OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau is expected to give his first press conference today as prime minister-designate, hours after he steamrolled his Liberal party to a convincing majority victory.
Trudeau will no doubt be riding on an electoral high from the 184 seats the Liberals captured — an increase of a whopping 149 ridings from the last election — but he will already be facing tough questions on how and when he will implement his plan.
He has said that the first piece of legislation his government would put forward is one to lower taxes for the middle class and raise taxes for the wealthiest Canadians.
The Liberal party becomes the first to vault directly from third-party status to government. Even the Liberals’ internal pollster, who foresaw a majority, hadn’t imagined a total so high.
Elections Canada says 68.5 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, the largest turnout in more than 20 years.
Preliminary figures indicate the Liberals captured 39.5 per cent of the vote, the Conservatives 31.9 per cent and the New Democrats 19.7.
Trudeau, 43, completes the first father-son dynasty in Canada’s federal government history, as the first-born of Pierre Elliott Trudeau follows in his father’s footsteps.
Trudeau faced more than two years of Conservative attack ads before defeating Harper, including a barrage of “just not ready” ads so ubiquitous that school-age children could recite them.
Notwithstanding an appeal to Canadians’ “better angels” in his victory speech, the Liberal leader made a lengthy denunciation of what he called the politics of division and fear, including a defence of veiled Muslim women who became an unlikely wedge issue during the campaign.
“Canadians have spoken,” Trudeau said.
“You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful. Well, my friends, I promise you tonight that I will lead that government … I will be that prime minister.”
During the October crisis of 1970, Pierre Trudeau famously told an inquiring reporter “Just watch me,” when asked how far he would go in limiting civil liberties to combat separatist terrorists. The elder Trudeau went on to shape much of the modern Canadian state that Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power in 2006 in part to remake.
The Conservative leader called the 78-day election, the longest in modern Canadian history, on Aug. 2 after almost 10 years in power. His party will form the official Opposition with 99 seats — 60 fewer than when Parliament was dissolved.
With the magnitude of the loss still sinking in, Harper is stepping down as Conservative leader, according to a statement from party president John Walsh.
“The prime minister indicated that he will continue to sit as a member of Parliament and asks that a process to both select an interim leader and initiate the leadership selection process in our party begin immediately,” says the Walsh letter.
Harper, 56, did not announce his resignation in a concession speech to party faithful in Calgary, stating only that the “disappointment you also feel is my responsibility and mine alone.”
But he offered gracious congratulations to his younger opponent.
“While tonight’s result is certainly not the one we had hoped for, the people are never wrong,” said the prime minister, adding he had called Trudeau and “assured him of my full co-operation during the process of transition in the coming days.”
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, Veterans Minister Julian Fantino and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt were among the Conservative cabinet ministers rejected by voters.
New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair, who had aspired to lead Canada’s first NDP federal government, instead dropped to 44 seats from 95 — losing the party’s hard-won 2011 grip on official Opposition status.
Mulcair, however, managed to hold on to his Montreal seat despite a tough Liberal challenge.
NDP stars including deputy leader Megan Leslie and foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar fell to Liberal challengers. Olivia Chow, whose late husband Jack Layton led the NDP’s so-called “orange crush” four years ago — succumbed to Liberal Adam Vaughan in downtown Toronto.
Green Leader Elizabeth May was re-elected on Vancouver Island but the party lost its only other incumbent — Ontario’s Bruce Hyer — and failed to make a long-awaited breakthrough.
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe went down to defeat, but his party emerged with 10 seats, injecting new life into a party that had almost withered after once holding official Opposition status.