On October 19th the Liberals won a majority government. The campaign signs are down and the first shock has worn off, but not the hum of optimism that I’m still experiencing over the outcome. The closing weeks of the election campaign were characterized by divisive politics, a nasty tone of condescension, the bizarre spectacle of the Prime Minister using cheesy props (ka-ching!) at rallies, and the final low of seeing Stephen Harper embrace “Ford nation”. Really? As political campaigns go, the Conservatives’ strategy and relentless negativity fell flat. In contrast, Justin Trudeau’s pitch, positive in tone, and focused squarely on the leader’s aspirational message of a “better” Canada, floated above the negative din and appealed to Canadians looking for a new message.
On election night, I dared only to hope for a minority outcome for the Liberals. I attended the Calgary rally for Justin Trudeau held the day before the election, as did hundreds of others. It was heartening to see so many people, happily queued up in a long line that meandered around the building. Upon arrival, Justin Trudeau fearlessly waded into the crowd. Not everyone could be squeezed into the facility, but it didn’t matter. We listened to Trudeau’s speech from outside. Could the turn out be any indication of a swing to the Liberals – surely not in the heartland of Conservatism, Alberta? But in the end the seat was taken by the Liberals as was another one in Calgary and two in Edmonton. A breakthrough in the two largest cities in the province and a clear indication that Trudeau’s appeal was particularly strong in urban centres across the nation. That urban sweep would contribute to a sound majority. Watching the results come in on Monday night, it was with wild enthusiasm and some disbelief we realized that a progressive tide had just swept across the nation.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister designate, must confront a number of challenges from a weak economy, a looming international conference on climate change (the environment being a file the Conservatives have determinedly ignored – thus explaining Canada’s dreadful reputation), and a host of complexities associated with the massive TPP agreement. An expectant electorate will be waiting for the fulfillment of a plethora of campaign promises – from the legalization of marijuana, to myriad tax and legislative reforms, and much needed infrastructure spending. It’s dizzying and exciting and promising.
It’s as if the nation is emerging from a long, dark period when we were repeatedly admonished to be fearful, wary, and worried, and to celebrate balanced budgets and tax cuts to the exclusion of all else. But nations are not nourished on such watery gruel. We are, collectively, more than our individual fears, narrow prejudices, and tax brackets. I’m anxious to see improvements for struggling seniors, veterans, and First Nations people. Let’s show compassion to refugees fleeing intolerable conditions and investigate the murder and disappearance of so many indigenous women. Let’s develop a strategy to address climate change, provide all Canadians with pharmaceutical coverage, and carefully review Bill C 51. Surely we can move forward to improve the lives of Canadians. As Justin Trudeau has reminded us: “In Canada, better is always possible.”