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Justin Trudeau: Who Is Canada’s New Prime Minister?

Canada officially elected a new prime minister last night. Justin Trudeau, 43, the leader of the Liberals, was elected with a majority government.

Trudeau’s victory was an important one for his party. The Liberal Party of Canada has been a force in Canadian politics for decades, but in the 2011 election, they slumped to a third-rate party, achieving only 34 seats.

When Trudeau appeared in Canadian politics, he wasn’t ready to run for prime minister. With three young children under eight, he wanted to focus on his family. However, as various Liberal candidates struggled to gain traction, he decided it was time to forge his own legacy, one that wasn’t born out of his father’s achievements.

The Guardian reports:

His victory in April 2013 was almost embarrassingly comprehensive: he took over the Liberal party with 80.1% of the vote. The national polls – initially, at least – surged in his favour.

But the path to government proved rather rockier. Progressive voters were tempted by Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats, while Harper’s unpopular Conservative government took heart from the surprise victory – attributed to “shy Tories” – of David Cameron’s party in the UK elections in May.

Trudeau’s appeal to the centre ground risked losing out to both its neighbours.

What changed? Harper’s tactics, referring to his challenger condescendingly as “Justin” and campaign ads that poked fun at his “nice hair”, found no grip among a section of the electorate that wanted the Conservatives out at all costs, and increasingly saw Trudeau as the best chance of achieving that.

The long election campaign – the longest, in fact, since 1872, at 78 days – gave the Liberals the time to build on that boost. Trudeau told the Guardian in July that he relished it: “If there’s one thing that recent history in Canada has shown it’s that campaigns really matter. And there’s a tremendous volatility among voters who are just looking for the right alternative.”

Trudeau, for all his dynastic connections, aimed to be that alternative. Almost literally born to the role of prime minister – he was born in 1971, during his father’s first term – he took a circuitous route into political life, trying his hand at teaching, engineering, bungee-jumping coaching, environmental geography, charity boxing and acting, before ousting Bloc Québécois MP Vivian Barbot to become MP for Papineau in the 2008 general election.

In 2000, at his father’s state funeral, Trudeau delivered a eulogy that stoked whispers of a dynasty that has now secured its place in Canadian history: “More than anything, to me, he was dad. And what a dad. He loved us with the passion and the devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.

“We knew we were the luckiest kids in the world. And we had done nothing to actually deserve it.

“It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.”

Trudeau on climate change
He has promised a climate change policy agreed with the provinces within 90 days of the UN climate change summit in Paris in November.

On indigenous rights
“We will build a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples on a nation-to-nation basis,” he has said. “That will include, for example, a national public inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. It will include $2.6bn over four years for First Nations education.”

On abortion
He is pro-choice: “It is not for any government to legislate what a woman chooses to do with her body. And that is the bottom line.”

On taxes
His first move will be to raise taxes on the richest 1% to fund cuts for the middle classes.

On marijuana
Trudeau has said he would start moves to legalize it “right away”, based on the Colorado model.

Photo credit: CBC.



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