for a while,” said Andrew Enns of the polling firm Leger. “When there’s a strong change in sentiment, people make up their mind about the leader. And in this case with Mr. Trudeau, they’ve decided that he just doesn’t have it for the problems they’re currently facing.”

He attributed the Liberal slide to voter fatigue with Trudeau as well as Poilievre’s relentless focus on the economy.

The Conservative leader is the most formidable challenger Trudeau has faced, and has channeled Canadians’ anger about the rising cost of living — dubbing it “Justinflation.” Poilievre’s constant refrain is: “After eight years of Justin Trudeau, everything costs more.”

Poilievre has embraced social media as a way to energize his base. A recent video of him chomping an apple while batting down a journalist’s questions attracted 1.5 million views on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and drew praise from Elon Musk and Fox News.

Excitement within the party about his leadership has translated into record fundraising — money the Conservatives have pumped into television ads meant to soften his image, featuring his wife, kids and childhood photos of him playing hockey.

The Liberals, meanwhile, have only just recently started to aggressively hit back at Poilievre, painting him as a Canadian version of Donald Trump.

In public and private, Trudeau and his advisers say he has no intention of resigning before the next election. His inner circle believes the government needs to weather the storm caused by the surge in inflation and show voters Trudeau can still deliver results when it comes to the cost of living.

Inflation has slowed to 3.8 per cent from a peak of 8.1 per cent, but Trudeau has still faced relentless pressure over costs and has started to buckle.


A national carbon tax is his signature environmental policy, but last month he suspended it on home-heating oil — an expensive, dirty fuel used largely in Canada’s east-coast provinces, where Poilievre has drawn big crowds with “Axe the Tax” rallies.

The move sparked furor among premiers of other provinces and alienated environmentalists. The decision “broke my heart,” said Catherine McKenna, who was Trudeau’s environment minister when the carbon levy was enacted.

The policy is designed in a way that cushions to blow for lower- and middle-income Canadians — most get more back in the form of quarterly rebate checks than they pay, according to the government. But it’s complex and poorly understood, making it an easy political target at a time when financial stress is rising.

“The challenge with the decision is that it creates the impression that the affordability issue is pricing, which it’s not. It’s revenue-neutral. We give all the money back,” said McKenna, who left politics in 2021 and is the founder and chief executive of Climate and Nature Solutions.

Pierre Poilievre, whose Conservatives are ahead in the polls, has dubbed the sharp rise in the cost of living under Trudeau’s government ‘Justinflation.’

The big question is whether Trudeau can win back support among Canadians after having lost so much of it during eight years in power.

During that time, housing costs have gone up nearly 70 per cent. The country’s households are the most indebted in the G7 and interest rates have risen so quickly that many are now paying little to no principal on their mortgages. Price increases on rents and food still outpace headline inflation.

Over the fall, Trudeau and his cabinet have rolled out a series of announcements meant to spur housing construction, and met with the heads of major grocery firms to demand a plan to stabilize food prices. The problem is that many solutions are outside Trudeau’s grasp, according to Dan Arnold, who oversaw the Liberals’ research management program during their 2015, 2019 and 2021 election victories.

“Nothing that government’s going to do is going to suddenly make housing affordable for a young person or suddenly make life more expensive or less expensive,” said Arnold, chief strategy officer at Toronto-based polling firm Pollara and a senior adviser at Alar, an Ottawa consultancy. “But maybe at the very least it can minimize some of the frustration and the anger out there.”

Even if the polls were better, Trudeau would already be taking a risk by running again. It’s been more than a century since a Canadian leader won four straight elections. The last one to try, Stephen Harper, was decisively beaten by Trudeau after governing for nine years.

Trudeau entered this year in a strong position, having secured the deal with the New Democrats and quieted succession talk in his party. He rode out the political crisis caused by the trucker protests in 2022, during which he invoked rarely-used emergency powers to clear blockades from Ottawa’s streets and from U.S. border crossings. A subsequent judicial inquiry found Trudeau’s actions were justified.

But 2023 has been brutal for the Canadian leader. He became embroiled in foreign controversies, including allegations he failed to respond to Chinese interference in Canadian elections, which have now led to another judicial inquiry.

More recently, he touched off a furor after accusing India’s government of orchestrating the assassination of a Sikh activist in Vancouver. So far, the evidence behind Trudeau’s claim hasn’t been shared publicly because the murder is under police investigation.

His annus horribilis even extended to his personal life. In August, he and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau announced they were separating after 18 years of marriage. They have continued to co-parent their three children.


Throughout it all, whispers about Trudeau’s future have grown louder. Senator Percy Downe, who once served as chief of staff to Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, penned an opinion piece blaming the slide in the polls on Trudeau’s lack of fiscal responsibility and arguing that a new leader would give the party “a chance” of re-election.

In subsequent interviews, he said many Liberal members of parliament shared his view. But no currently elected Liberal has openly called for Trudeau to go.

John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister, told BNN Bloomberg that the mood for a change is so strong, Trudeau’s choices are to quit or lose. “There’s what I call the Seinfeld Rule at play,” he said. The TV show ran for nine seasons, and through recent Canadian history, that’s usually about as long as a prime minister can last.

Some have pointed out the providence of 2024 being a leap year: Feb. 29 will mark 40 years since Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, announced his resignation as prime minister, a day after a solitary walk in an Ottawa snowstorm. (Since then, a “walk in the snow” has become Canadian political shorthand for making a decision to leave.)

Justin Trudeau, however, believes he can stay in place. “The next elections are two years away. I’m continuing to do my job,” he told reporters this fall. “There’s a lot of important work to do, to deliver for Canadians in these difficult moments. I remain enthusiastic and relentless with regards to this work.”