Canada has a new prime minister, and a dynasty, Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal Party rode to a sweeping victory Monday evening, Oct. 19, 2015, winning a majority government in Canada’s 42nd Federal Election. The Liberals beat outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s Conservative Party, winning 184 ridings out of 338 seats, 14 more than the 170 needed to earn a majority government in Canada’s parliamentary system. Harper’s party, the Tories won only 99 ridings and will now be the official opposition, as Harper intends to step down as the Conservative leader. Left in the dust is Canada’s third-party in the three-way race, former opposition party the National Democratic Party led by Thomas Mulcair who only won 44 seats. Quebec’s separatist party the Bloc Quebecois only won 10 seats with leader Gilles Duceppe losing his riding.
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Trudeau, the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, becomes the second youngest elected prime minister, at 43. Conservative Joe Clark was the youngest having being elected just shy of his 40th birthday. Ironically, Clark beat Trudeau father, Pierre Elliot Trudeau who served as prime minister for 16 non-consecutive years “from April 20, 1968, to June 4, 1979, and then “from March 3, 1980, to June 30, 1984.” Trudeau’s election creates the first political dynasty in Canada, with father and son holding the premiership. Presidential and political dynasties have become something all too familiar in the US with the father and son presidencies of the Adams, and Bushes and political dynasties such as the Roosevelts and the Kennedys.
The election was the big change Trudeau campaigned on; in 2011 the Liberals only won 34 seats and was in third place missing on at least being the opposition for the first time in Canada’s history. Before the election, Harper’s Conservative party held 159 seats, Mulcair’s NDP were the official opposition with 95 seats, Trudeau’s Liberals had 36 seats, Gilles Duceppe’s The Bloc Quebecois had 2 seats, and Elizabeth May’s Green party had 1 seat. The Liberal Party won “39.5 percent of the popular vote,” the Conservatives, 31.9 percent, while the NDP “dropped to 19.7 percent.” Voter turnout was the highest since 1993, that brought in another Liberal wave and majority government under Jean Chretien. Over 17 million Canadians voted, amounting to 68.5 percent of the 25.6 million eligible to vote.
The campaign one of the longest for a federal election lasted, 11 weeks and 78 days, and the candidates combined made “over 300 campaign stops” focusing on the most populous areas of Canada, Southern Quebec and Ontario and the Vancouver area in British Columbia. Trudeau benefitted from the longer campaign in which the more he talked, the more the public responded to his positive message of a “real change now” after 10 years of Harper and his Conservative Party. On election night, Trudeau managed to turn the election map Liberal red in all the country’s major cities.
The tide turned for the Liberals during the second half of the campaign as the Conservatives and NDP faltered on foreign policy, immigration and economic issues. The Liberals focused on economic issues and the middle class, promising to reduce taxes from those who make less than 200,000 a year, and replacing the universal child-care benefit with a child benefit based on earnings, and rolling back the eligibility age for old age security and guaranteed income supplement back to 65. The Liberals promised to increase spending and adding a small deficit if necessary to cover new programs to boost the economy.
Trudeau’s strong showing in the debates helped, especially defending his father’s legacy at the Munk Debates at the end of September. Trudeau stood up for his father, saying, “Throughout this campaign, in indirect references and direct references, both of these gentlemen have, at various points, attacked my father. Let me say very clearly, I’m incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son. And I’m incredibly lucky to be raised with those Liberal values.”
Trudeau continued his positive message in his victory speech given at his campaign’s Montreal, Quebec headquarters. Trudeau expressed, “Sunny ways my friends. Sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do.” Trudeau also espoused his message of change, “time for change in this country my friends. Real change.” Trudeau’s borrowing of President Barack Obama’s change slogan from 2008 benefitted the even younger and charismatic Trudeau who attracted the middle class and Canadian youth. Trudeau evoked the historic numbers of ridings won, saying, “I didn’t make history tonight, you did. And don’t let anyone tell you any differently.” Alluding to his main rival Harper, Trudeau pointed out “We beat fear with hope. We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”
Harper’s Conservatives faced stunning defeats after a tenure filled with the Senate expense scandal, the Anti-terrorism Act that threatened human and civil rights, a faltering economy and a new recession. There was also divisive campaign rhetoric that attacked Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS and the Muslim religious minority in the country over the niqab, the religious headdress with Harper promising to “ban on the garment during citizenship ceremonies.”
Some of Harper’s most visible cabinet ministers were defeated as CBC pointed out they included, “Finance Minister Joe Oliver in Toronto, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea in P.E.I., Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt in New Brunswick and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander in the Greater Toronto Area.” Alexander was deemed at fault for the terrorist laws and refusing at first to let in Syrian refugees. The Conservatives saw a defeat of former Defense Minister Peter MacKay’s former riding in Central Nova Scotia, a seat he held until 1997. In fact, the Conservatives lost their entire foothold over Atlantic Canada where the Liberal swept all the ridings.
Harper mentioned nothing of his future political plans in his concession speech at his campaign headquarters in Calgary, Alberta Monday evening. The tone was that of a farewell, Harper expressed, “It has been an unbelievable honour to serve as your prime minister.” The outgoing prime minister, however, graciously accepted his defeated that was not unexpected considering the party struggled throughout the campaign in the polls. Harper said, “While tonight’s result is certainly not the one we had hoped for the people are never wrong.”
