Trudeau’s victory is a triumph for decency

Posted on October 20, 2015 in Governance History – Opinion/Editorials – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau embodies healthy generational change and shares the public’s yearning for something better than the status quo.
Oct 19 2015.   Editorial

Cheers broke out across the land as Canadian voters chased Stephen Harper’s arrogant Conservatives from office on Monday night, in a richly deserved rebuke after years of corrosive misgovernance.
Thus ends a dismal, divisive era in our political history.

Confounding the pundits and pollsters, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have pulled off a remarkable political comeback after spending the past decade in the political wilderness. The Liberals have surged from third place to earn a commanding mandate to chart a more progressive direction for Canada. It’s one for the record books.

This is Trudeaumania II, nothing less, surfing a wave of revulsion at Harper’s spiteful governing style.

Trudeau’s compelling vision of a Canada that is “open and confident and hopeful” caught the spirit of voters who believe this country can be more generous, more ambitious and more successful. Millions were repelled by Conservative efforts to scare people into voting for the status quo. And Trudeau’s call to “come together as a country” proved to be a stronger motivator than the Tories’ divisive tactics.

Far from being “just not ready,” Trudeau showed himself to be a formidable, disciplined campaigner with the charisma of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and the retail political touch of his maternal grandfather James Sinclair, a onetime Liberal minister from the Vancouver area. He embodies healthy generational change, and shares the widespread public yearning for something better than the status quo.

Of course, mastering the art of campaigning is different from mastering the art of governing. The Liberals will have to dust off their rusty skills, relying on the institutional memory of the few in their caucus who have served in past cabinets. But they have managed to elect a fresh new crop of promising MPs who bring idealism and energy to Parliament Hill. And as the Star noted in its endorsement of Trudeau and the Liberals, they are off to a good start, embracing positive, forward-looking values that Canadians have always held dear.

Throughout the campaign Trudeau spoke out fiercely and repeatedly for human rights when the Conservatives were trying to make cheap political gains by stoking unwarranted fears about terrorism, by hounding vulnerable niqab-wearing Muslim women and by abandoning desperate Syrian refugees to their fate.

Trudeau rejected a Tory economic model that left too many behind, and refused to be shackled by the conventional wisdom that budget-balancing trumps all. That progressive vision informed his promises of greater tax fairness, his bold investment in job-creating infrastructure and his pulling together of a generous, equitable child benefit from a hodgepodge of Tory programs that collectively favoured the affluent.

And he vowed to reinvigorate Canada’s key institutions. He promised to respect the Supreme Court, to empower Parliament, to restore the tradition of making public policy based on science and evidence instead of political whim, and to work collaboratively with the provinces on climate change and other challenges.

Canadians will expect the Liberal leader to remain true to this agenda.  And they will expect Canada’s next Parliament, with the Conservatives as the official opposition, to be productive and responsive to voters’ call for change.

Canada urgently needs a course correction after nearly a decade of a “Harper government” that was relentlessly divisive, scandal-ridden, contemptuous of national institutions, ambitious only in its desire to hobble government, and socially regressive. It hit rock bottom with Harper’s Hail Mary appearance at a weekend Ford Nation rally in Etobicoke organized by Rob Ford, Toronto’s toxic former mayor, and his brother Doug.

This election was a referendum on Harper’s domineering leadership, and its fatal shortcomings.  Harper may have consolidated Canada’s right-wing parties, but he proved to be an aloof, solitary figure who failed to broaden conservatism’s appeal. And he has tainted the Conservative brand by arrogantly concentrating power in his own hands, cynically stacking the Senate with unfit cronies, presiding over a Prime Minister’s Office that schemed to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, treating Parliament and the Supreme Court with contempt, demonizing any and all critics, bringing in draconian anti-terrorism and crime legislation, and by waging political warfare on the backs of minorities. It is a sorry legacy.

If the Conservatives hope to regain Canadians’ confidence they must repair broken faith with the public, instead of creating enemies at every turn.

Bitter as the outcome is for Tom Mulcair and the NDP, now consigned to third-party status, they deserve credit for running a principled, if overly cautious, campaign. There is no dishonour in their defeat. Canadians who voted NDP will now expect the party, however enfeebled, to make good on its platform promise to “work with other federalist parties” to repair the damage done during the past decade.

Certainly, given the sheer strength of the popular vote for change, the NDP can credibly lend support to a Liberal government. Working together, the two parties can make a positive difference and deliver the progressive, accountable, equitable governance the country needs.

But today the victory belongs unmistakably to Trudeau and his Liberals. They fought an uphill campaign, appealed to Canadians’ fundamental decency and sense of fairness, and they carried the nation along with them.

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