After four years as Canada’s third party, the Liberals have clinched a sweeping majority with a new, young leader at its helm.
But with questions over his experience, family history and economic policies nipping at his heels, Justin Trudeau seems to have his work cut out for him.
We take a look at what kind of an era Trudeau will usher in for Canada.
A political dynasty
Throughout the campaign, Trudeau was plagued by claims of political nepotism, but even for supporters, it’s hard to ignore his family history. When the Liberal leader takes his seat as prime minister in the coming weeks, it will be the first time in Canadian history that a father and son have both held the reins in Ottawa.
His father Pierre Trudeau led the Liberal Party to victory in 1968 amid a wave of excitement dubbed “Trudeaumania.” He was prime minister for a total of 15 years across the 1970s and 1980s, marked by the creation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and for the official declaration of Canada as a bilingual country. He also controversially revoked civil liberties while he fought to suppress radical French separatists in 1970 during a period known as the October Crisis.
Pierre and his much younger wife Margaret ran their family under a watchful public eye that was increasingly enamored with the lives of its politicians. It ensured Margaret, the daughter of a Canadian minister, was caught frequenting Studio 54 in Manhattan and later revealed affairs with among others U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.
The country couldn’t take its eyes off the couple, with pictures of Margaret partying with the Rolling Stones -after a brief fling with drummer Ronnie Wood — splashed across newspapers as her husband lost the 1979 election. Despite having separated in 1977, the couple finally divorced in 1984.
Pierre took custody of the children, won another election in 1980, and was later graced with a state funeral, after suffering from Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer, in 2000.
Observing the political life of his father doesn’t seem to have immediately charmed Justin Trudeau, who first went into teaching, a high-profile volunteering program and ski safety advocacy after his brother died in an avalanche years earlier
But Trudeau says it was the changing politics of Canada’s young voters that pushed him into the parliamentary ring in 2008, where he won a seat in parliament as a member of his father’s Liberal Party.
Critics have raised concerns over the 43-year-old relatively short career and while he isn’t the youngest prime minister to lead the country — a record held by then 39-year-old conservative Joe Clark who won the 1979 election over Pierre Trudeau — many suggest he lacks the experience needed to lead the country.
So far, one of his most notable moments in Canadian politics has been a boxing match with now-suspended Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau — all for charity of course. But it’s those photos from 2012 that are now resurfacing and causing a flurry on social media.
Nonetheless, his short political record was enough to get him elected as Liberal leader in 2013, after the party suffered an embarrassing election defeat in 2011. His caucus hasn’t looked back since.
Canada’s Conservatives have been relegated to the opposition bench following nearly a decade of pro-austerity measures, tax cuts and unyielding support for Canada’s energy sector.
Tax changes are on the Liberal books within the first 100 days of parliament. It will see breaks for the wealthiest nixed, and tax levels for the middle class cut from 22 to 20.5 percent.
Liberals also campaigned on a significant boost in infrastructure spending, and assuming they would stay in power over the next 10 years, have pledged 60 billion Canadian dollars ($46 billion) towards new projects.
One of the most headline-worthy platform promises, however, is Trudeau’s pledge to legalize marijuana, meaning possession and consumption would no longer be a criminal offense. Regulation is planned, but those details are yet to be released.
Trudeau has also promised to fulfil G20 commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and plans to significantly curb carbon pollution. However, he’s maintained support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Albertan oil to the U.S., saying he prefers pipelines to rail transport for Canada’s crude.
It’s a touchy subject that’s divided Canada’s provinces, prompting protests over pipeline construction in recent years. How Trudeau navigates the issue could set the tone for energy development in years so come.
The new Canadian parliament will commence by November 9.