This is a fairy-tale victory for Justin Trudeau. An extraordinary triumph: a majority in Parliament, Liberals elected in every province—even Alberta—and all three territories; a clean sweep of the Maritimes; an entirely unanticipated forty-seven seats in Quebec. And, best of all, no more Harper.
Too much has been made of the differences in style between Harper and Trudeau, between Harper’s mean-spirited and divisive brand of Conservatism and Trudeau’s inclusive Liberal brand. There are differences in style, but the differences in substance—on the economy, on refugees, on Canada’s place in the world, to mention only these—matter more.
There are significant differences between the Trudeau Liberals and Thomas Mulcair’s ill-fated NDP, too. The NDP was too cautious when its misguided attempt to appeal to the centre led it to promise balanced budgets. It was when Trudeau came out in favour of running a deficit to stimulate the economy that he broke away from the NDP and started his ascent to power. As Naomi Klein tweeted last night, « The Libs ran left and soared. The NDP moved right and crashed. »
It doesn’t hurt, though, that Trudeau is so much more likeable than either Harper or Mulcair. And it doesn’t hurt that he is so much more photogenic.
Is there a bad photo of Trudeau? The gorgeous images of his family—his wife Sophie Grégoire and their three children—are being circulated across the world, as was the case with the images of his own parents, Pierre and Margaret Trudeau, and their sons—two of them born on Christmas Day, no less—decades ago.
The images of Justin have been so dynamic that the photo editors of even mealy-mouthed newspapers—The Globe and Mail endorsed the Harper Conservatives but not Harper himself—still found ways of showing Trudeau in an energetic and appealing light that left his rivals looking tired.
Two-thirds of Canadians were hoping for change last night. Once the first returns came out from the Maritimes, we knew something big was up, but we could hardly believe our eyes and ears as the results then started pouring in from that vast swath of the country that includes Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the North. Within minutes, the CBC had declared that Trudeau would be Prime Minister—without, however, saying whether he would have a minority or a majority.
When the polls closed in British Columbia, voters had hardly had time to get home from the polling stations before CBC declared that this would be a majority Liberal government.
So now there are promises to keep and impossibly high expectations to meet. Tax cuts for the middle class, tax hikes for the wealthy. That’s the easy part. Then there’s Senate reform, where the Liberals wish change without constitutional change; adoption of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and changes to Harper’s anti-terrorism legistlation. The list is long, and it includes an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women; democratic reform which, if effected, would curtail Trudeau’s own power; consultation with the provinces on climate change; not to mention reinvesting in the CBC and doubling the funding for the Canada Council.
If only. We’ve seen none of the above for the past ten years. We’d just about given up hope.
One of the great photos of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as Prime Minister shows him wearing a light summer suit, a rose in his lapel, arriving for a reception at Rideau Hall in 1973 with Margaret and acknowledging the salute of an RCMP officer.
What makes the photograph great is the mix of the official and the intimate, for Trudeau has an eighteen-month-old Justin tucked under his right arm. The lad is staring wide-eyed at the officerl: amazed, only a little daunted.
The boy is all grown-up now. He’s ready. I wish him well.
© 2015, Linda Leith
Photo: Peter Bregg/Canadian Press