The handsome and charismatic son of Canada’s most famous prime minister, Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000), Justin was long considered destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. His dramatic election in 2015 after a decade of Conservative rule brings with it high expectations of an era of progressive government as consequential as the last Trudeau administration.
Justin Trudeau came to politics relatively late in life, and has often been criticized for spending much of his his early adulthood as something of a dilettante, working as a high school teacher and philanthropist but showing little interest in national affairs. He was elected as a Liberal member of parliament in 2008 at age 36, the same year the Conservative government of Stephen Harper (b. 1959) was re-elected. In 2011 Harper won a third term and the Liberals were nearly wiped out, causing insiders to believe the party needed a dramatic new leader to revive its flagging fortunes. In 2013 Trudeau was overwhelmingly voted in as party boss, and in the 2015 general election he lead the party to the most dramatic comeback in Canadian political history, unseating Harper and boosting the Liberal seat count from 34 to 184.
Like his father, the younger Trudeau is considered quite left-wing, particularly in contrast to the Conservative government that came before him. His 2015 platform called for raising taxes on the wealthy, legalizing marijuana, ending Canadian airstrikes against the Islamic State in the Middle East, and a variety of generous spending initiatives which he openly admitted would drive Canada’s budget back into deficit. With a solid majority of seats in parliament, Trudeau’s Liberals shouldn’t have much difficulty bringing his promises to fruition, though as a relative political novice there will doubtless still be significant challenges along the way.