The eldest son of late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau is the new leader of Canada’s once dominant Liberal Party after a landslide victory announced on Sunday.
Justin Trudeau, a charismatic member of the Canadian parliament since 2008, won 80 percent of the votes on the party’s first ballot. The 41-year-old takes over a party that dominated Canada for much of the past century, but was relegated to third-party status in the last election.
Pierre Trudeau, who died aged 80 in 2000, was Canada’s prime minister for almost all of a 16-year stretch from 1968 to 1984.
Sweeping to power on a wave of support nicknamed “Trudeaumania,” Pierre Trudeau had a charisma reminiscent of another young, dashing politician who had captivated the US eight years earlier — former US president John F. Kennedy. Trudeau’s sophisticated, sometimes irreverent style fascinated Canada, but riled conservatives.
Former colleagues of Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper say Harper’s long-term goals are to shatter the image of the Liberals as the natural leaders of government in Canada, and to redefine what it means to be Canadian.
Harper has incrementally moved what has been an instinctively liberal country to the right since taking power in 2006. He has gradually lowered sales and corporate taxes, and promoted the potential of Alberta’s oil sands — the world’s third-largest oil reserves — regardless of environmental objections.
The prime minister has increased spending on the military and staunchly backed Israel’s right-wing government. Harper has also successfully blitzed the country with attack ads against previous Liberal leaders.
Justin Trudeau warned of more attacks in his acceptance speech.
“Canadians want to be led, not ruled. They are tired of the negative, divisive politics of Mr Harper’s Conservatives,” Trudeau said.
The Conservative party immediately put out a release slamming the inexperience of Trudeau, who is a former high-school teacher.
“Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn’t have the judgement or experience to be prime minister,” Conservative Party spokesman Fred DeLorey said.
In a moving eulogy at his father’s state funeral, Justin Trudeau challenged the country to make his father’s vision of a united, bilingual and multi-ethnic Canada a permanent monument.
Justin Trudeau also called for party unity after years of infighting between former Liberal Party leaders and Canadian prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. He said the Liberals have been too focused on fighting each other instead of fighting for Canadians.
“I don’t care if you thought my father was great or arrogant,” Justin Trudeau said. “It doesn’t matter to me if you were a Chretien-Liberal or a Martin-Liberal or any other kind of Liberal. The era of hyphenated Liberals ends right here right now.”