Canada lurches left as PM Harper's Conservatives soundly defeated by Liberals
The winds of "hope and change" blew north from Washington and wafted over Canada, leading to a stinging defeat of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party and a sweeping victory by the Liberals.
Leading the Liberal Party to victory was 43-year-old Justin Trudeau, son of one of the most iconic politicians in the history of Canada, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. The elder Trudeau served in the 1970s and '80s as a world figure, opposing U.S. foreign policy and imposing a far-left agenda on the Canadian people. His flamboyant, womanizing reputation, along with disarray in the Conservative Party, led to election victories from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984.
"This is what positive politics can do," Trudeau told supporters in Ottawa early Tuesday morning as the last few results trickled in.
"I didn't make history tonight, you did."
The victory denied a fourth term to Harper and his Conservative party. Because Canada does not have term limits, Harper has held the position since 2006.
He conceded defeat and will resign as leader of the party, but said he'll remain in parliament as a lawmaker.
"We put everything on the table, we gave everything we had to give and we have no regrets," he said just before 10 p.m. in Calgary (midnight ET).
"The people of Canada have elected a Liberal government, which we accept without hesitation," Harper said.
Liberal candidates have secured 184 seats -- or "ridings," the Canadian term for federal electoral districts -- putting them over the line for forming a majority government. A total of 170 seats are needed for a majority.
Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, as Harper's Conservatives will now officially be designated, have 99 seats.
As the crowd chanted his name, Trudeau said the Liberals won because "we listened."
"We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together," he said.
"Most of all we defeated the idea that Canadians should be satisfied with less, and that better isn't possible. My friends, this is Canada, where better is always possible."
The son of Pierre Trudeau and scion of Canada's first, nascent political dynasty, the 43-year-old surged into the lead in recent weeks, largely on the back of anti-Conservative sentiment that saw Harper's party lagging as Canadians went to the polls.
Before the grueling, 78-day electioneering cycle began, many dismissed the younger Trudeau as trading off of his father's achievements and the famous family name. But pundits in Canada have praised his campaign and the way he has led the Liberals to what transpired to be a sweeping victory.
Trudeau is promising to raise taxes on the rich and run deficits for three years in order to "invest" in the economy. The stimulus really isn't needed – Canada has already emerged from the mild recession felt earlier in the year. But Trudeau is determined never to let a crisis go to waste, and the liberals will seek to impose more regulations on businesses as well as experiments in multiculturalism and diversity.
Harper is a victim of the times, where "change" has become the dominant issue that can be exploited by the opposition. At bottom, Harper failed to read the electorate correctly, leading directly to his defeat.
In truth, Canada is, at heart, a liberal country, and Harper was barely able to move Canada a little to the right over the last 10 years. But his business-friendly policies will now be replaced by liberal regulatory zeal. It's doubtful whether the younger Trudeau will succeed where liberals everywhere else have failed.