Harper was going for an unprecedented fourth term; the press had been calling his 10-year tenure a reign. Harper touted his record, “We have built a Canada that is stronger than ever,” Harper added. “Our economy is growing, and new jobs are being created, the budget is balanced, and federal taxes are at their lowest in 50 years.” The prime minister accepted responsibility for his party’s losses, “The disappointment you feel is my responsibility and mine alone.”
Only later in the evening did a statement come from the Conservative Party President John Walsh, who said Harper “has instructed me to reach out to the newly elected parliamentary caucus to appoint an Interim Leader and to the National Council to implement the leadership selection process.” Harper plans to keep his seat in the newly redrawn riding of Calgary Heritage, Harper held the seat of Calgary West since 1993. Outgoing Defence Minister Jason Kenney also from Calgary is long seen as Harper’s successor to lead the Conservative Party.
Equally stunning in their defeat was Mulcair’s NDP, who slip back to third place in the party rankings winning only 44 seats. Their biggest losses were in Quebec where they lost 50 seats. The NDP started the campaign leading the polls but faced two major missteps. At the end of August Mulcair promised to increase spending while maintaining a balanced budget, and then opposed the opposition of the Niqab at citizenship ceremonies, promising to ban it only for identification purposes. The ban was popular in Quebec and help attribute to Mulcair’s falling poll numbers and widespread losses in the province. The problem was so deep Mulcair nearly lost his seat in Outremont in Montreal. Mulcair intends to stay on as party leader and in his concession speech promised, “With this election, Canadians have asked to us all work for them. We will not let them down.”
The reception from the world over Trudeau’s election showed more excitement than Canada, where wounds from the divisive campaign still need to heal. It was Trudeaumania all over, the same excitement that enthralled the Canada and the world over his father’s personality, charisma, looks, youth, and even more young wife and young family.Trudeau has often compared to the US’ fallen President John F. Kennedy. Trudeau was far trendier, dating actresses including Barbra Streisand and later Margot Kidder and as the AP noted he partied with the Rolling Stones and at New York’s Studio 54 and faced his marital woes in the headlines.
Canadians remember Trudeau more for his policies dealing with a rebelling separatist, sovereignist Quebec, multiculturism, bilingualism, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, patriation of the Canadian constitution separating its laws from parent Great Britain, but also increasing the power of the federal government and presiding over a faltering economy. Trudeau is still considered one of the country’s greatest prime ministers.
Major media outlets focused on the political dynasty and Trudeau’s life as the child of a prime minister as opposed to his campaign policies. Among the notable international headlines in the mainstream press, The New York Times wrote “Justin Trudeau, following in his father’s footsteps.” CNN called Trudeau’s election the “Beginnings of a dynasty?” recounting Trudeau as “The son of Pierre Trudeau and scion of Canada’s first, nascent political dynasty.” The Associated Press meanwhile commented that Trudeau “channels the star power – if not quite the political heft – of his father, who swept to power in 1968 on a wave of support dubbed Trudeaumania.” In the UK, the Guardian said the Trudeau was “almost literally born into the role of prime minister.”
For some, the election was the public’s first exposure to Trudeau, and social media seemed more preoccupied with his good looks rather than anything else. Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “He is the photogenic son of a former prime minister whose abs and biceps have graced charity boxing matches.” The UK tabloid The Mirror had a headline asking “Is Justin Trudeau the sexiest politician in the world?” while online siteMashable’s headline was “The internet is sweating maple syrup over Canada’s Justin Trudeau.”Even the legitimate US media could not help but take a crack at Trudeau’s looks. The New York Times noted, “Tall and athletic, Mr. Trudeau boxes once or twice a week.” While NBC News’ headline was “Meet Justin Trudeau: Canada’s Liberal, Boxing, Strip-Teasing New PM.”
Trudeau is both sides that international media tried to portray him as the son of a prime minister, a legacy, a dynasty, while also the good looking young athlete, and as some on social media are designating as “hot.” Trudeau was born on Dec. 25, 1971, only the second child born to a sitting prime minister, the eldest son of the elder Trudeau and his young bride Margret Sinclair. His destiny seemed to be written in the stars from his birth. At a 1972 state dinner in Ottawa, then President Richard Nixon toasted, “I’d like to toast the future prime minister of Canada: to Justin Pierre Trudeau.”
Trudeau grew in the public eye, but his eulogy for his father in September 2000 first sparked serious talk of his political future. Quebec politician Claude Ryan called the speech “perhaps […] the first manifestation of a dynasty.” In a time before YouTube, the CBC received requests to repeat the speech, and listed it as one of the “significant Canadian events from the past fifty years.” A graduate of both McGill University and the University of British Columbia, Trudeau was a teacher and an activist, who also pursued graduate work at McGill before leaving for a political career.
Trudeau was first elected to the Papineau riding in Montreal in the 2008 federal election, won reelection in 2011 before being tapped as the favorite to succeed as the Liberal Party’s leader, winning the leadership race in April 2013. Trudeau did participate in a political charity boxing match in 2012 against disgraced Canadian Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau, in which he won all three rounds. His bare-chested photo displaying his tattoo on bicep has become the most posted image of the prime minister designate on social media. Trudeau hopes his historic win on Monday night will mark the beginning of another chapter of his life where he is remembered more than anything for being a great prime minister lauded in the history books just as his father is remembered.