Trudeau leads Liberals to big win

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau preparing to give his victory speech after the federal election. He becomes Canada's second-youngest prime minister at age 43.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau preparing to give his victory speech after the federal election. He becomes Canada's second-youngest prime minister at age 43.PHOTO: REUTERS

MONTREAL/CALGARY • Canada's Liberal Party, led by Mr Justin Trudeau, has achieved a stunning election victory, toppling the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mr Trudeau, 43, son of a popular former prime minister, brought the promise of change and a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa. He will become the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history.

For many Canadians, the vote was a referendum on Mr Harper's management style, criticised as aloof and autocratic, and on who was better placed to put a struggling economy back on track.

Mr Trudeau took charge of the Liberal Party two years ago and guided it out of the political wilderness with a pledge of economic stimulus and stirring appeals for a return to social liberalism. He campaigned on a pledge to raise taxes on the richest Canadians and lower them for the middle class.

Mr Trudeau will form a majority government with more than 180 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, according to Elections Canada. It was an unprecedented turn in political fortunes, smashing the record for the number of seats gained from one election to the next.

Mr Harper conceded defeat yesterday, ending his government's nine-year run in power and the 56-year-old's brand of fiscal and cultural conservatism. His leadership was based on promises of tax cuts, more military spending and vows to cede more power to the provinces. He steered clear of thorny issues like gay marriage and abortion, and showed little interest in climate change.

Mr Harper said in a concession speech, as his party announced his plans to step down as leader, that "we gave everything we had to give and we have no regrets".

"When the time for change strikes, it's lethal," former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney said in a television interview. "Justin is successful because he isn't Stephen Harper."

Mr Trudeau, the son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, pledged to run a C$10 billion (S$10.7 billion) annual budget deficit for three years to invest in infrastructure and help stimulate Canada's anaemic economic growth. This rattled financial markets ahead of the vote and the Canadian dollar weakened on news of his victory.

The Liberals' win marks a swing towards a more multilateral approach in global politics by the Canadian government, which has distanced itself from the United Nations in recent years, stridently supported Israel and refocused aid from Africa to South America.

Mr Trudeau has said he will repair Canada's cool relations with the Obama administration, withdraw Canada from the combat mission against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militants in favour of humanitarian aid and training, and tackle climate change.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Trudeau leads Liberals to big win'. Print Edition | Subscribe