The message from Canada

The > sweeping victory of the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau in Canada marks a significant political shift in the North American country which had been ruled by the Conservatives since 2006. Though the Liberals were > expected to lead the pack, the margin of the victory took many by surprise. They won 184 seats in the 338-member Parliament, while the Conservative Party secured 99 seats and the leftist New Democrats 44. The victory is particularly important for Mr. Trudeau, who was brought to the party’s leadership after the Liberals were routed in the > 2011 election. Since 2006, the Canadian political spectrum had lurched well to the right, helping Stephen Harper emerge as the strongest Conservative politician in years. While he drew legitimacy from his government’s economic record in his early years as Prime Minister, many of his decisions were controversial. There was discontent among a large number of Canadians against his divisive religious policies — the controversial ban on face-covering at citizenship ceremonies was an example — and growingly authoritarian tendencies. His act of cutting down on several government-funded programmes in the name of fiscal tightening was largely unpopular, particularly among the middle class. But surprisingly, Mr. Harper’s poll managers shied away from addressing such discontent, and instead sought to build a negative campaign focussed on the 43-year-old Mr. Trudeau’s lack of experience and the “dynastic politics”. Conservatives often described Mr. Trudeau as “not just ready” to become the Prime Minister. But the Canadian people have clearly repudiated such misgivings.

What Mr. Trudeau got right during the election campaign was his focus on optimism and positivity. Instead of returning the Conservative jibes, he vowed to reclaim Canada’s “core values” — a strong social security system, active participation in international organisations, and an inclusive nationhood. Laying down a clear policy alternative, Mr. Trudeau, who calls himself a “proud feminist”, pledged to revise Mr. Harper’s anti-terrorism laws and end the country’s combat role in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He also promised to legalise marijuana. Moreover, the Conservative attack on Mr. Trudeau’s political lineage proved to be a boon rather than a bane for him. He could easily connect with the voters as positive memories of his father Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was Prime Minister for nearly a decade, are still fresh. But he has now won only the battle, and the real war lies ahead. Though the Conservative Party lost, the conservative politics is still strong and Mr. Trudeau will not have a cakewalk in implementing his campaign promises. He has to address the problem of growing inequalities while rejuvenating the stuttering economy. The Canadians have given the Liberals another chance. The task before Mr. Trudeau now is to live up to the formidable expectations.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:02:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-message-from-canada/article7792979.ece

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