Trudeau addresses internal grumblings as cabinet retreat wraps in Charlottetown

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday it’s “totally natural” for Canadians to look for someone to blame for their economic woes, even as he defended his government’s record as he gears up for the fall sitting of Parliament.

“I think Canadians are really worried and looking at blaming anyone they can for it, and that’s totally natural and totally right,”  Trudeau said during the final day of a cabinet retreat on Prince Edward Island.

“The question Canadians are also asking is, are we going to be able to fix it?  Are we going to be able to get through this as a country? My answer is, absolutely.”

Trudeau also addressed grumbling coming from inside his caucus suggesting some MPs are not happy with the party’s positions on certain issues. According to recent media reports, some Liberal MPs worry that voters have grown tired of Trudeau and believe their government is out of touch with Canadians’ concerns about the cost of living.

“Yeah, people are facing tough times, and yes, everyone is finding it difficult right now. And as leaders, MPs, parliamentarians of all types, part of our job is to be there to take it, to support it as Canadians are worried and anxious, and put out those solutions,” said Trudeau.

“So yeah, it’s not an easy time to be a politician.”

Those backbench concerns are also reflected in recent polling, which has had Trudeau’s Liberals trailing the Conservatives throughout the summer.

Reversing those fortunes was one of the main goals of the three-day cabinet retreat in Charlottetown, which comes to an end Wednesday. Housing was the main focus of the retreat — an issue on which critics and some MPs say the Liberals’ aren’t resonating with voters.

While Trudeau said his government will “need to ensure more housing is built,” he and his cabinet are leaving the Island without committing to any new initiatives.

Trudeau contrasts style against Poilievre’s

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has been quick to seize on the opening presented by voters’ economic anxieties. He spent the summer arguing Canadians should blame Trudeau for things like the state of the housing market and the high cost of food.

Trudeau used his closing news conference Wednesday to try to contrast his leadership with Poilievre’s approach and accused the Conservative leader of whipping up anger.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 21, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

“The question … as politicians remains, what do we do when people are upset? How do we respond when people are fearful for their future, worried about their kid’s prosperity? Worried about their ability to pay their rent or buy groceries? What does leadership mean when people are hurting?” he said.

“Canadians are struggling, Canadians are worried, and they’re seeing two different approaches to leadership right now, one that mirrors back that frustration and amplifies it or one that recognizes that, yeah, times are really tough for a whole lot of people right now, But we’re going to keep rolling up our sleeves and bringing forward the best possible solutions because Canadians can get through this.”

Poilievre later shot back during a news conference in Ottawa, accusing Trudeau of missing the bigger picture.

“Justin Trudeau is worried that people are angry. You know what I worry about? I worry about the nurse living in her van after eight years of Trudeau,” he said.

“People aren’t angry, they are hurting and they are desperate for someone who gives them hope. And for so many millions of people, I am humbled by the fact that I am that person. I am the only one giving them hope that things can get better.”

Poilievre urged the prime minister to recall Parliament early to tackle housing concerns. The House of Commons is scheduled to resume on Sept. 18.

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