Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have lost his almost magical hold on the public imagination of Canadians. Polling results and the early stages of the Ontario election campaign show something like an anti-Justin wave rolling through the country. This doesn’t yet mean the Conservatives have already won the next federal election, but the national political game has unmistakably changed.

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This article was published 20/3/2018 (1565 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Editorial

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have lost his almost magical hold on the public imagination of Canadians. Polling results and the early stages of the Ontario election campaign show something like an anti-Justin wave rolling through the country. This doesn’t yet mean the Conservatives have already won the next federal election, but the national political game has unmistakably changed.

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives appeared to be going out on a frail limb a week ago when they chose combative cost-cutter Doug Ford as their leader for the imminent provincial election. For the Ontario voters who helped put Mr. Trudeau and his sunny-ways, deficits-are-OK Liberals in power 2½ years ago, Mr. Ford would represent a dramatic change of heart.

Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS files</p><p>Prime Minister Justin Trudeau</p></p>

Jacques Boissinot / THE CANADIAN PRESS files

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The Angus Reid polling organization announced Monday that there has indeed been a change of heart. Echoing what the Ipsos firm reported March 2, Angus Reid found that 51 per cent of Canadians want a change of government. The Conservatives of Andrew Scheer, who was in Winnipeg on Monday speaking to a Manitoba Chambers of Commerce luncheon, would win a federal election if it were held today and if people voted according to the party preferences they expressed to the pollsters.

For the Ontario voters whose large numbers dominate Canadian politics, the hunger for a change of government may be assuaged in June by booting out Premier Kathleen Wynne and her governing Liberals and putting Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in power. The Tories complain that Premier Wynne is spending far too much money and increasing the provincial deficit far too fast.

Often, in politics as in life, there’s nothing like fulfilment of a wish to make people wish for something else. If Ontario elects Mr. Ford and his PCs in June, Ontario voters will live under the resulting government for a year and a bit before the time for a federal election rolls round once again. That may be time enough for Mr. Ford to start disappointing some of his supporters. Mr. Trudeau may not look so bad by then. For these reasons, Mr. Trudeau’s polling decline cannot be taken as an election forecast.

It does, however, show that the bloom is off the rose. The ruling Liberals cannot hope to skate past their blunders and wait for Mr. Trudeau’s good looks and personal charm to win forgiveness for them.

Enough Canadians have thought of electing a Conservative government that the idea is no longer strange. The public scarcely knows Andrew Scheer at this point. As they get to know him better, they may or may not like what they see. That is up to him and his colleagues. But the Justin Trudeau who looked unbeatable last year now looks as fallible as the rest of mankind. The spell is broken.

Was it the dress-up parade through India? Was it the Aga Khan vacation? Was it the marijuana legalization? Was it the personal overexposure? Maybe it was none of these things — or all of them. As a theatre arts teacher, Mr. Trudeau knows that performers really do cast a spell over an audience. But then the curtain comes down, the spell is broken and it’s time to go home.

Out on the street, without the greasepaint, the performer is just another Canadian, paying the same price for eggs as everybody else and judged by the same standards as everybody else. This puts Mr. Trudeau on a more equal footing with Mr. Scheer. It may even make him govern better.