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Canadians uneasy about Trudeau’s handling of economy, poll suggests

Pollster Nik Nanos.

The Globe and Mail

Nik Nanos is The Globe and Mail's pollster and chairman of Nanos Research

One key to the success of the Liberals in the last federal election was that it effectively captured the change vote – largely positioning itself as a positive sunny way compared to the previous Harper government. Almost a year into their mandate, has this sunny political contagion spread to Canadians?

The Liberals remain positive but a Nanos survey done in the May before the last federal election and then again this summer, suggests that Canadians are in a not-so-sunny mood.

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The Nanos survey looks at the importance of a series of issues and also the confidence Canadians have in governments finding solutions. Confidence does not relate to a specific government but just confidence in general.

The research suggests that on many of the big issues Canadians have less confidence under the current Liberal government than the Conservative government they just ousted.

On the economic front, the confidence in investing in infrastructure is up and confidence in creating jobs is about the same under both governments but Canadians are less confident now than under the Conservatives when it comes to having trade policies that encourage investment, being energy self-sufficient or in balancing the budget.

On the safety front (read the poll here), confidence in keeping communities safe, fighting terrorism and in protecting the border are all down.

This is in contrast to improving the quality of life of First Nations peoples on reserves, protecting the environment and encouraging Canadian culture where confidence has increased under the Liberals.

There are a series of key takeaways from the Nanos tracking.

First, that on many of the big files related to the economy and safety, Canadians have a lower level of confidence under the Trudeau government than the Harper government. The key positive outliers in confidence under the Liberals relate to the environment, First Nations and infrastructure. So it's not quite sunshine everywhere.

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Second, one should not confuse the generally positive disposition of the government and think that average Canadians are basking in the sunny ways of the new Liberal government. That is clearly not the case on a series of issues.

Third, with the economy uncertain and our major allies in turmoil – one – the U.K. – navigating through the uncertainty of the Brexit and another – the U.S. – tearing itself apart in a divisive presidential race – one shouldn't think that the ugliness of political discourse in other places cannot take place in Canada. Canadians are not likely taking a collectively smug sigh – thinking that can't happen here. The real lesson is not the irrationality of voters but more the mistruths that those seeking a political win are prepared to utter.

Fourth, for the opposition parties, trying to out-"sunny way" the Liberals is not likely a winning political strategy. The alternative is to try to do what the Brexiteers and the Trump Nation do. Fight hard, be loud, say what is necessary to win. We have witnessed a glimmer of this in the nascent Conservative leadership race.

The one certainty, for now, is that the majority federal government mandate makes Canada a potential sunny outlier for the next four years, assuming the Liberals stick to their positive ways and leave the nastiness to other parties.

A look at the numbers, however, suggests that there is unease among Canadians and perhaps a little more edginess than some are willing to acknowledge.

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