If he promotes security rather than liberty, he loses both politically
For Justin Trudeau, the bloom is definitely off the rose. Recent federal polls, and those going back to the beginning of January, showed the Liberal leader’s once-commanding lead over Stephen Harper’s Conservatives has evaporated and both parties now run neck-and-neck in the polls. A lot of this has to do with the national security issue or rather, the stances Trudeau has taken on the issues related to national security. While he opposed the decision to go into Iraq to fight ISIS (although not for long if CBC reports accurately), he has received greater flak for supporting the Conservative government’s anti-terror legislation, Bill C-51. Trudeau claims that he had to do this as the law is, according to a poll done by Angus Reid in Feb. 19, 2015, supported by 82 per cent of Canadians. However, this stance really hurt his political standing, especially with students.
Early in March 2015, Trudeau did a question and answer session at the University of British Columbia where he told students that he supported Bill C-51 on the grounds that, according to the Huffington Post, he “[did] not want this government making political hay out of an issue … as important as security to Canadians.”
The students’ response was not sympathetic. One student claimed that Trudeau was holding her rights ransom. Another wondered why Trudeau couldn’t send a message that Canadians do not want their liberties eroded. Such a reaction does not bode well for Trudeau, especially as a more recent poll done by Forum Research on Mar. 17, 2015, found that 50 per cent of Canadians now oppose the bill. Eloquent speeches about freedom to wear niqabs notwithstanding, I believe these incidents have compromised Trudeau’s ability to convince students to vote for him.
Right now, Canadian campuses are becoming more active and radical than they previously were. There are the Toronto university strikes, tuition protests in Quebec and even campaigns for better transit right here in Regina. The point is, students are clashing against the authorities and demanding change.
For a time, Trudeau could be seen as an agent for change because he definitely looked and acted different from Harper. From simple things like taking questions from the media to more dramatic things like expelling Senators from the Liberal Party caucus, Trudeau definitely showed that he was not like the secretive and corruption-tolerant (as it appeared to the public) Stephen Harper. Sure, he may not have differed much on economic policy, but he definitely appeared to care for Canadians, an appearance Harper did not have.
That all changed after the attacks in Quebec and Ottawa. Suddenly, Trudeau had to face foreign affairs and national security issues, issues that tend to favour incumbents. According to the polling aggregate site www.threehundredeight.com, the aftermath of these incidents saw the Conservatives gain an uptick of support in Quebec. Since a large part of Trudeau’s task is to retake voters from the Conservatives, it should probably not be a surprise that he expressed support for Bill C-51. Problem is, this undermines his claim to offer change. Students like myself are getting worried about the future we will inherit; Trudeau supporting a bill that places severe restrictions on speech does nothing to endear him to us.
While it is true that he needs to focus on Conservative voters in order to have a chance at forming government, I would say Trudeau needs to remember just what party he leads. This is not his father’s all-powerful Liberal Party of Governing Canada Forever; this is a Liberal Party that got a brush with political irrelevance. It got to this point because people saw it as having no real principles to stick by, and actions like Trudeau’s could very well resurrect this opinion. If Trudeau wants to stave this off, he had better take the concerns of students seriously and clearly show that he is more than just talk on issues that matter to them