Trudeau's Liberals boost claim to be top contender for power in Canada

Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:57pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's Liberals have strengthened their claim to be the main challenger to the governing Conservatives in the next general election after being thrust back into the political mainstream by a strong performance in four special elections.

While much can change in the two years before the October 2015 general election, Monday's results have given new momentum to the Liberals - led by Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - as they strive to get back into contention after a major setback in the 2011 election.

The ability to get voters who oppose the Conservatives to coalesce around one of Canada's two main center-left opposition parties is critical if one of them is to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party in 2015.

There are some deep philosophical differences between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) on their left. But some voters are happy to pick either one as an anti-Conservative standard bearer.

The NDP vaulted into second place behind the Conservatives in the 2011 election, buoyed by support for charismatic party leader Jack Layton, who died later in the year. It was the first time the NDP had won more seats than the Liberals in a national election.

The Liberals won just 34 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons to take third place, although they have pushed ahead of both the NDP and the Conservatives in recent opinion polls.

In Monday's races to fill four vacant parliamentary seats, the Liberals held on to seats in Toronto and Montreal and leapfrogged over the NDP to come second in two Manitoba contests.

"The NDP is no longer the hopeful, optimistic party of Jack Layton," Trudeau told supporters on Monday night. Seizing a line from Layton's powerful deathbed message to Canadians, he added: "It is the Liberal Party tonight that proved that hope is stronger than fear."   Continued...

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference with Chrystia Freeland (L), the recently nominated Liberal candidate for the upcoming federal by-election in the riding of Toronto Centre, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in this file photo from September 17, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/Files