Canada: Polls Show Conservatives Beating Justin Trudeau After Blackface Scandal

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a press conference, on the second day of t
Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty, TIME; Edit: BNN

Polls published this weekend following the revelation Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has enjoyed wearing blackface on multiple occasions show the Conservative Party with a slight lead in a tight race that had until now was anyone’s to win.

Trudeau appears to have lost a significant number of voters to the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP), rather than the conservatives, but the loss has improved the Conservatives’ position heading into the October 21 election.

A poll released Saturday by Nanos Research, sponsored in part by Canada’s Globe and Mail, found conservatives with 36.8 percent of the vote, nearly five points ahead of the liberals at 32 percent, the largest gap between the two parties since Canada allowed them to legally begin campaigning in mid-September. The NDP stands currently at 14 percent.

Respondents were polled beginning on September 18, the day that Time magazine published an image of Trudeau in black body paint and a giant turban at an “Arabian Nights” theme party in 2001, when he was 29 years old. By the morning of September 19, various media outlets had published two photos of Trudeau in blackface on separate occasions and an undated video of him in blackface wearing an afro wig.

“The next few days will be critical to Trudeau as he attempts to stop the trend which favors the Conservatives,” Nik Nanos, the founder of Nanos Research, told the Globe and Mail. “At the same time, expect Canadians to focus more on Scheer as a potential prime minister.”

The Liberals’ very slight lead against the conservatives “evaporated almost overnight,” Frank Graves of EKOS Research told Reuters on Monday.

Nanos’ daily tracking showed a significant dip in support for the Liberals on the first day the images were published. The biggest gap of support on any single day occurred on Friday, when the Conservatives polled at 37 percent and Trudeau’s Liberals at 31 percent. The NDP received a modest two-point bump immediately after the photos became public, but it appears to have been enough to bridge the margin of error between the two main parties.

Trudeau has issued two apologies since the first image of him in racist face paint, in the latter blaming his “layers of white privilege” for not being able to understand how blackface is racist. Asked multiple times if there are more images of him in blackface in existence, Trudeau refused to say, insisting he was “wary” of putting a number on the times he had worn blackface because he had done it so many times that he did not remember them all.

Trudeau is attempting to rehabilitate himself with radical anti-gun proposals and has told reporters that he is reaching out to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to apologize to him personally for wearing blackface. Singh is the first Sikh leader of a major Canadian political party and expressed concern for Canadians of color following the revelations of Trudeau’s racism.

“Imagine what that would feel like if you’ve gone through pain in your life, if you’ve been treated differently, if you’ve faced insults, if you’ve faced physical violence because of the way you look, if you’ve been treated differently by the police, if you’ve faced systemic barriers – and then to see the prime minister making light of that. How would someone feel living in this country?” Singh said last week following the publication of the Trudeau photos. “I can tell you that it hurts.”

Singh did not seem especially enthusiastic about receiving a personal apology from Trudeau.

“I don’t want to be used as a tool to exonerate Mr. Trudeau. I don’t want to be a part of a PR process to say he checked off these boxes and, look, he made this call, and he’s all good. I don’t want to be a part of that,” Singh said on Saturday, saying he had told Trudeau he would only accept a conversation with him in private.

Trudeau has refused to step aside after the scandal and his subordinates in the Liberal Party have gone to significant lengths to defend him.

“He makes me proud to be a Canadian,” Javid Mirza, a Liberal Party candidate and head of the Muslims Association of Hamilton, said of Trudeau, according to the CBC. Mirza added that much of the outrage against Trudeau comes from “white folks, and no disrespect to white folks, but I think we get it.”

“Think about it this way, he gave me the responsibility to be the minister of national defence, one of the most powerful institutions in our society,” Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, the first Sikh to hold the office, said last week, arguing that Trudeau had “sincerely apologized.”

“Everything I’ve seen whether it’s been behind closed doors, in public in private, in non-official settings, is a Justin Trudeau that is very tolerant,” Liberal Party candidate Randeep Sarai similarly told CTV. “I don’t think anyone else has ever done [an apology] as sincere as he has in a situation like this.”

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