Justin Trudeau has been elected Canada’s new Prime Minister. His Liberal Party won in a landslide, claiming more than half of the seats in parliament and ending Conservative Stephen Harper’s time as Prime Minister.
The 43-year-old Mr Trudeau, whose father was Prime Minister for more than 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, is a sometime actor and former high school teacher, who sprang on to the public stage when he delivered the eulogy at his father’s funeral in 2000. He has been an MP since 2008 and becomes Canada’s second youngest prime minister ever. Addressing his supporters at Liberal headquarters in Montreal last night, Mr Trudeau said: “This is what positive politics can do… Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight. It’s time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change.”
The Conservative government’s woes included a weak Canadian dollar and a stagnant economy, while Mr Harper was also accused of stirring anti-Muslim sentiment in a row over whether women would be permitted to wear the niqab as they took the oath of citizenship. There was confusion when Mr Harper did not immediately announce his resignation during a concession speech in his Calgary constituency, despite a statement from the party saying he had asked for a new interim leader to be elected. “We put it all on the line, we gave everything we have to give, and we have no regrets whatsoever,” he said.
The Liberals, who held power for 80 of the 110 years between 1896 and 2006, had shrunk at the last election to become the Ottawa Parliament’s third largest party, behind the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). Elected Liberal leader in April 2013, Mr Trudeau was a popular choice with the public, but his Conservative and NDP opponents wrote him off as a political lightweight who had coasted to prominence on his father’s name.
Yet he exceeded expectations on the campaign trail and the debate stage, leading a steady Liberal poll surge: from third place at the start of the long election campaign in August, to the clear frontrunner in its closing days. Most polls had predicted a minority government, but the apparent collapse of the NDP to a distant third place will now leave the Liberals, under the second Prime Minister Trudeau, with a clear working majority.
Canada has shifted to the centre-right under Mr Harper, who has lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation and clashed with the Obama administration over the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The people are never wrong,” Mr Harper said. “The disappointment is my responsibility and mine alone.”
Harper said he called Trudeau to congratulate him.