Yesterday Trudeau spoke on the allegations by Judy Wilson-Reyboud. Rather than helping, he did exactly what one should not do when something like this happens. Instead of accepting responsibility and promising it won’t happen again, he just makes excuses. This comes across as someone who is arrogant and out of touch. People don’t expect politicians to be perfect and understand politicians sometimes make mistakes, but they expect them to show humility. I remember in 2003 when Gordon Campbell was busted for drunk driving in Hawaii. This was an actual criminal offence so in many ways more serious and could have been a career ender. Instead of denying it or making excuses, he fessed up admitted it was a mistake and promised not to do it again. As a result his approval rating actually went up and in the subsequent election this was never once raised during the campaign. That is the proper way to handle such thing.
As for what impact this will have on public opinion, it is tough to say and more importantly whatever short term impact may not necessarily play out in October. It certainly doesn’t help Trudeau, but it is not necessarily fatal. Other issues will come up and more importantly if it looks like the Tories have a good shot at winning, Scheer will come under increased scrutiny and if people decide he is more risky than Trudeau, many might plug their noses and vote for Trudeau. Likewise even if it has no impact immediately, that doesn’t mean it won’t on election day as there is still more to this and more importantly if the opposition is able to tie it into some greater narrative of why Trudeau needs to be defeated it could be more damaging than initial polls suggest. With increasing polarization, I don’t think you will see a massive swing. After all while 10 point drops in one week are not unheard of, usually they only happen when a party has sky high numbers to begin with thus the drop is more of a correction. This happened with Trudeau’s Aga Khan vacation in December 2016, Brad Wall’s austerity budget in spring 2017, and to Paul Martin when sponsorship scandal first came out in early 2004 (note he was at 50% before, fell to high 30s). But Trudeau’s numbers are not sky high and so most Liberal voters now are hardcore as opposed to soft ones. Still due to the way our first past the post system works, you don’t need a big swing in votes to inflict serious damage. After all Trudeau only beat Harper by 7.6% yet got almost double the number of seats so even a small drop in support can cost a party a lot of seats. This is off course both good and bad news for the government. Good news in that they can still recover, bad news in that the damage could be quite bad at the polls if they don’t.