May 24, 2024
What Trudeau’s podcast appearances say about the Liberals’ next ballot box question

What Trudeau’s podcast appearances say about the Liberals’ next ballot box question


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows Canadians aren’t listening.


He knows his defence against Conservative attacks over his signature climate policy isn’t working, at least not yet.


But he plans to keep trying. And while he’s at it, his office is trying something new to get the Liberal government’s message out.


Trudeau recently appeared on four podcasts as he travels the country talking up the Liberals’ latest budget, which he’s pitching as a plan to inject more economic fairness into society for those under 40 — a cohort that has kept Trudeau in power since 2015 but is increasingly turning to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.


The interviews vary widely in substance and length — from 30 minutes to nearly an hour — and the podcasts reach very different audiences.


At one end of the spectrum, Vox’s “Today, Explained” is broadcast across U.S. public radio stations.


The other is YXE Underground, which focuses on the stories of Saskatoon’s unsung community leaders.


The prime minister’s availability to such a smaller market came as a surprise: when Trudeau’s team initially reached out, the show’s host thought it was a scam and deleted the email.


As Trudeau tries to reignite the support of millennial and Gen-Z Canadians, he is opening up about more than just policy and his political challenges.


The Canadian Press listened to the string of interviews to get a sense of Trudeau’s thinking, as the clock ticks down to the next federal election.


Trudeau’s commitment to fighting climate change through consumer carbon pricing is a major theme.


Poilievre and the majority of premiers pummelled Trudeau leading up to a long-scheduled increase to the levy on April 1, which added about three cents to the cost of a litre of gas. They argued the Liberals were badly exacerbating the cost of living.


“When (the) gas price goes up by 20 cents people say, ‘Oh it’s the carbon tax,'” despite it only accounting for three cents, Trudeau told The Big Story.


“And we actually increased the carbon rebates at the same time,” he said.


“The context is people are looking for things to be frustrated about, because they’re feeling frustrated, and it’s a very easy target.”


While the anti-carbon price message may be winning the day, Trudeau is banking on a belief that that will change come election time.


“Right now, we’re a long way from an election. It’s easy for people to be frustrated about a whole bunch of different things. My choice as leader is, ‘OK, do I bow down to that even though I think it’s wrong?'” said Trudeau.


“I think people are wrong to be worried about this. I understand why they are.”


In the meantime, he is launching frequent attacks at Poilievre, who has promised to use “technology, not taxes” to tackle climate change, for the lack of an actual plan.


And he keeps talking about how Canadians end up getting their money back through rebates, with the lowest income earners benefiting the most — though he admitted he must “patiently wait” for the message to land.


“Nobody’s actually hearing that yet,” the prime minister said.


“But I will keep saying it and keep showing it so that by the time a year-and-a-half comes and people make a choice, they will be more informed about what the alternative is.”


If he simply wanted to do what was popular he would take a different path, Trudeau said.


But that would come at a cost.


It would mean the time he spent away from his kids and what his family sacrificed during his time in politics “won’t have been worth it,” he said, his voice cracking with a hint of emotion.


Polling over the past year has shown the Liberals consistently and significantly behind Poilievre’s Conservatives. Recent surveys taken after the release of the federal budget don’t show any sign of a turnaround.


Speaking to Vox, Trudeau characterized the challenge ahead in the context of a broader fight against the rise of populist and authoritarian leaders.


“Democracy is definitely under threat,” he said.


He took pains to characterize it as a ballot box question when Canadians next head to the polls, a contest that is slated to take place by October 2025 at the latest.


“Canadians are going to have to choose over the next year-and-a-half what kind of country we are,” Trudeau said.


“Are we a country that believes in evidence and science? Are we a country that looks out for each other and believes that government has a role to play in making sure that people are protected, that the world works responsibly?”


Or, Trudeau went on, “Do you go down a path of amplifying anger, division and fear, government gets out of the way and lets people fend for themselves?”


He said, as he has said before, that he is ready for that fight.


But when it’s time to lay down arms, he told Freakonomics Radio, he plans to return to his roots.


“I’d still be a teacher,” he said. “I will look to teach again in one way, shape or form.”


Trudeau also addressed a French-language interview he gave last month in which he said he thought about quitting every day. One comment was translated into English as, “It’s a crazy job I’m doing.”


He told the podcast host that his description of his role in French was better translated as “a job for crazy people.”


When it comes to his personal life, Trudeau said he remains Catholic and faith is a part of who he is, “even though I probably haven’t done as good a job at passing that on to my kids as a good Catholic should.”


And while the prime minister who legalized cannabis said he’s tried weed before, “it’s never been my thing.”


He’s more of a “beer and bourbon kind of guy,” and “even then, not too much.”


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2024.  

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