CANADIAN voters have reclaimed their country’s liberal identity, sending Justin Trudeau to the prime minister’s office and ending ten years of conservative leadership under Stephen Harper.
The victory in Monday’s election by Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party was stunning. The Liberals were on a path to win at least 184 seats out of 338 – a parliamentary majority that will allow Mr Trudeau, son of one of the country’s most dynamic politicians, to govern without relying on other parties.
The Liberals received 39.5 per cent of the overall vote compared to 32 per cent for the Conservatives and 19.6 per cent for the New Democrats.
Mr Harper, one of the longest serving Western leaders, will step down as Conservative leader, the party announced as the scope of its loss became apparent.
Mr Trudeau’s victory could result in improved ties with the United States, at least for the remainder of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Mr Harper was frustrated by Obama’s reluctance to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas and clashed with the president on other issues, including the Iran nuclear deal.
Although Mr Trudeau supports the Keystone pipeline, he argues that relations should not hinge on the project.
Mr Trudeau is the son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who swept to office in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed “Trudeaumania”. He was prime minister until 1984 with a short interruption and remains one of the few Canadian politicians known in America, his charisma often drawing comparisons with John F Kennedy. Mr Trudeau channels the star power – if not quite the political heft – of his father. Tall and trim, he is a former schoolteacher and member of parliament since 2008. At 43, he becomes the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history and has been likened to Mr Obama.
“Canada is becoming the country it was before,” Mr Trudeau told a victory rally in Montreal.
Mr Trudeau has re-energised the Liberal Party since its worst electoral defeat four years ago when they won just 34 seats and finished third behind the traditionally weaker New Democrat Party. He promises to raise taxes on the rich and run deficits for three years to boost government spending.
Mr Trudeau said: “We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”
Canada shifted right under Mr Harper, who lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation, and strongly supported the oil and gas extraction industry.