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Canada goes to the polls today: A day of reckoning for Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his first rally of the 2019 campaign in Vancouver on September 11.        —Photo: Reuters Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his first rally of the 2019 campaign in Vancouver on September 11.        —Photo: Reuters

On both sides of the Atlantic, populist and nationalist sentiments appear to be growing. Rising anti-establishment fervour emerging around the world has left voters in most of the countries puzzled as to who to vote for. With liberal democracy on the decline, far-right parties are rapidly gaining tractions and individual voters, often incapable of assuming all the responsibilities a voter should bear, are relatively confused and misinformed.

Voters often treat their vote as an expression of protest. Some Canadians have a grudge against the present government of Justin Trudeau. Four years ago, in 2015, many young people voted for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, basically drawn by what they saw him as a young progressive leader whose policies on climate change and immigration resonated with them. This time, those same voters may have been disappointed by his many follies and may stay at home today, October 21, the election day, or split the vote by turning to another party like the Greens or the New Democratic Party. So, there is a possibility of a new face as the new prime minister of Canada after today's election.

Justin Trudeau is globally prominent, but some setbacks, some scandals and some gossips mark the ebb of his popularity. Still, many Canadians would love to see him as their prime minister, as one who is charismatic and different from the nationalists and conservatives.

Had Justin Trudeau been the President of the USA he would have been re-elected without an iota of doubt. But he is a Canadian. Most American presidents get re-elected in their second term, while Canadian prime ministers hardly get turned out by voters after their first term.

The possibility of Trudeau and his party getting re-elected cannot still be totally ruled out. Trudeau is young. He blends easily with the diversity of the Canadian population. And he is the son of Pierre Trudeau, who was the 15th prime minister of Canada. Trudeaumania, the name given in early 1968 to the excitement generated by Pierre Trudeau's entry into the leadership race of the Liberal Party of Canada, is not yet forgotten and Kennedyesque popularity of Justin Trudeau has not yet faded. Surpassing his father, Justin Trudeau has established himself as a global representative in a way that makes Canadians proud.

The list of successes made possible by Trudeau's Liberal government is not short. They have delivered on many of their promises. They made the tax system fairer by increasing levies on those making more than 200,000 Canadian dollars, and by easing taxes on the middle class and the poor, especially those with children. They have kept unemployment low and adroitly handled the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) renegotiation. They have accepted Syrian refugees when other countries wouldn't and increased what was already one of the world's highest rates of immigration. They introduced "gender-based analysis" in cabinet documents. They imposed a carbon tax. They legalised assisted suicide and recreational use of cannabis. They have promised to toughen gun control and expand universal healthcare services to include prescription drugs.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, the opponent, has a fair chance to win. He will try to capitalise on a recent scandal over meddling by Trudeau and senior Liberals in corruption charges against SNC-Lavalin. Observers, however, believe such hiccups in Trudeau's otherwise good governance would not swing many voters.

Trudeau has failed to translate his global glamour into electoral excitement at home. He had failure to solve the riddle of Canadian politics. For all his successes in office, he may not win on the election day. But he will bargain with opponents to keep power. That's what his father Pierre Trudeau did in 1972 to survive. Justin Trudeau knows that history.

If no party wins a clear majority in the House of Commons next week, Trudeau will still be the prime minister. But if his Liberals win fewer seats than the Conservatives, he will face a choice: he can attempt to marshal support from MPs of other parties, either on a vote-by-vote basis or through a formal coalition, or he can concede defeat.

When shrill voices tell us that immigration should be stifled and refugees should be returned to their country of origin, Canada welcomes the poor and the oppressed who are struggling to be free. In this era of fear and xenophobia when welcoming the world's oppressed is almost a thing of the past, Canada stands out as a nation, one of a very few, with wide open arms to welcome the distressed from any corner of the globe. When tyrants and terrorists chase innocents around the globe, Canada under the captaincy of Justin Trudeau has offered them refuge. Shouldn't the junior Trudeau run Canada for a second term? Those Canadians who care for humanity, those who believe that climate change is a threat, and those who have trust in the youthfulness of Trudeau may side with the Liberals creating history.




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