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Justin Trudeau Carries Liberals to Massive Win in Canada

It's the end of an era, with Stephen Harper's Conservative government losing its majority grip on Canada's Parliament. He will be stepping down as leader of the party.

by Rachel Browne and Hilary Beaumont
Oct 20 2015, 2:35am

Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has been elected Canada's 23rd prime minister, beating out Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who reigned for nearly a decade.

The son of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau — a revered and reviled former leader — Trudeau, 43, is the first son of a prime minister to become, himself, prime minister.

As of this writing, the Liberals had been elected in 155 ridings, and are projected to win 190 seats. The party needs a total of 170 seats to win a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons. Media outlets projected a Conservative opposition, with a projected 93 seats. The NDP are projected to win only 24 seats, and have only won two seats so far.

The Liberals flooded the east coast in what has been dubbed a "crimson tide," taking out opposition candidates including strong NDP incumbent and environment critic Megan Leslie in Halifax.

"Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways," Trudeau told supporters during his victory speech at his riding in Montreal. "This is what positive politics can do. This is what a positive party, a hopeful vision and a platform and a team can make happen."

"Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight it's time for a change in this country, my friends. A real change."

While Harper won his riding in Calgary, and the Canadian Press reported he will step down as leader of the Conservative party. An interim leader will be chosen in the coming days.

A number of prominent Conservative cabinet ministers already have, or are expected to, lose their seats as polls continue to close across the country. Bernard Valcourt, the government's Aboriginal Affairs Minister, lost his riding to Liberal candidate Rene Arsenault. And Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is expected to lose his seat to Liberal rival Mark Holland.

Left-leaning Canadian voters saw Trudeau as a charismatic young leader, with the best chance of beating Harper, whose had been criticized for proroguing parliament, gutting environmental legislation, and passing the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, among other policy decisions. Much of the Conservative campaign focused on banning the niqab, a religious face-covering worn by Muslim women, at citizenship ceremonies.

The perception of Harper by the Canadian political left as a regressive politician prompted a number of voting campaigns to rally Muslim, indigenous and young electors, and to vote strategically to elect the highest number of NDP and Liberal candidates, which has chipped away at the number of Conservative seats.

Canada's longest modern election was a rollercoaster, with the left-leaning NDP enjoying an early surge in the polls. Midway through the campaign, the Conservatives took over those numbers, and by the end of the 78-day campaign period, polling numbers put the Liberals within reach of a majority, according to a Forum Research survey exclusive to VICE News.

But scandal dogged the last week of the Liberal campaign when it was revealed that the campaign's volunteer co-chair Dan Gagnier had given lobbying advice to major pipeline company TransCanada during the campaign. Political rivals the NDP and the Conservatives jumped at the chance to slow down the Liberal surge, but it didn't cost the party its victory.

After an early lead in the polls, support for the NDP wavered. But even as late as Oct. 9, leader Thomas Mulcair attempted to convince voters that the NDP was on track to win a majority government, repeating the party line that they only needed 35 more seats, and harkening back to 2011 when the NDP swept Quebec, and formed the country's official opposition.

Catch full election coverage on Daily VICE's live stream here. And check out all of VICE News' Canadian election coverage