Canadian voters have ended nearly a decade of conservative leadership under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Liberals will form a majority government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau. As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, the election has been observed closely by political and business interests near New York’s border.
The victory in Monday's election by Trudeau's Liberal Party was stunning. The Liberals received 39.5 percent of the overall vote compared to 32 percent for the Conservatives and 19.6 for the New Democrats. Stephen Harper, one of the longest-serving Western leaders, will step down as Conservative leader. Trudeau, the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, addressed his supporters Monday evening — broadcast on CBC. “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. And I want to remind everyone as I’ve said many times over the course of this campaign Conservatives are not our enemies, they’re our neighbors.”
The Conservatives ran a negative campaign, and that worked to their disadvantage according to SUNY Plattsburgh Director for the Study of Canada Dr. Christopher Kirkey. “Public opinion polling was suggesting that it would be a reasonably strong minority government. It would be a Liberal government. But I think people just generally underestimated the appetite Canadians had to, frankly, get rid of Stephen Harper. Harper ran the prime ministership and approached the prime ministership and ran Canada in a decidedly autocratic, secretive, nontransparent, non-consultative and ultimately non-accountable manner. So I think a lot of people were just happy to get rid of Harper.”
Kirkey expects an invigorated relationship between the U.S. and Canada. “I think we’re going to see a sharper, more welcome focus placed on the U.S. Canada relationship. As far as our local relationship goes I don’t think we’ll see anything dramatic. By way of immediate changes in the relationship for our listening area with Canada Mr. Trudeau’s principle policies will, if anything, help that relationship.”
Former New York Congressman Bill Owens’ district runs along the U.S.-Canadian border. The Democrat who retired after last term co-chaired the Congressional Northern Border Caucus. He is currently a legal consultant on cross-border commerce. Owens expects cross-border policies to be largely unaffected by the change in the Canadian federal government. “The Liberal government taking over probably has no on-the-ground impact on our relationship with Canada and in particular with Quebec. They will largely continue the trade policies that the Harper government had. So I’m not looking for any major shifts in our economy and in the amount of traffic and trade that we do with Canada. I think what you’re going to see is a large focus on boosting the economy, boosting the currency of Canada so it gets closer to par with the United States. And I think the move to do that primarily through large infrastructure investments in Canada. And I think that’s where you’ll see Trudeau focus.”
CDC Real Estate founder and past President Mark Barie says he’s concerned about what will happen to the value of the Canadian dollar with the change to Liberal control. “This fellow ran on the platform that he would put his country $10 billion a year in debt for the next 3 years presumably for infrastructure reasons, for climate change and so on and so forth. And the Canadian dollar is already pretty far down there now. If you see the country of Canada start to run almost structural deficits for three or four years, you wonder what’s going to happen to the value of the Canadian dollar. That is more of concern I think to business people here, the value of the Canadian dollar, then whether it’s Liberal or Conservative in Ottawa.”
The Liberals won 184 of 338 seats in Parliament or 39 percent of the vote. Conservatives took 99 seats or 31 percent of the vote. But that was a 22 percent drop in their number of seats. A party must have 170 seats to have the majority and hold the prime minister’s seat in Canada. Trudeau is expected to take power within two weeks. Voter turnout was 68 percent.