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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves the Council on Foreign Relations after delivering a speech and taking part in a question and answer session in New York on Friday, April 28, 2023.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Earlier this week, the federal Conservative Party dropped a new online ad targeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It begins with Mr. Trudeau, on the 2015 campaign trail, promising to “prioritize new investments in affordable housing.” It then jumps to 2021, with the Prime Minister talking about housing once again.

“For far too long a first home has been out of reach for far too many,” he says. “It’s time to change that.”

Finally, the ad concludes with a clip of Mr. Trudeau from this year. “I’ll be blunt as well, housing isn’t a primary federal responsibility,” he says.

Of all the ads that the Conservatives have put out under Pierre Poilievre, this one may well be the most devastating, and likely to do real damage to the Prime Minister. For in it, the leader of this country admits to not having had any real success in addressing arguably the most crucial issue in Canada: a dire lack of affordable housing.

Worse, the ad has the PM effectively washing his hands of the matter.

Of course, the issue of housing supply is far more complicated than what comes across in an attack ad. But one of the truisms of political campaign advertisements is to never let the facts get in the way of an opportunity to do your opponent great harm.

While Mr. Trudeau may be right in saying that housing isn’t primarily a federal responsibility, it doesn’t matter. He talked about it in 2015. He promised to make headway on the file. He failed to make that pledge a reality, and now he sounds like someone who is deflecting and blaming the problem on others.

Of course, this is what happens when you’ve been in power for eight long years. The Opposition has a veritable treasure trove of material from which to use to its advantage. Housing isn’t the only issue that haunts the Prime Minister. The country’s productivity is abysmal. Federal-provincial relations are at a depressing low. Federal debt is at ever-concerning levels. And that is just a list of some of the more obvious areas that Mr. Poilievre can mine for material.

This is why winning four elections in a row is so difficult to achieve: By this point in any prime minister’s mandate, they’re lugging a whole lot of baggage behind them. The public has had enough and is ready for a new face at the helm, even if that new face doesn’t really excite them – or worse, churns their stomach.

The polls right now are as hopeless for the Prime Minister as they’ve ever been. One by Abacus just before the recent cabinet shuffle had the Liberals 10 points behind the Conservatives. Mr. Trudeau’s negatives are a substantial drag on his party. The poll found that only 29 per cent of those surveyed had a positive impression of the job he’s done versus 51 per cent who had a negative view. Mr. Poilievre’s negatives were far less, with 37 per cent having a negative view of him, versus 31 per cent who had a positive impression.

Only 19 per cent think the Liberal government deserves to be re-elected.

This is noteworthy given the fact that Mr. Poilievre has turned a lot of people off since taking over as Conservative Leader last September. However, the disdain many have for the Prime Minister trumps the distaste they have for Mr. Poilievre and his divisive, polarizing style of politics.

The Liberals should be thankful the Conservatives aren’t currently led by someone more palatable to the general public.

This brings us to the biggest political question in the country: Would Justin Trudeau be arrogant enough to drive his party off a cliff by clinging to power in the name of seeking political immortality? Is his self-regard so high he believes he can ultimately beat Mr. Poilievre, regardless of how far behind the federal Conservative Leader he may be at the start of the next election race?

Of course, there are two years before the next election has to be called – an eternity in politics. Who knows what could transpire between now and then that might alter the current trajectory of the Prime Minister and his Liberal government. Could Mr. Poilievre do something so egregious it could dissuade some of his reluctant supporters to give the Prime Minister another shot, despite their antipathy toward him?

Who knows.

But clearly Mr. Trudeau is someone who cares about history and how he might ultimately be perceived by it. He must also know that his legacy would be horribly sullied if conceit ends up causing his party a loss at the polls so massive in scope it takes years to recover.

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