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What You Need to Know About the Liberal Party's Stunning Win in the Canadian Elections

After a bizarre 11-week campaign that saw its share of scandal and drama, the Conservatives were roundly defeated by the optimistic centrism of Justin Trudeau.

by Harry Cheadle
Oct 20 2015, 5:16pm

Justin Trudeau at a campaign event. Photo via Joseph Morris

Americans are in the habit of mostly ignoring the big, cold, hockey-loving mass of land to the north. Canada is often dismissed as being a more buttoned-down, more boring version of the US, and a mostly drama-free land of socialized medicine, sweaters, and extraordinarily polite citizens.

The Canadian federal election, which concluded last night with a big win for the centrist Liberal Party, has been anything but polite. It's been a "dumpster fire," according to VICE Canada staff writer Manisha Krishnan, a circus that has seen micro-scandals involving candidates peeing in mugs in other peoples' kitchens, buying high-school girls drinks at clubs, ketchup-based police brutality, making citizens' arrests on people defacing their campaign signs, writing bizarre erotic novels, and not knowing Auschwitz was a concentration camp.

Those were sideshows, of course. The main event of Canadian campaign season was the opposition to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has been running the country for close to a decade. Throughout the 78-day-long campaign (which is a long election season for Canada, believe it or not), Harper played to his party's base, dismissing concerns about missing and murdered Indigenous women, calling weed "infinitely worse" than cigarettes, and making his proposed niqab ban a major election issue in what amounted to a pretty transparent ploy to get the Islamophobic vote out. (After the loss, Harper stepped down as Conservative leader.)

On VICE News: True Believers Witness a Stephen Harper Denouement in Calgary

The man replacing him as PM, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, is the son of the legendary politician and prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Trudeau the Younger's Liberal party won a majority of Parliament seats in a surprising sweep, pushing aside the Conservatives but also stomping on the hopes of the New Democratic Party (NDP), a typically more left-wing party that has moved slightly to the right this election cycle under Tom Mulcair.

Helping Trudeau along was the "Anyone but Harper" movement, which encouraged NDP and Liberal voters to ignore their party affiliation in favor of voting for the most viable non-Conservative candidate in their electoral district.

"Early on, the NDP were the default protest vote," said VICE Canada correspondent Justin Ling in an email. Then it flipped to the Liberals. While [Trudeau's] charisma has something to do with [his victory], his policies certainly help.‎ Between his pledge to create jobs through infrastructure spending and to raise taxes on the richest 1 percent, people did like his platform."

According to the BBC, the Liberals have promised to take in more Syrian refugees, cut taxes on the middle class, build more infrastructure, and legalize marijuana. Combine that with Trudeau's upbeat, optimistic acceptance speech that focused on leading the country with "sunny ways" and left-leaning Canadians have plenty of reason to celebrate.

The question going forward is whether Trudeau, who the Conservatives targeted as being too young and unprepared to lead the country during the election, can deliver on all of his promises. But somewhat like Barack Obama did in 2008, his hopeful rhetoric seems to have trumped charges of inexperience.

"They might not trust him to run the country," said Ling of Canadians. "but they like him."

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