Liberals Oust Canada’s Harper After Decade of Tory Rule

Stephen Harper loses power to the Liberals after ruling Canada for almost ten years.

Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau wave at supporters at the University of Toronto, February 15
Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau wave at supporters at the University of Toronto, February 15 (William Pitcher)

Canada’s Liberals are due to return to power after almost a decade in opposition. In parliamentary elections on Monday, the party, led by Justin Trudeau, got almost 40 percent support, enough for a majority.

Stephen Harper’s ruling Conservatives lost sixty of their 159 seats. The more left-wing New Democrats lost more than half their seats.

Trudeau, the son of a former prime minister, is expected to abandon the Conservatives’ austerity program in favor of a more expansionary fiscal policy.

Although Canada posted a $1.9 billion surplus this year, the Liberals’ spending and tax pledges could push the budget into the red again.

Even if the country were to run a deficit for a few years, its debt, as a share of yearly economic output, would likely remain among the lowest in the developed world. It now equals 31 percent of GDP.

Harper had urged voters to stay the course but an economic downturn, caused by low oil prices, called into question his party’s stewardship of the economy.

The right was also battered by corruption scandals throughout its most recent term in office.

Abroad, Trudeau has vowed to end Canada’s participation in American-led airstrikes against Islamists in Iraq and Syria. He also wants the country to accept more refugees from the Syrian Civil War.

However, he would keep military trainers in Iraq and is not expected to shift Canada’s support away from Israel.

Harper strongly backed the Jewish state and shared its concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Since world powers reached an agreement with Iran this summer that is meant to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, Trudeau has said Canada should restore relations with the Middle Eastern nation.