Justin Trudeau, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, won the leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party that his father led for more than 16 years.
Trudeau, 41, received more than 80 percent of the points available to candidates in the leadership race under a formula that gave each riding an equal weighting, according to results released yesterday in Ottawa by the party. Voting by members and party supporters was done online over the past week.
“We have won nothing more and nothing less than the opportunity to work even harder,” Trudeau told party supporters in Ottawa after the results were announced, “to prove ourselves worthy of leading this great country.”
Trudeau, who will try to rebuild the Liberals following the party’s worst-ever showings in the last two elections, is beginning his tenure with his party holding first place in voter opinion polling for the first time since at least 2009.
“It is too early to tell whether this increase in Liberal support is the new trend or a direct result of the focus on the Liberal leadership race,” Nik Nanos, president of Ottawa-based Nanos Research, said in a Bloomberg News interview.
A poll by Nanos Research released April 12 found the Liberals with the support of 35.4 percent of voters, compared with 31.3 percent for the governing Conservatives.
The online poll of 1,002 Canadians taken between April 4 and April 8 showed support for the Liberals has come at the expense of both the Conservatives and the pro-labor New Democratic Party, which is the largest opposition party in the House of Commons. In January, the Conservatives had the support of 34.3 percent of voters, compared with 27.6 percent for the Liberals. The NDP has fallen to 23.6 percent from 27.1 percent in January, according to Nanos.
Trudeau has also been able to attract support of undecided voters, who have fallen to 11.2 percent of those polled in the Nanos survey this month, from 28.3 in February.
The new leader “has serious threats from the left and the right,” Nanos said. “Justin Trudeau has two credible opponents on both sides of the political spectrum both of whom want to eat his lunch.”
The Liberals, once dubbed Canada’s natural governing party because they won 21 of 31 elections between 1896 and 2004, saw their seat total and share of the vote in 2011 elections -- 19 percent -- fall to the lowest since Canada was founded in 1867.
The challenge for Trudeau will be to translate his leadership win into building an organization that can face off against the more campaign-ready Conservatives and NDP, said Robin Sears, a consultant at government relations firm Earnscliffe Strategy Group who has run campaigns for the NDP.
“The degree to which the Liberals are able to create a campaign organization that allows them to benefit from the glow, as far as one can say Justin has generated for them, and turn into seats, is a bit questionable in my mind,” Sears said.
In a speech yesterday, Trudeau called on the party to become more united after years of divisions between different factions.
“Canadians turned away from us because we turned away from them, because Liberals became more focused on fighting with each other than fighting for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
He also said will have clear platform in time for the next election in 2015.
Trudeau was criticized by other Liberal leadership candidates for running a campaign short on policy, and will be pressured now to provide more detailed ideas that will open him up to attacks from the other parties, Sears said.
“He really has to actually articulate some policy positions and defend it, and that remains to be seen,” Sears said.
The governing Conservative Party issued a statement after the results were announced, claiming Trudeau lacks experience.
“Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn’t have the judgment or experience to be prime minister,” Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey said in the statement.
Trudeau’s father had two stints as prime minister: between 1968 and 1979, and from 1980 to 1984.
Justin Trudeau was born in 1971 while his father was prime minister. He taught high school in Vancouver after graduating with degrees from Montreal’s McGill University and the University of British Columbia. Trudeau ran for office in 2008, where he won election in the central Montreal district of Papineau, defeating an incumbent candidate from the separatist Bloc Quebecois party.