Canadian election: A blast from the past

Canada has headed back towards the left and to the Trudeau family

North American politics have a dynastic quality to them these days. The US presidential elections are dominated by the Clinton and Bush clans, but across the border, to everyone’s surprise Clan Trudeau has now re-emerged to snatch the prize of last week’s general election.

A relative newcomer to politics, the Liberals' Justin Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who rose to power 47 years ago, swept aside the Conservatives with a shocking decisiveness – the Liberals soared from 34 seats to 184 in the 338-seat Parliament, while the Conservatives shed 60 seats, and the leftwing New Democrats lost 59. Trudeau was a snowboard instructor, school teacher and nightclub bouncer before entering politics in 2007, and remains a keen amateur boxer. (With Vladimir Putin ever keen to show off his judo prowess, perhaps the next G9 summit could feature a sideshow mixed martial arts demonstration).

Trudeau has been a major beneficiary of the first-past-the-post electoral system that Canada shares with our neighbour and which he campaigned to abolish. The Liberals's 40 per cent of votes turned into a comfortable majority of 54 per cent of seats, a reality that may well deter the country's new leader from reform.

His election reflects a turning back of Canadian voters, after seven years of right wing politics from prime minister Stephen Harper, to what many see as the country's core liberal values – a generous welfare safety net, liberal social policies like legalisation of cannabis, strong engagement in international organisations like the UN, and a humanitarian foreign policy.


He has promised substantially to increase Canada’s intake of Syrian refugees and reduce involvement in the US-led military campaign against Islamic State. His agenda includes pump-priming a new start to the sluggish economy through deficit spending, Crucially he has also promised to sharply reverse Harper’s hostility to action on climate change ahead of the Paris climate summit although he may yet face difficulties in getting backing from the country’s ten very independent provinces on the issue.