Canadians judge Justin Trudeau ready to lead

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau. photo courtesy Facebook

CANADA— The Liberal Party of Canada has been returned to the country’s helm with a majority government fueled by a virtual sweep of the Atlantic provinces and massive gains in Quebec and Ontario, the Northern territories and gains in British Columbia—an impressive rebound from 2011, the party’s worst defeat in history where they had been reduced to third party status with only 19 percent of the vote and 34 seats—they held 36 at the time of dissolution.

At presstime on Monday night, the Liberals had surged to a commanding 184 seats to the Conservative’s 99 and the NDP’s 44. The Bloc Quebecois elected 10 seats and Green Party leader Elizabeth May retained her seat. The finally tally had not yet been officially established, but the winners and losers were largely determined.

“I will be the prime minister of all Canadians,” vowed Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who will enter into the history books not only as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, but also the second youngest in history (after Joe Clark who was 40) and the first son of a former prime minister to be elected to that office.

“This is what positive politics can do. This is what a positive, hopeful vision and a platform and a team can make happen,” said Mr. Trudeau, a theme he repeated several times during the course of his victory speech. “Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight. It’s time for a change—a real change.”

Mr. Trudeau channeled Sir Wilfred Laurier, a Liberal prime minister a century past when he said “Sunny ways my friends. Sunny ways” adding that “this is what positive politics can do.”

“We put everything on the table, we gave everything we have to give, and we have no regrets whatsoever,” said outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his concession speech, saying to his supporters “the disappointment you also feel is my responsibility and mine only.”

Mr. Harper went on to cite his government’s accomplishments over their years in power, including its fiscal management of the country, job creation, the variety of trade agreements Canada has negotiated and their strengthening of the Canadian Forces.

Mr. Harper won his own seat handily and pledged to continue to work to rebuild the Conservative mandate, pledging that “When the next time comes, this party will offer Canada a strong and clear alternative, based on our Conservative values.”

Although he did not officially announce stepping down as Conservative leader, Mr. Harper has made it previously clear that he will not lead the party in opposition, but left it up to an announcement by the Conservative Party of Canada that an interim leader will be selected and a leadership contest would be held at the earliest opportunity. Mr. Harper’s reasoning for this approach was reportedly that he wanted to focus on his government’s accomplishments in his speech, rather than focus on his personal future.

“Canadians have turned the page on 10 long years and have rejected the politics of fear and division,” said NDP leader Tom Mulcair in his concession speech following his party’s crushing defeat to the Liberal juggernaut. Like the outgoing prime minister Stephen Harper, the NDP leader did not indicate in his speech whether he would be continuing on at the helm of the federal NDP. Mr. Mulcair indicated a willingness to work with the new incoming Liberal government saying, “I want you to know that we will work for you each and every day in this new majority Parliament.”

“I congratulated Mr. Trudeau on his exceptional achievement for both him and his party,” said Mr. Mulcair, adding that “in this campaign Mr. Trudeau made ambitious commitments to Canadians and Canadians will have high expectations for the next Parliament.”

First Nations leaders in Ontario were quick to comment on the election of a new government, many having encouraged their community members to vote, and to vote to oust the Conservatives.

“I wish to congratulate Mr. Trudeau on his well-deserved majority victory tonight and look forward to rethinking, repairing, reconciling the relationship between First Nations and the Canadian Government,” said Ontario Regional Grand Chief Isadore Day. “This Election Day, Canadians have chosen to end a decade of discrimination and fear. Canadians have said that they are not prepared for another generation of missed opportunities and that this land is one where race, ethnicity and nation should not limit opportunities for success and growth.”

For his part, Mr. Trudeau recognized the nation to nation relationship between Canada and its indigenous peoples in his victory speech vowing to work toward forging a new relationship based on those principles.

Mr. Trudeau will be spending the next few days and weeks putting together his cabinet, with plenty of talent to choose from for his front bench. He will not only have experienced veterans like Ralph Goodale, Scott Brison, John McCallum and Stéphane Dion with which to craft that cabinet, but also new MPs such as Toronto police chief Bill Blair, former Crown prosecutor and Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Jody Wilson-Raybould, Toronto businessman Bill Morneau as well as two former high-ranking Canadian Armed Forces officers, Andrew Leslie and Karen McCrimmon.