Toronto’s Globe and Mail called it a “stunning political comeback,” and the Huffington Post said Justin Trudeau’s election victory on Monday returned “a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa.”
Locally, Canadians generally welcomed the change, sweeping away nine years of conservative politics and policies under outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, inaugurating, most said, an era of “innovation and creativity.”
“I was really pleased as I watched the results,” said Janice MacLean, a marketing and communications consultant formerly employed by Government Information Services. “It was time for a change, and here is this young, innovative Canadian who approaches politics as a collaborative effort.”
Scott Elphinstone, managing director and chief investment officer at Five Continents Financial Ltd., said the 43-year-old son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau “was seen as an outsider, and that is a very powerful message,” similar, he suggested, to the extraordinary success of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential contest.
First elected to Parliament in 2008, Mr. Trudeau, of the Liberal Party, has long battled charges of being more glamorous than gravitas, “more sizzle than steak,” according to the Huffington Post.
Mr. Harper, elected prime minister in 2006 and Canada’s beacon through the 2008 financial crisis, is the second longest-serving leader in the G7, but has been accused of excessive government secrecy, including the “muzzling” of federal scientists, and practicing the sharp-edged politics of attack ads and wedge issues.
“Harper has been there a long time, and the country needs new leaders,” said Bruce John, Butterfield Bank senior manager and Head of Private Banking.
“He was good for the country, but I’m not sure he got along with U.S. Presidents [Barack] Obama or even George [W.] Bush, and they are our largest trading partner.
“The economy has suffered. We have a commodity-based economy – mining, oil and gas – and Harper seemed to ignore Asia and China. It’s just time for a change,” he said, making specific reference to the 2,151 mile, $12 billion pipeline carrying Alberta’s tar sands crude oil to American refineries.
Despite Trudeau’s rejection of Harper’s vision of Canada as an “energy superpower,” he nonetheless dismayed environmentalists with his support for the project.
In his victory speech in Montreal on Monday evening, Mr. Trudeau said “you can appeal to the better angels of our nature, and you can win doing it.”
Among his more controversial policies was a call to run a $10 billion deficit in each of the next three years to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Local IT engineer Lynne Firth conceded the sum was daunting, but said she was not intimidated: “It’s a lot of money, but it depends on what the infrastructure upgrades are. If they help maintain Canada’s world-class status, it’s a good thing. It doesn’t frighten me.”
Mr. Elphinstone pointed out that it was a “productive” investment”: “It’s a lot, but it’s needed and, overall, the financial markets have been pretty subdued.”
Ms. MacLean said time and a youthful electorate had simply caught up with Mr. Harper. “Like any politician, he took great comfort in his powers and in those who helped direct his decisions.
“He just went too far along to the right. His time had passed; he strayed too far from where people wanted to go.”