Incumbent Conservative ousted in Canadian federal election

The 2015 Canadian federal election took place on Oct. 19 and resulted in Justin Trudeau, head of the centrist Liberal Party, ousting long-time incumbent Stephen Harper, of the Conservative party, to become the next Canadian prime minister. The election also determined the party members elected to the House of Commons of the 42nd Parliament of Canada, with the Liberals winning 184 of the 338 seats and gaining control of the House of Commons, a rare 54 percent majority in Canada’s typically pluralist parliament.

Trudeau, who will be 44 on Christmas Day, will be the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history and the first to follow a parent into office (his father Pierre Trudeau served two terms as Canadian Prime Minister, from 1968 to 1979 and from 1980 until 1984.)

Canada has a multi-party system with two dominant political parties: the Conservative Party of Canada and, as of Monday, the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberal party had been one of the two dominant parties since 1867 until 2011, when the New Democratic Party won more seats in the House of Commons, marking the first time in Canadian history the Liberals have not been a dominant party. This brief role-reversal was reversed with the Liberal’s sweeping victory in Monday’s federal election.

Notable minor parties include the New Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the Strength in Democracy Party. The conservatives currently hold 99 seats, the New Democrats 44, the Liberals 184 (a huge increase from their previous holding of 34 seats), the Bloc Québécois 10 seats, and the Green Party 1 seat.

The 2011 federal election resulted in the continuation of the incumbent Conservative government, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper has been the leader of the Conservative Party since 2004 and won 39.62 percent of the seats in the 2011 election. Canadian Prime Ministers can stay in office for as long as they are elected. Mr. Harper and his Conservative Party have prevailed in three straight elections and held power for nine years – without ever winning more than 40 percent of the vote.

Under Harper’s conservative government, Canada’s trademark progressiveness has wavered, with the party’s primary focus on cutting taxes. Along with decreased funding and government support for the progressive social policies that have characterized Canada for the past few decades, the Harper administration has been pushing for stricter immigration laws and decreased tolerance for religious and cultural minorities, such as an attempted ban on the niqab, a face veil worn by some Muslim women.

The forerunners for this year’s election included Harper for the Conservatives, Tom Mulclair for the New Democrats, Justin Trudeau for the Liberals, and Gilles Duceppe and Elizabeth May for the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party, respectively.

The Conservative Party, known colloquially as the Tories, is center-right on the Canadian political spectrum, with an economically liberal ideology and a neutral social policy. The New Democrat Party is a center-left party with social democratic ideals. The Liberal Party is center to center-left on the political spectrum (traditionally to the left of the Conservative Party and to the right of the New Democrats) and associated with liberalist ideologies. The Bloc Québécois is primarily concerned with the protection of Quebec’s interests and the promotion of Quebec sovereignty, but like the New Democratic Party supports the ideologies of social democracy. The Green Party is a centrist party that emphasizes Green politics, a political ideology that aims to create an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism, non-violence, social justice, and grassroots democracy.

Canada and the United States have the world’s largest trading relationship, with trade crossing all industries and vital to both nations’ success as each country is the largest trade partner of the other. The trade between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan alone is equal to all trade between the United States and Japan. Canada and the United States have a bilateral relationship, as evidenced by the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement of 1988 and the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Our [Canada-United States] partnership is forged by shared geography, similar values, common interests, deep connections and powerful, multi-layered economic ties,” according to the Canadian government website detailing Canada-U.S. relations.

Some of the important United States/Canada issues include the Keystone XL Pipeline, Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the North American Competitiveness Workplan (NACW) – all of which effect citizens in both nations and are directly tied to the type of governments in place.

As a result of the symbiotic nature of the Canadian-United States relationship even typically “Canadian” issues have a direct effect on American citizens. Canada’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, treatment of Aboriginal peoples – specifically the astronomical murder and abduction rates of Aboriginal women – and the gender pay gap (Canada’s is twice the global average) are all relevant issues that Americans should be aware of.  

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