Canada’s recent election ended a decade of conservative rule with a decisive majority for the country’s centrist Liberal Party. The Liberals had begun the campaign in third place and ended up sweeping to a parliamentary majority. Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, is now slated to become Canada’s twenty-third Prime Minister. The Trudeau family name should be familiar south of the border.
Justin Trudeau is the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, whom some have called the father of modern Canada. Pierre Trudeau served as Prime Minister during the tumultuous years of the late 1960s and early 1980s. He was, as Greg Donaghy notes, “dramatic and quixotic,” a stylish, graceful, modernizing, and controversial figure who inspired “Trudeaumania”—he was the only national leader who parlayed with peace campaigners John Lennon and Yoko Ono and who sat calmly while being pelted with rocks and bottles by Quebecois separatists. He also, during the October Crisis of 1970, a terrorist hostage situation, declared virtual martial law.
Donaghy writes about Trudeau’s search for peace among the superpowers during the early 1980s, when the nuclear sabers were being rattled loudly. The quest was unsuccessful, “but it delighted most Canadians, reinforcing their skepticism about American claims to exclusive leadership of the western alliance.”
Writing at the time of Trudeau’s death in 2000, Alicia Barsallo, a critic from the left, pays tribute to the man as a “figure of gigantic proportions in the Canadian scene,” particularly in comparison to what she calls the “dwarves” then in power. She wondered if, upon his death, she was also mourning the death of Canadian liberalism.
One could argue about the similarities and differences between the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of his father, but there’s no argument that the Liberals are back in power. To play off Pierre Trudeau’s famous line: Let’s just watch them.