Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s center-right Conservative Party appears to be headed for a fall as the son of one of Canada’s most famous politicians looks to be ready to take the reins of government.
Harper has served for 10 years, pushing the very liberal Canadian people gently to the right. But a mild recession earlier this year, along with a divisive argument over the Muslim veil has the Conservative Party trailing the Liberal Party in most polls.
The Liberal Party is led by Justin Trudeau, son of the iconic symbol of Canadian liberalism, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. A flamboyant, womanizing figure with a beautiful wife (who cozied up to every unsavory character in the world), Pierre Trudeau was the most controversial prime minister in decades. He was known, after 15 years of on again, off again terms in office, as something of a divisive prime minister as his policies gave multiculturalism to Quebec (which almost cost the country the province) and angered western provinces with an Ottawa-based energy policy.
Justin is not quite as much a rake, but tries to affect a dashing figure for the Canadian voter.
Trudeau, who has re-energized the Liberal Party since its devastating electoral losses four years ago, promises to raise taxes on the rich and run deficits for three years to boost government spending. His late father, who took office in 1968 and led Canada for most of the next 16 years, is a storied name in Canadian history, responsible for the country’s version of the bill of rights.
“We have a chance to bring real change to Canada and bring an end to the Harper decade,” Justin Trudeau said in Harper’s adopted home province of Alberta, traditionally a Conservative stronghold.
A Trudeau victory would ease tensions with the U.S. Although Trudeau supports the Keystone pipeline, he argues relations should not hinge on the project. Harper has clashed with the Obama administration over other issues, including the recently reached Iran nuclear deal.
Trudeau, a 43-year-old former school teacher and member of Parliament since 2008, would become the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history if he wins.
His opponents pilloried him as too inexperienced, but Trudeau embraced his boyish image on Election Day. Sporting jeans and a varsity letter jacket, he posed for photo standing on the thighs of two his colleagues to make a cheerleading pyramid, his campaign plane in the backdrop with “Trudeau 2015” painted in large red letters.
Harper, 56, visited districts he won in the 2011 election in an attempt to hang onto them. On Saturday, he posed with Toronto’s former crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, in a conservative suburb.
Hurt when Canada entered a mild recession earlier this year, Harper made a controversy over the Islamic face veil a focus of his campaign, a decision his opponents seized on to depict him as a divisive leader.
The Liberals lead the Conservatives by almost 9 percentage points. According to the CTV/Globe and Mail/Nanos Nightly Tracking Poll, the Liberals are at 39.1 percent, followed by the Conservatives at 30.5 percent. The New Democrats are at 19.7 percent. The margin of error for the survey of 800 respondents is 3.7 percentage points.
Paula Mcelhinney, 52, from Toronto, voted Liberal to get rid of Harper.
“I want to get him out, it’s about time we have a new leader. It’s time for a change,” she said.
It’s never a good sign when an incumbent spends the last days of the campaign trying to shore up his base. Then again, the last two big elections — in Israel and Great Britain — also showed the incumbent party trailing on election day only to see smashing victories by Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Cameron. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Harper is no “conservative” as Americans understand the term. It may be more accurate to portray him as a 1960s Democrat. But he did cut taxes and regulations that were strangling the economy, and opposed the Iran deal. And his reforms nudged the Canadian economy and people a little bit back toward the center.
Now Trudeau is fixed to blow that up. Typical left-wing nonsense of taxing the rich and a promise to run deficits for 3 years to “invest” in the economy. Just little deficits, I’m sure, with no problem getting them under control after 3 years, right?
It’s likely the liberals will not win a majority of seats, but a coalition with the New Democrats will put them over the top. I’m not sure the Canadian people know what they’re in for by electing Trudeau, but if history is any guide we can expect the tabloids to have a field day.