After long honeymoon, Canada's Trudeau faces tough choices

Mon Sep 19, 2016 7:00am EDT
 
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has enjoyed remarkably strong opinion poll numbers since winning power in last October's election but now faces tough decisions that could dent his popularity.

Trudeau's Liberals, who quickly ran up a big budget deficit as they boosted spending to help kick-start the economy, have launched extended public consultations on several major issues.

When Parliament reconvenes on Monday, the government will have to deliver verdicts on challenging environmental and military questions.

"There are some policy issues ... that are going to be difficult to politically manage," said pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research. "The key question is: How much political capital will Justin Trudeau expend?"

A Nanos Research poll earlier this month asking who Canadians preferred as prime minister put Trudeau at 54.1 percent, compared with 16.5 percent for Rona Ambrose, interim leader of the Conservative Party.

Both main opposition parties lack permanent leaders and will not choose replacements until next year. That, say Liberals, means the time for politically risky calls is now, so voter anger can dissipate before the next election in October 2019.

Last week, Trudeau received a boost when his high-level pressuring of Chinese officials helped secure the release of Canadian Kevin Garratt, who spent two years in jail and was convicted of spying.

Ottawa is concerned about the potential blowback from decisions on projects in British Columbia, where the Liberals did better than expected in the last election, said two well-placed political sources.   Continued...