Justin Trudeau plays down polls and the 'politics of fear'

Justin Trudeau says he won't let recent polls showing his party in third place rattle him or shake his confidence in the Liberals' 32-point "Real Change" plan he unveiled in Ottawa earlier this week.

Liberal leader talks on The House about his open government plan and the 'Mulcair moment'

Federal Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau says he isn't alarmed by recent polls showing his party's slide in support amongst Canadians. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he is not rattled by recent polls showing a Liberal slide in support amongst Canadians.

"We're only in the early days of the federal election, the writ hasn't even dropped yet," he said on CBC Radio's The House. "People are focused on their summers. They're really going to start engaging and paying attention once Labour Day comes around, so what we're focused on very much is getting our message out."​

A new poll by the Angus Reid Institute shows the Liberals trailing in third place with 23 per cent of decided support among likely voters, while the Conservatives are at 33 per cent and the New Democrats lead with 36 per cent. An EKOS Politics poll, also out this week, showed the Liberals have the lowest level of support they have had since Trudeau became leader in 2013.

But Trudeau says he isn't putting much faith in the pollsters, declaring a "Mulcair moment" amidst falling support for the Liberals. Tom Mulcair is leader of the federal NDP.

"Polls will go up and down," he said.

C-51 amendments promised

The Liberal leader also defended his party's support of Bill C-51, the government's touted — and controversial — anti-terror bill, which was opposed by the NDP.

The bill giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart suspected terrorist plots passed through the Senate last week and received royal assent Thursday.

Justin Trudeau says he won't let recent polls showing his party in third place rattle him or shake his confidence in the Liberals' 32-point "Real Change" plan he unveiled in Ottawa earlier this week.

"It was a decision we took in unanimous consensus in the caucus that we weren't going to play attack or divisive politics with C-51," Trudeau said, dismissing theories that Liberal support of C-51 is a factor behind the party's decline in the polls.

"What I've pledged to not do from the very beginning is to pander to the politics of fear and divisiveness," he said, acknowledging that public reaction against the bill has been strong.

"There's an awful lot of people who have gotten to the point where they're so worried about the direction Mr. Harper has taken this country," he said. "That's a worry that I totally understand and actually share."

That's why, if elected, the Liberals would amend the bill and repeal certain sections, he added, including a provision allowing for warrantless searches and surveillance of Canadians.

"There's a number of things … we will have more to say in the coming weeks," Trudeau promised. 

He also took a dig at one of his opponents, saying he won't attack Mulcair's stance on C-51 even if the NDP leader criticizes him.

"Mr. Mulcair can say what he likes about my position. I will not pretend that because he voted against measures that increase security for Canadians that I think he somehow doesn't care about Canadians' safety and security. I know that's not true," he said.

The 'Real Change' plan

In the wide-ranging interview on The House, Trudeau expanded upon parts of his 32-point "Real Change" plan unveiled earlier this week in Ottawa

Highlights included:

  • A commitment to a prime minister's question period where, as prime minister, Trudeau would answer questions from all MPs rather than just party leaders. "It demonstrates a prime minister who is more aware of all the files, but also much more engaged with questions and criticisms," he said, adding his attendance in question period would go up. "Yes, absolutely. Because what happens in the House would be a lot more relevant," he told The House host Chris Hall.
  • A promise to put the future of Canada Post's home delivery back on the table, but no solid costing plan yet. "We're going to work with Canada Post and Canadians and provinces and specifically municipalities," Trudeau said.
  • A plan to consult Canadians and conduct studies over 18 months on various voting systems for electoral reform. "I don't think that any political party should be putting forward one specific solution," the Liberal leader said, explaining why he voted against the NDP's motion for a mixed member proportional representation system last December.
  • A commitment to cleaning up the Senate, but not abolishing it. "What [the NDP] is actually talking about is 10 years of digging into constitutional negotiations with the provinces," he said. "When I sit down with the provinces, I want to talk about jobs and climate change and the future of our kids. If we remove partisanship and political patronage and bring in transparency and accountability to the Senate, it's an institution that will change in fundamental ways and be better able to serve Canadians."