Liberals script stunning win in Canada

The nine-year reign of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party came to a sudden and stunning end on Monday night at the hands of Justin Trudeau, the young leader of the Liberal Party.

Starting with a sweep of the Atlantic Provinces, the Liberals capitalised on what many Canadians saw as Mr. Harper’s heavy-handed style, and the party went on to capture 184 of the 338 seats in the next House of Commons. The unexpected rout occurred 47 years after Mr. Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, first swept to power.

Mr. Justin Trudeau, who will be 44 on Christmas Day, will become Canada’s second-youngest Prime Minister and the first to follow a parent into office.

While the Liberal Party had emerged on top in several polls over the past week, its lead was short of conclusive. Mr. Justin Trudeau was an untested figure. There was no ambiguity, however, in Monday’s results.

The Conservatives were reduced to 99 seats from 159 in the last Parliament, according to preliminary results. The New Democratic Party, which had held second place and formed the official opposition, held onto only 44 seats after suffering substantial losses in Quebec to the Liberals.

“More than a hundred years ago a great Prime Minister, Wilfrid Laurier, talked about sunny ways, he knew that politics can be a positive force and that is the message Canadians sent today,” Mr. Justin Trudeau told supporters in Montreal. “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways, this is what positive politics can do.”

Speaking in Calgary, Mr. Harper conceded defeat but vowed to supporters that the Conservatives would rise again.

“The disappointment you all so feel, is my responsibility and mine alone,” he said. While Mr. Harper made no mention of his plans, the Conservative Party issued a statement saying that he had resigned as its leader.

The election became something of a referendum on Mr. Harper’s approach to government, which, in the view of his critics, has often focused on issues important to core Conservative supporters, mostly in the West, rather than to much of the population.

Dominic LeBlanc, a prominent Liberal member of Parliament who was handily re-elected in New Brunswick, attributed the party’s extraordinary revival, following a period during when many people forecast its extinction, to Mr. Justin Trudeau, who became the party’s leader in 2013.

The focus of the campaign fluttered among issues, including a scandal over Conservative senators’ expenses; antiterrorism measures Harper introduced; pensions; the stagnation of the economy brought about by plunging oil prices; the government’s handling of refugees; the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact; and Harper’s attempts to ban the wearing of face veils known as niqabs during citizenship ceremonies.

Following in his father’s footsteps

Born in Ottawa on December 25, 1971, to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister at the time, and the former Margaret Sinclair, Mr. Justin Trudeau grew up in the spotlight of his father’s political career. His childhood, he said in an interview in 2013, was a mix of privilege and the plebeian. He lived at the Prime Minister’s official residence and took a school bus to a public elementary school in Ottawa.

“I knew that the challenge I would be facing all my life would be having people think that I expected anything to be handed to me in politics because of my last name.”

While Mr. Justin Trudeau is the product of two political families — his maternal grandfather, James Sinclair, was a Cabinet Minister — Mr. Justin Trudeau came late to politics. His political career started in 2007, when he began a successful campaign for Parliament in a Montreal electoral district that did not have a recent history of backing the Liberal Party. In April 2013 he became the Liberal leader, 45 years and one week after his father had won the post.

He argued during the 2013 campaign that having such a famous name in Canadian politics had been both a blessing and a curse.

— New York Times News Service

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 7:57:20 AM |

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