By Yoan C Vivas
Canada is seeing the last days of a nine-year rule by the Conservative Party. The long-awaited defeat of Prime Minister Stephen Harper became a reality as Canadians saw the election results trickle in on Oct. 19, 2015. Emerging victorious from the general election is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party. Trudeau’s landslide victory marks the start of a more aligned relationship with that of President Obama’s administration and bad news for American conservatives.
As head of the Canadian Liberal Party, Trudeau reaped the benefits of his family name to project his way into Canada’s top position. Son of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, he was able to secure a remarkable turnaround for the rapidly fading Liberal Party. During an April 1972 state visit, President Nixon metaphorically tapped Trudeau on the shoulder as he prophesied that he would “like to toast the future prime minister of Canada: to Justin Pierre Trudeau.”
Canadians don’t vote for Prime Minister directly. Instead, they vote directly for members of Parliament. Trudeau, as head of the Liberal Party, secured 184 out of 338 seats, which is well past the 170 majority needed to declare victory. Although the 78-day race seemed to be in a statistical dead heat throughout the campaign, the Conservative Party was only able to grasp 99 seats in Parliament, while the New Democratic Party held only 44.
The overwhelming victory of the Liberal Party came as a surprise to many. The Conservative Party saw Trudeau as a politically inexperienced figurehead who relied on his family name to bolster political support. Trudeau proved to be more than just a former schoolteacher who taught French and Math. His charismatic campaign overshadowed any whispers of his political inexperience. At 43 years old, Trudeau will become the second youngest prime minister in Canada’s history. Husband and father of three, Trudeau was able to overcome the “just not ready” narrative pushed against him by the Conservatives.
The liberals were fighting a campaign for survival. During the 2011 election, the party was only able to secure 34 seats in Parliament, which placed them in third place for the first time in the party’s history.
Canada has seen a steady increase in voter turnout that may have helped the liberal cause this year. In the 2008 federal elections, the voter turnout was only about 58.8 percent. However, this year, voter turnout rose almost 10 percent, putting it at 68.5 percent.
With the nine-year reign of the Conservative Party now over, Canada is expected to undergo dramatic changes in policy. Trudeau vowed throughout his presidential campaign that he would increase government transparency by opening up Parliament. Much like President Obama’s’ push for higher taxation on the wealthiest Americans, Trudeau aims to push for fair taxes by giving middle-class families much needed tax cuts and introducing a Canada Child Tax Benefit geared towards low-income and single-parent homes. Both heads of state believe that empowering the middle and lower classes are the most effective methods of strengthening a country’s welfare. The legalization, regulation, and restriction of marijuana have also been key issues under Trudeau’s radar. Similarly, Obama has placed much emphasis on decriminalizing low-intensity drug crimes to vacate America’s overburdened prison system.
Steering away from conservative ideals, Trudeau has also touched on topics including reopening Canada’s doors to immigrants and refugees, investment in public transit — including sustainable infrastructure– tightening gun control, and maintaining military spending while increasing Canadian international peacekeeping. These latter policy objectives fall in line with that of President Obama’s campaigns throughout his tenure as President of the United States. This Liberal victory in Canada has provided the potential for a predominantly symbiotic relationship with Liberals in the United States.
Justin Trudeau’s victory in Canada is a potent blow to the Republican Party in the United States. His fresh face in politics paves the road for a fresh start in Canadian domestic and international politics, giving Liberals in the United States an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two nations. More importantly, Trudeau aims to restore hope to Canada, triumphantly declaring that “In Canada, better is always possible.”