Column: After a majority win, now the work begins

Canadians clearly voted for change, so much so that Liberal red swept across the country from coast to coast.

Congratulations go to Mark Strahl for his re-election victory Monday night.  But on his return to Ottawa he’s going to find a profoundly different landscape. Not only has the Conservative Party been pushed into official Opposition status but Stephen Harper has stepped down and the party is seeking his replacement.

What a historic difference a night makes!

Canadians clearly voted for change, so much so that Liberal red swept across the country from coast to coast. Defying enormous odds, the party went from third place status with just 36 seats at dissolution of the 41st Parliament to 184 seats, safely above the 170 needed for majority rule. That represents 54.4 per cent of the new total of 338 seats and 39.5 per cent of the popular vote.

Canadians came out in droves to the polling stations. Voter turnout was 68.49 per cent, the highest since the 1993 election and a total of 88 women were elected to the House of Commons, a bit higher than the 76 who were elected in the 2011 election.

Stunningly, the NDP which was doing so well at the beginning of the campaign finished with just 44 seats. The French language debate didn’t help when Mulcair accused Harper of using the niqab issue as a ‘weapon of mass distraction’.

Among the stingers that turned Harper’s less than stellar campaign into a sinking ship were the Duffy trial, his response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the niqab ban, and his ‘old stock Canadians’.  Maybe he gained a margin of traction with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the details of which still haven’t surfaced, but a final mug shot of him posing with Rob Ford looked like a last ditch Tea Party appeal that sealed his fate as a goner. The Conservatives will be mulling whether they need a re-think or a re-build after the loss of 67 seats.

Now Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau will be transitioning power swiftly to form the new Liberal government and select his gender-balanced cabinet which he says he will announce on Nov. 4. He’ll need to get up to speed fast as global conferences are right on his heels – the Climate Conference in Paris in November and the G20 in Turkey as well as the APEC and Commonwealth conferences.

By all accounts, provincial premiers are pleased with the Trudeau majority. Their relationship with Ottawa under the Harper government had been rocky at best. Trudeau’s campaign promise was to meet with the premiers within 100 days of taking office which he fully intends to meet.

News of Trudeau’s election success swept around the world and congratulations from leaders poured in. Former Vice President Al Gore and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wasted no time urging Trudeau to take a catch-up leadership role on climate change issues which I have no doubt he will do.

The past few days have been a pretty wild political honeymoon. Trudeau is astutely social-media savvy. Hugs and selfies have become his hallmark, a new take on an old fashioned strategy of meeting and listening to Canadians.

But the really tough days are ahead.

He’s got to deliver on those promises starting with putting $10 billion to work on infrastructure to create jobs, affordable housing and transit for the modern age. His first job is to choose his cabinet. Easy, some say, with 184 to pick from. But in the fallout there will be some bruised egos. And ahead of him in the daily course of political life will be many brutal choices. Some people are going to be angry, sad, disappointed.

Trudeau promised to end a decade of negative divisive politics and be the prime minister of all Canadians.

You go, Justin!

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