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Canada's liberals elect Trudeau as new leader

Justin Trudeau, son of former PM, named new leader of Liberal Party of Canada, promising "positive politics" and change.

Last Modified: 15 Apr 2013 06:45
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Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister of Canada from 1968 to 1984 [Reuters]

Liberal Party of Canada has chosen rising political star Justin Trudeau to lead the party as it seeks to rebound from a major defeat at the polls in 2011.

Forty-one-year-old Trudeau, the son of the former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was on Sunday announced as the new leader of the party at an event in the capital city of Ottawa, with 80 percent of the vote.

"Canadians want to be led, not ruled. They are tired of the negative and divisive politics of [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper," he said in his victory speech, delivered in both French and English.

"It's not my leadership that Mr Harper fears, it is yours: engaged and informed Canadian citizens."

Within minutes of his victory, the Conservative Party released a statement that said Trudeau was not yet ready to govern.

"Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn't have the judgement or experience to be prime minister," said Fred DeLorey, director of communications of the Conservative party.

'Beginning of the end'

Trudeau, a former teacher, was elected to the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament, in 2008 and re-elected in 2011.

Trudeau had imitated US President Barack Obama in campaigning largely on a message of hope. He said detailed policy pronouncements will come later, ahead of a federal election due in 2015.

"What Justin Trudeau is benefiting from is probably having the right message at the right time in terms of a swing back to less hyperbole and negativism," said Nik Nanos, of polling firm Nanos Research.

After holding power for most of the last century, the Liberal Party fell into third place for the first time, behind the right-wing Conservatives and the left-wing New Democrats.

"Today marks the beginning of the end of this Conservative government," said former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, who won three straight majority governments, at the event.

Father's legacy

Trudeau favours legalisation of marijuana and some form of carbon pricing.

He opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline to take oil from Alberta to British Columbia, on the grounds that it would cross pristine wilderness, but does not oppose the Keystone XL pipeline to the United States.

He also proposes to change Canada's electoral system to allow voters to register their second and third choices.

His father, Pierre Trudeau, who died in 2000, was prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984.

The elder Trudeau was admired for the force of his intellect and praised for his political acumen.

He was key in preserving national unity against separatists from the French-speaking province of Quebec, as well as in establishing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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