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. Now prime minister himself, his supporters hope he will lead a government as consequential as his father’s.
The younger 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, crushing Harper and boosting the Liberal seat count from 34 to 184.
Like his father, the younger Trudeau is a strong progressive, and is particularly passionate about issues relating to “social justice” and equality, including feminism, racial equality, reconciliation with Canada’s native peoples, environmentalism, and LGBT rights. Since his inauguration, he has become a major global celebrity and progressive hero, often described as a rare champion of liberalism at a time when many countries are embracing the politics of the populist right. His first term has been defined by a number of center-left initiatives including hiking taxes on the wealthy, legalizing marijuana and doctor-assisted suicide, and implementing a national carbon tax to combat climate change. In the realm of foreign policy, his administration has been mostly consumed with managing Canada’s relationship with US President Donald Trump (b. 1946). In 2018 the two leaders concluded years of acrimonious negotiations with a new trade pact, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Trudeau’s four years in office have not been without scandal, and his policies and personality are quite polarizing. He is up for reelection in October 2019 and the race is expected to be competitive.