Canadian General Election sees Liberals sweep to victory

Justin Trudeau march dans le défilé de la fierté gaie à Vancouver. 2 août 2015.

Canada held their general election early last week, where the Canadian Liberal Party won the close contest, ending nearly a decade of Conservative rule. The centrist Liberals, led by Justin Trudeau, started the campaign in third place but, in a stunning turnaround, ultimately commanded a majority.

Mr Trudeau, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, said Canadians had “voted for real change”. Trudeau replaces incumbent Conservative PM Stephen Harper, who had been in power since 2006. For many Canadians, though, this sweeping victory seemed to be unthinkable even a few days ago.

Trudeau, whose father was a revered figure in Canadian politics, and considered to be the father of modern Canada, addressed jubilant supporters, saying Canadians had “sent a clear message tonight: it’s time for a change. We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work, but most of all we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less. This is what positive politics can do.” He then praised his now-predecessor Mr Harper for his service to the country.

When Mr Harper first announced that this year’s general election campaign would be a record 78 days long, many believed that it would benefit the Conservatives, giving them more time to bring their financial advantages to bear. In hindsight, however, the lengthy campaign gave Mr Trudeau an opportunity to introduce himself to Canadians and overcome Conservative attacks that characterised the 43-year-old, a former high-school drama teacher, (and now the second most prominent Justin from Canada, after Bieber) as too inexperienced to lead the Canadian nation.

Yet Mr Trudeau also successfully outmanoeuvred the New Democratic Party, campaigning to that party’s left on economic issues. Tom Mulcair, of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) said he had “congratulated Mr Trudeau on his exceptional achievement.” The NDP is on course to win 44 seats, less than half the number they held in the outgoing parliament.

Mr Harper, one of the longest-serving western leaders, had been seeking a rare fourth term. However in recent times, he had come under fire, particularly from the American media over his stance on immigration and religious free speech. Speaking after the polls closed, he said he had congratulated Mr Trudeau, and that the Conservatives would accept the results “without hesitation.” He will stand down as Conservative leader but remain as an MP. There is no fixed transition period under Canada’s constitution. Mr Trudeau is expected to be sworn in during the next few weeks.