Four years ago, Justin Trudeau swept to power in a historic, come-from-behind victory, promising “real change”. Can the Liberal Party leader convince Canadians to rally behind him and his party once again?

The day Mr Trudeau was sworn in, he made headlines around the world as much for his new gender-balanced cabinet as for the way he explained why parity was a priority.

“Because it’s 2015,” the freshly minted prime minister said with a slight smile and a shrug that suggested he knew those three words were going to generate glowing reviews around the globe.

It was the beginning of the Trudeau honeymoon.

The prime minister was soon taking selfies with Barack Obama and being featured in a Vogue magazine spread that dubbed him the “New Young Face of Canadian Politics”.

Later, after Donald Trump was elected south of the border, a Rolling Stone cover profile wondered whether Mr Trudeau was the “free world’s best hope” – an internationalist counterpoint to the new American president, a strong voice for action on climate change, a progressive on social issues, pro-immigration.

But it’s 2019 – and voters don’t view the Trudeau Liberals the same way as they did four years ago.

Then, the country had been governed for nearly a decade by Conservative Stephen Harper and voters had grown restive.

“There was a really strong sentiment for change, to get rid of Harper, get rid of the Conservatives, and move forward,” says Western University political scientist Laura Stephenson.

Mr Trudeau’s first federal campaign was one of bold promises – to legalise recreational cannabis, to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees within weeks of taking office, to overhaul Canada’s electoral system.

Voters responded to his positive campaign and vision of Canada that was in sharp contrast to Mr Harper’s.

This week, as Mr Trudeau addressed Canadians after officially launching this federal campaign, he harkened back to that victory night – and warned of a return to “the Harper years” and what he deemed “a decade of failed Conservative policy”.

“Canadians chose a new team, ready to invest in people and their communities, a team that understood that even if we live in the best country in the world, it’s always possible to do better,” he said.

“And even though we have a huge amount of work still to do, we spent the last four years making things better, and we have the record to prove it.”

He does have a record to run on, and despite Mr Trudeau touting his government’s accomplishments, it’s mixed, notes Ms Stephenson.

The SNC-Lavalin affair – an ethics scandal early this year – took a toll on his support.

Last month an ethics watchdog found he had violated federal conflict of interest rules by improperly trying to influence a former minister in relation to a criminal trial facing major Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

In August, Angus Reid Institute tracking indicated that about 30% of Canadians approve of the job he’s done – and about 60% disapprove.

Liberal approval cratered during the height of the affair last spring, though the party has managed to claw back some support and are now running neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in national polls, suggesting for the moment a two-way race.

He will also have to defend decisions that have angered his progressive base.

Culled from BBC NEWS

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