Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Justin Trudeau's Council of Ministers is meeting in Montreal for a retreat where they will discuss the housing crisis, the middle class and Canadian-American relations.

The Trudeau team meets on retreat in Montreal

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Justin Trudeau will plan the next season of parliamentary work with his team.

  • Louis Blouin (View profile)Louis Blouin

Voice synthesis, based on artificial intelligence, makes it possible to generate a spoken text from written text.

Jostled on all sides, without considerable progress in the polls, the Trudeau team is trying to find the north in rough seas. Several Liberals believe that the government must simplify and refocus its message.

Far from view, in a room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, the ministers of Trudeau government will try to clean up their priorities and discuss strategy.

We must not be scattered all over the place, says an influential liberal on the line. We need to refocus our focus, he adds. Our source, who prefers to remain anonymous to speak freely, cites Jean Chrétien and… Stephen Harper as examples! Two leaders who were capable behind the scenes of managing a multitude of issues at the same time, but, in public, of focusing on two or three priority issues.

It's not easy to regain control of the message these days. The Liberals are on the defensive on the immigration issue. They must articulate a new strategy to confront the housing shortage and counter attacks from Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre. Justin Trudeau must also prepare for the next American presidential election, where the shadow of a return of Donald Trump looms and brings with it economic uncertainty.

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Justin Trudeau repeated last week that things had not been easy with President Trump during his first mandate, and that “if there is a second time, it won’t be easy either.”

The ministers will also be entitled to a presentation from the Canadian Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, and another from Marc-André Blanchard, of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. The latter also sat on the Canadian council of the North American Free Trade Agreement during the Trump era.

Economic experts and housing will also address the ministers.

LoadingWhat will be the effect in Quebec of the debates in English Canada on immigration?

ELSEWHERE ON INFO: What will be the effect in Quebec of the debates in English Canada on immigration?

With all these projects, the Liberals are therefore at the time of choice: what message will they hammer home between now and the next elections? After three terms, why should Canadians still vote for them?

At the moment, the Trudeau team's efforts are scattered between various social programs, the environment and reconciliation with indigenous peoples, among others. We are a little trapped by the nature of who we are, that is to say an active and activist government, a liberal explains to us.

Radio-Canada spoke with six liberal sources for this article, including elected officials and strategists.

All sources agree that housing and the cost of living must be at the heart of priorities. The next budget should include new measures in this direction. We should also expect to see Liberal elected officials increase the number of press conferences across the country to highlight residential construction projects financed with help from the federal government.

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Since its creation, the Fund to Accelerate Housing Construction has selected projects in 22 Canadian cities.

Even if some Liberal MPs believe that the party should position itself further to the right on the political spectrum to better counter Pierre Poilievre's attacks, the strategists surrounding the Prime Minister are convinced that the party must remain well anchored on the left and faithful to its progressive values. In their eyes, young people and women remain the most important groups of voters for the next elections.

Ultimately, the Liberals will have to present a clear choice to the electorate. The question at the ballot box could be, according to a Liberal source: Which government is best placed to improve the situation of Canadians?

Some are elsewhere of the opinion that the social achievements of the Liberals (notably the improvement of the Canada child benefit, the daycare program and dental care coverage) must be put forward more.

However, for the message to resonate well, it must be transmitted effectively. Several members of the Liberal family believe that communications management is the government's Achilles heel.

The Prime Minister's Office is often slow to react in a crisis situation. The reaction to the saga of foreign interference is often cited as an example.

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Despite a summer cabinet reshuffle, the Liberals have not managed to recover in the polls.

The response to Pierre Poilievre's attacks is considered weak. For example, one source believes the Liberals missed the opportunity to correct some facts about federal carbon pricing during repeated Conservative attacks.

In the message war, liberals are no match for the conservative communications machine, says a source.

We arrive with a pea shooter in an armed duel!

A quote from A liberal source

The Prime Minister's office seems to have taken notice of the problem. Hiring took place to breathe new life into the communications effort.

Max Valiquette has been named general director of communications. This marketing and data specialist has worked in the private sector and is familiar with millennials and Gen Z.

We need more consistency in our communications.

A quote from Max Valiquette, Director of Communications for the Prime Minister's Office

If the Liberals stood out for their mastery of social media in 2015, they have fallen behind since the arrival of Pierre Poilievre.

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Max Valiquette showed his political colors in 2019 when he published on social networks his intention to vote liberal federally.

In the eyes of Max Valiquette , the social media under his responsibility must become more than just a factory that relays government announcements. Rather than a list of accomplishments, strategy should focus on a broader narrative around what we have done and where we are going.

He wants to maximize the use of platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Facebook, for example. Some [platforms] are more suited to explanatory material, some are useful for announcements and others can serve as a creative channel to do something interesting and different, he explains.

Pierre Poilievre is omnipresent on X and YouTube. His message is simple: the Liberals are expensive and have made life worse for ordinary Canadians. The broadcast of what the Conservative leader calls a “new documentary” on the housing crisis has caused a lot of talk in political circles. Max Valiquette is not impressed: You're not going to see us produce unnecessarily long videos that people don't listen to until the end.

He agrees, the government must hammer home the issue of housing, but not like Pierre Poilievre. We are not going to talk about housing without presenting solutions. We are not going to talk about housing in order to confuse people or spread falsehoods and disinformation, adds the strategist, shooting an arrow at the Conservative Party.

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For months, Pierre Poilievre has been putting forward the idea that the next elections must be decided on the abolition of the carbon tax.

[Poilievre] draws on rage and he consumes a lot of oxygen, estimates Max Valiquette.

In the opinion of several liberals, the appropriate response is to attack Pierre Poilievre on its content. His positions on the environment and government support for the electric vehicle industry are seen as weak points, in particular.

Max Valiquette is aware of the challenge that awaits him: bringing all these elements together under the same umbrella and arriving at a simple and coherent message.

If the liberals have targeted certain ingredients, they still need to come up with a winning recipe.

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