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More than a decade ago, Justin Trudeau took a dispirited, strife-torn, third-place Liberal Party and recreated it in his own image, winning election after election after election. There are few voices of dissent within the party because the voices who matter all matter because of him.

But the latest polls show the Liberals headed for, not just defeat, but decimation in the next federal election. Even the most die-hard Trudeau loyalist must be starting to wonder whether it’s time for a change at the top.

The Conservatives opened up a substantial lead over the Liberals last summer and have held it ever since. That lead may even be growing. A poll released on the weekend by Abacus Data for the Toronto Star shows the Tories ahead of the Grits in the popular vote by 19 percentage points – 43 per cent to 24 per cent – with the NDP at 18 per cent.

Data Dive with Nik Nanos: 2023 was a historically bad year for Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals

The Liberals are in third place in the Prairies and in British Columbia. The Tories have more than 50-per-cent support in Atlantic Canada and lead the Liberals by 14 points in Ontario. But here’s the truly amazing number: Abacus has the two parties statistically tied in the historically Liberal bastion of Quebec, with the Bloc Québécois at 34 per cent, the Conservatives at 26 and the Liberals at 25.

(The online survey of 2,398 adults was conducted Feb. 1-7, with a comparable margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

Provincial sample sizes are small, with a greater margin of error than the overall national count. That’s why a Léger poll released last week is so important. An online sampling of 1,032 Quebec voters released earlier this month showed the Bloc Québécois at 29 per cent, the Liberals at 28 per cent and the Conservatives at 24 per cent.

That’s two polls showing the Conservatives competitive with the Liberals in Quebec. What does that mean?

It means that if an election were held tomorrow, the Liberals would lose most of their 24 seats in Atlantic Canada and at least some of their 34 seats in Quebec.

The Conservatives would eat heavily into Liberal strongholds in suburban Ontario and B.C., while the NDP could steal seats from them in the downtowns. The Prairies would remain a Liberal desert.

There are Liberals who believe Mr. Trudeau is the best leader to save the furniture, as the saying goes – that even in the event of a defeat in the next election, the Prime Minister would preserve the Liberal base for a successor to build upon. Those who think that need to reconsider.

The Liberals under Mr. Trudeau face a historic drubbing, one that could rival the calamities of 1958, 1984 or 2011. And polling analyst Philippe Fournier at believes the assertion that there is still time to turn things around increasingly looks like “naive wishful thinking.”

“The Conservatives already have their winning coalition of voters,” he posted Sunday. Barring anything egregious, that vote is now locked in.

So is it time for Mr. Trudeau to step down? Voters appear to think so.

Data Dive with Nik Nanos: The national mood is dour – good news for the Conservatives

In his poll for The Globe and Mail, released Monday, Nik Nanos has 46 per cent of Canadians saying Mr. Trudeau has done a poor job as Liberal Leader, compared with 25 per cent who rate his performance as excellent. When asked how the Liberals could best increase their chances of winning the next election, 39 per cent said the answer is to replace Mr. Trudeau. Only 3 per cent thought the party’s best option is for him to stay.

(The hybrid phone and online survey of 1,114 adults was conducted between Jan. 29-31, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

One of the most important jobs of a political leader is to leave their party in decent shape for their successor. Stephen Harper not only reunited the conservative movement and provided almost 10 years of government, he left the Conservative Party with solid finances and 99 seats in the House after his 2015 election loss.

Mr. Trudeau has a duty to bequeath a healthy Liberal Party to the next leader. He must ask himself honestly whether remaining at the helm of the party best ensures that outcome. Most voters appear to have reached their own conclusions.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Bloc Québécois as the Parti Québécois. This version has been updated.

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