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Politics Approval for Trudeau’s performance about the same as it was for Harper’s in 2014, survey shows

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during an end of session news conference in Ottawa, on Dec. 19, 2018.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

A new survey suggests that Canadians are feeling as positively about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s current performance in office as they felt about Stephen Harper’s in his final year of majority government.

According to a survey conducted jointly by Nanos Research and the Institute for Research on Public Policy, 35 per cent of respondents rated the current federal government’s performance as “very good" or “somewhat good."

Back in 2014, one year before losing the federal election, Mr. Harper earned similar support, with 37 per cent saying his performance was “very good” or “somewhat good.”

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Pollster Nik Nanos said Canadians might find it surprising that Mr. Trudeau’s numbers are very similar to Mr. Harper’s.

“Canadians tend to be harsh in terms of their evaluations and they’re just as harsh with this government as they have been with previous governments,” Mr. Nanos said in an interview Thursday.

“I think if you’re a Liberal, you’re probably clutching your chest to think that Canadians give you a score as good as Stephen Harper in the fourth year of his majority mandate when it comes to overall performance," he said.

“I think the Liberals have slammed up against the hard reality of governing. At the beginning of a mandate there are hopes and everyone projects onto the government what they would like the government to do. And then the reality creeps in, in terms of governing, and that includes doing things that are popular and doing things that might not be as popular."

Greg MacEachern, Liberal strategist and senior vice-president of Proof Strategies, said it’s hard to compare Mr. Harper’s last year in a majority government with Mr. Trudeau’s performance in 2018 because both parties have had different challenges.

Mr. MacEachern said a big challenge for the Trudeau government is that the Liberals went from a third place party to the governing party and had to quickly put a cabinet and budget together, but also manage expectations.

“When you go from the back of the pack to the lead it makes for some really nice positive stories and builds a lot of good will. Maintaining that good will in a country like Canada over the course of a mandate is tough,” he said.

The hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,000 people was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5, and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The mood of Canada tracking survey also shows that in 2018, almost half of respondents say the country is moving in the right direction. That number has decreased steadily since Mr. Trudeau took office – from 63 per cent when he was first elected in 2015 to 47 per cent in 2018.

Mr. Nanos said it’s typical for Canadians to be more likely to believe the country is moving in the right direction at the beginning of a government’s mandate, saying that “people become more grumpy” the more time a party spends in office, and that’s what is happening to the Liberals now.

Tim Powers, Conservative strategist and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies, said that most Canadians are likely saying Canada is still heading in the right direction, despite some taking issue with Mr. Trudeau’s performance, because they’re comparing Canada with other countries around the world, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

Over all, Mr. Powers said, a year ago Mr. Trudeau seemed to have a lock on winning the 2019 election and while he may still be the favourite, information suggests “it’s not going to be a cakewalk.”

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