With polls suggesting the Liberal Party’s support is still in freefall, some of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top ministers were asked Monday whether they’re angling to replace him as Liberal leader.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Treasury Board President Anita Anand, Housing Minister Sean Fraser and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne were all asked if they’re considering leadership bids.
Freeland, who has been floated as a possible successor for years, said Trudeau has her “full support.”
“We just had a great week of cabinet and caucus retreats. The prime minister was very clear, as he has been, that he intends to lead our party into the next election. He has my full support and I’m sure you will find my colleagues here feel the same way,” she said, gesturing at the other ministers assembled for a press conference on the state of Canada’s economy.
“We have a leader,” she added, when pressed to state whether she’s organizing a leadership bid behind the scenes. “Our job, my job, and I think it’s our collective job, is to work together as a team and focus on supporting Canadians.”
Champagne, another rumoured possible candidate for the party’s top job, said Freeland’s response was “the perfect answer” and he had nothing else to add.
Immigration Minister Marc Miller, a close personal friend of Trudeau and a minister frequently tasked with the government’s toughest files, said there’s “not a chance in hell” he would put his name forward to lead the party any time soon.
WATCH: Ministers pressed to say whether they’re interested in Liberal Party leadership
Ministers pressed to say whether they’re interested in Liberal Party leadershipDeputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has her ‘full support’ to lead the Liberals in the next election.
The questions come a week after Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Ken McDonald made waves when he said the government is “past its expiry date” in an interview with Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language service.
McDonald also suggested it might be time for a leadership review, given the prime minister’s sinking popularity. He later walked back those comments in a written statement after a call from the Liberal whip, Ruby Sahota.
Polls suggest the opposition Conservatives are well ahead of the Liberals; 338Canada, a poll aggregator, puts Pierre Poilievre’s party 14 points ahead of the governing Liberals nationwide.
Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based firm, released a poll Sunday that suggests the Conservative lead is even bigger than that.
In an interview with CBC News, David Coletto, Abacus’s CEO, said voter fatigue and dissatisfaction with the economy and housing are what’s driving those poor poll numbers.
“You’ve got a population that’s feeling pretty sour about the direction of the country and that’s basically leading them to feel quite dissatisfied with the performance of both the prime minister and the government as a whole,” he said.
“One of the things we noticed in our most recent survey is those who want a change in government and feel comfortable with the alternative has hit an all-time high.”
WATCH: Liberals, Conservatives in attack mode as Parliament resumes
Liberals, Conservatives in attack mode as Parliament resumesWith the Conservatives leading the polls over the Liberals, the two parties attacked each other in the days before a new sitting of Parliament.
Poilievre has blamed the prime minister personally for “crime and chaos” in the streets and home prices that have doubled over the past eight years.
He repeated those familiar lines in a nearly hour-long address to MPs in the Commons shortly after its return Monday.
“It is 2024 and the prime minister is still not worth the cost. He’s not worth the crime. He’s not worth giving up the country we know and love,” Poilievre said.
“The prime minister seeks to distract and attack anyone who disagrees with him in order to make people forget how miserable he has made life in this country after nearly a decade in power.”
In question period, Trudeau hit back, painting the Conservatives as a party populated by fringe elements.
He cited the example of Conservative MPs like Leslyn Lewis — who has said Canada should leave the United Nations — and Branden Leslie, who said he would have voted against a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy, as proof that the opposition party is outside the mainstream.
He also needled Poilievre over the party membership’s vote to block policy that declares climate change is real.
Poilievre rips Blanchet over the carbon taxPoilievre also ramped up his attacks on the other opposition parties, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP.
He said the Bloc has allowed the Liberals to increase the carbon tax, the government’s signature climate policy.
Poilievre said the Liberals have “driven up inflation and interest rates at the expense of the working class and seniors” with the “full support of the Bloc.”
The party’s leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, called the claim nonsense — he’s voted against past Liberal budgets and economic updates. Blanchet said the attacks come from a leader who wants the limelight.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of seeking attention through his questions. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)”I hope Stornoway has a lot of mirrors in the rooms because he really does like himself,” Blanchet said, referring to the leader of the opposition’s official residence. “There’s no limit to the level of lights he wants on himself.”
In an apparent pitch for voters in places like northern Ontario and B.C., where there are some Conservative-NDP vote-switchers, Poilievre said the “greedy NDP” is to blame for government spending spiralling out of control.
He said the NDP has pushed Liberals to stand up new programs that pile borrowing on a national debt that’s already doubled to $1.2 trillion in the last eight years.
The NDP has taken credit for a $14-billion dental care program that will see the government foot the bill for some dentistry for low- and middle-income Canadians. It’s also demanding the government push through a national pharmacare program, another social program that’s expected to come with a multi-billion dollar price tag.
“Right now, the government is rich and the people are poor, because the prime minister cannot stop spending, and his greedy NDP coalition counterparts push him to spend even more of other people’s money,” Poilievre said.
Poilievre vows spending cutsThe Conservative leader said that, if elected, he will slash government spending in a bid to lower inflation.
He promised Monday to dismantle the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, scrap the ArriveCAN app — COVID-era software that’s now used to ease border crossings — dismantle a green technology fund that’s been a source of controversy and dramatically curb the use of outside consultants.
The Liberal government already has announced billions of dollars in cuts to keep the budget on a sustainable path, including reduced travel and consultant spending.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his party is focused on the problem of homelessness. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party’s priority is the growing homeless crisis.
He pointed to recent emergency declarations in Edmonton and Toronto as proof that the government isn’t adequately addressing an increasingly dire housing situation that has left more people sleeping rough.
“What makes matters worse is the Liberals have been in power for nine years and have really not prioritized this,” he said. “We’re calling for an emergency debate. We’re pushing for real action to tackle this problem.”