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Trudeau at at press conference on the SNC-Lavalin case. Photo: Dave Chan/Getty Images

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada got some bad news at a very bad time.

The big picture: Trudeau was already in danger of losing October's general election — polls show his Liberals in a dead heat with the Conservatives. Yesterday, the biggest scandal of his tenure burst back into the spotlight.

Flashback: The scandal began in February with a Globe and Mail report that Trudeau’s aides pressured Canada’s former attorney general to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin. The engineering giant faced corruption charges over past dealings with the Gadhafi regime in Libya.

  • The minister in question, Jody Wilson-Raybould, had been demoted and later resigned. More resignations followed the news. The ensuing uproar was disastrous for Trudeau’s reputation, but slowly faded to the background.
  • That was until Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled yesterday that Trudeau violated ethics regulations by intervening in the case.
  • Trudeau insists that he was merely “standing up for Canadians jobs.” It's true that many were at stake; if convicted, SNC-Lavalin would have been banned from government contracts for 10 years.
  • But that argument didn’t convince voters back in February, when the Liberals “lost about 10–12 points almost overnight,” says Darrell Bricker of Ipsos Public Affairs.

Why it matters: Bricker says the SNC-Lavalin affair is now the dominant issue in a campaign that will ultimately be a referendum on Trudeau.

"The No. 1 asset that the Liberals have going for them is Justin Trudeau. He is their brand. It’s not a great place to be starting an election campaign from.”

The flipside: Trudeau’s main opponent, former parliamentary speaker Andrew Scheer, is hoping to capitalize. He called Trudeau's actions "unforgivable."

  • Scheer cuts a low profile. While his proposals so far have been relatively moderate, Bricker says, “there’s a lack of awareness about who he is or what he stands for.”
  • “The narrative the Liberals are pushing hard is that he becomes ‘Trump North,’ or more accurately Doug Ford at the federal level.” Ford is the populist, right-wing, and deeply controversial premier of Ontario.

What to watch: While Scheer’s political identity is still taking shape, Trudeau’s has been called into question.

  • “If there’s a word that describes the last 4 years and Justin Trudeau’s performance, I think generally that would be ‘disappointment,’” Bricker says.
  • The big question, Bricker continues, is whether the scandal is already "factored in" for voters. If so, Trudeau’s skills as a campaigner put him in a strong position to win. If not, "he’s in really big trouble.”

The bottom line: Bricker says the rock star image — magazine covers, viral videos — that Trudeau projects globally was embraced by Canadians 4 years ago. Now, many view him as out of touch or unserious.

"The picture is the same. He’s always done the same thing. What’s changed is how people look at him now."

Go deeper

Updated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

Report: U.S. Latinos near 50% homeownership rate

Real estate broker Alex Betances sits in front of a home in Reading, Pa. Photo: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Image

Latinos increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.

Why it matters: The Hispanic Wealth Project found that the homeownership rate grew despite the lack of diversified financial assets among Latinos and around 15% who still live below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four).