MONTREAL/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, who came from behind to trounce his Conservative rivals and snatch a majority mandate, now has to deliver on pledges from tackling climate change to boosting the economy and legalizing marijuana.
Trudeau, who campaigned on a promise of change, toppled Stephen Harper’s Conservatives on Monday, giving him the freedom to start implementing his campaign pledges largely unimpeded.
He struck a chord with Canadians weary of nine years of Conservative rule. Harper resigned as party leader after the defeat.
The 43-year-old son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau swept to victory with 39.5 percent of the popular vote in an election that saw the highest voter turnout since 1993.
The Liberal leader will have to quickly start delivering on his promises to change policy, beginning with a U.N. climate change summit in Paris in December.
Trudeau plans to double spending on infrastructure to jump-start anemic growth. In addition, his Liberals plan to begin working on legalizing marijuana “right away,” Trudeau said during the campaign. He has said marijuana laws could be changed in the first two years of his government.
“To this country’s friends all around the world, many of you have wondered that Canada has lost a compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years,” Trudeau told jubilant supporters in Ottawa.
“Well, I have a simple message for you on behalf of 35 million Canadians: we’re back.”
The win marked a turn in political fortunes that smashed the record for the number of seats gained from one election to the next. The center-left Liberals had been a distant third-place party before the vote.
“When the time for change strikes, it’s lethal,” former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said in a television interview.
“This afternoon we can celebrate but the work is only beginning,” Trudeau, speaking in French, told the Ottawa rally.
Trudeau attacked Harper relentlessly for turning Canada into a “pariah” on climate change issues. He pledged to attend the Paris conference, then convene the country’s provincial premiers within 90 days to create national emissions targets under a framework that would allow provinces to set a price on carbon.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Harper’s defeat will not affect Kerry’s decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline between the two countries.
Trudeau backs Keystone and has vowed to repair cool relations between Ottawa and Washington.
The White House said it hopes the new Canadian government will continue to support the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition to fight Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
Trudeau has pledged to withdraw Canada’s CF-18 bombers from the coalition fight but maintain humanitarian aid and training.
Choosing a cabinet will be one of Trudeau’s top priorities before he and his ministers are sworn in. Trudeau said he would unveil his cabinet on Nov. 4.
Former Canadian Finance Minister Ralph Goodale is among seven top contenders to run that department, a senior adviser to Trudeau said.
The Liberals plan to run a C$10 billion annual budget deficit for three years to invest in infrastructure and help stimulate Canada’s anemic economic growth.
Stock investors cheered the Liberal victory, betting it would loosen government purse strings to kick-start growth.
Shares of construction firms and railways rose on the Toronto Stock Exchange along with heavyweight resource and financial stocks. [.TO]
Canadian medical marijuana stocks also were higher.
Liberals’ strong showing removed the uncertainty that could have resulted from a minority government, and while the new administration plans to run deficits, it has also said it would keep corporate tax rates steady.
The Canadian dollar strengthened as fiscal policy could limit the need to cut interest rates. [CAD/]
“People are breathing a sigh of relief and they are looking for those areas that should show a positive impact from what the Liberals were talking about,” said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.
Trudeau, a telegenic father of three, also returns a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa.
Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper asked “Is Justin Trudeau the sexiest politician in the world?” while an Australian news website was more direct: “The votes are in and Canada has come out of its election with a super hot new leader.”
Trudeau kicked off his first morning as prime minister-designate by greeting astonished voters at a Montreal subway station in his home constituency.
Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish