Justin Trudeau led Canada’s Liberal Party to a smashing victory over incumbent Conservative Stephen Harper last night. Trudeau’s Liberal Party captured an outright majority of 184 (out of 338) seats in Canada’s Parliament. Trudeau will become Canada’s twenty-third prime minister.
The outcome represented a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Liberals, who had fallen to third place in Canada’s last national election. The Conservatives came away with 99 seats, down from 159. The New Democratic Party returned to third-party status, claiming just 44 seats.
There is no Western leader I have admired more than Prime Minister Harper. He seems to me to stand head and shoulders above the rest. After nearly ten years in office, however, and with Canada’s economy suffering the effects of the fall in oil prices, Harper struggled to find a winning theme. Harper was seeking his fourth consecutive term in office since 2006. That seems like a stretch. Combined with Canada’s current economic downturn, the length of his tenure as prime minister must largely account for the outcome last night.
Speaking to supporters after the outcome had become apparent, Harper gave a characteristically classy speech. “The people are never wrong,” he said. While not true, it was a gracious concession. He added: “The disappointment you also feel is my responsibility and mine only.” Although he will step down as party leader, he won his own seat and pledged to help the Conservatives form an effective Opposition.
Trudeau is handsome, athletic, and young. He has a beautiful wife and cute family. He offers hope and change. Trudeau has promised to start running government deficits to cure what ails Canada. He holds himself out as standing up for “diversity” and “inclusion.” In his victory speech he claimed to have beat fear with hope. It all has a familiar ring, though he also gave a gracious victory speech. I would guess that the dynamics of the race must have been something like Bush versus Clinton in 1992.
One friend of Trudeau draws the connection to Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau. This probably sells Justin Trudeau short, but we’ll see: “He’s well practiced and well versed in being the son of an iconic prime minister,” said Terry DiMonte, a host at Montreal’s CHOM radio station, who has known Trudeau for more than two decades.
In writing this post I have drawn principally on Wall Street Journal articles posted here and here as well as this CBC account together with this one. I have also taken a look at the articles posted by Reuters, by the Guardian and by the Times. I invite our Canadian readers and others more knowledgeable than I to weigh in with your own observations and correct me where I’m wrong.