CANADA-ECON

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Oct. 23, 2019.

CANADA – Justin Trudeau is beginning his second term in a precarious position when it comes to his economic agenda.

Only 22% of Canadians showed strong confidence in the prime minister’s ability to create conditions for economic prosperity, according to a poll by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News. About 30% of respondents expressed no confidence, with 47% somewhere in between on the question.

It’s a particularly low level of trust among the electorate for a leader just coming off a fresh election victory. The result lies in stark contrast to the honeymoon-like expectations that greeted Trudeau’s rise to power four years ago, when his Liberal Party pledged to deliver economic change through deficit-financed tax cuts and benefits to the middle class.

The survey suggests Canadians may be questioning whether that doctrine — on which the Liberals doubled down during this year’s campaign — will be able to solve the nation’s biggest economic challenges and produce more growth.

“Considering we just came off a federal election, you would expect Canadians would have a lot more confidence in the winner,” said Nik Nanos, chairman of Nanos Research. “There is no real optimism the Liberals can create prosperity.”

Factoring into that concern may be Trudeau’s failure to secure a majority in parliament, forcing him to rely on smaller parties to stay in power. The situation is likely to put Trudeau on constant campaign footing with less scope to consider long-term issues, according to Nanos.

Weak expectations for the Liberal economic plan mirrors, more broadly, tepid levels for overall household confidence in Canada, which actually declined in the aftermath of the Oct. 21 election.

And while the low bar makes it easier for the Liberals to exceed expectations, it does pose a major risk: Lower confidence makes it more likely the economy gets mired in sluggish growth as businesses hold back investments and consumers pare spending.

“In 2015, there was a sense that a decision had been had been made that would propel the nation to move forward,” Nanos said. “In 2019, the outcome is indecision.”

There is a regional divide in the results of the Nanos survey, as was the case in the election that saw the Liberals lose the popular vote as the party’s support in western Canada tanked. No Liberal lawmakers were elected in either Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Only 14% of people in those two energy producing provinces plus Manitoba have confidence in the government’s ability to create prosperity, compared with 26% in Quebec and 28% in Ontario. Quebec is the only province where confidence levels were net positive.

The results are based on a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,017 Canadians, between Oct. 27 and Oct. 30, and have a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Respondents were asked to rank their confidence levels on a scale of 1 to 10, with scores of 8 or more considered a marker of confidence and scores of 3 or less considered a signal of no confidence. The mean score in the survey was 5.2.

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