TORONTO » Justin Trudeau, the son of one of Canada’s most charismatic politicians, will be Canada’s next prime minister, according to projections Monday by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The projection, made even before the final polls had closed in western Canada, came as early vote tallies indicated a resounding victory for Trudeau’s Liberal Party over the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper, the prime minister for almost a decade.
If the results are confirmed, they would signal a sharp change in Canada’s politics. Trudeau marks a return to Canada’s liberal tradition, with its emphasis on social welfare — and one that Harper was intent on changing.
Canada has shifted to the center-right under Harper, who has lowered sales and corporate taxes, avoided climate change legislation and clashed with the Obama administration over the Keystone XL pipeline.
Trudeau, a 43-year-old former school teacher and member of Parliament since 2008, is the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. He would become the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history.
"A sea of change here. We are used to high tides in Atlantic Canada. This is not what we hoped for," said Peter MacKay, a former senior Conservative cabinet minister, shortly after polls closed in Atlantic Canada.
MacKay helped unite the right in Canada and previously served as defense and foreign minister under Harper before stepping down earlier this year. He made the remarks to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Trudeau, who has re-energized the Liberal Party since its devastating electoral losses four years ago, promises to raise taxes on the rich and run deficits for three years to boost government spending. His late father, who took office in 1968 and led Canada for most of the next 16 years, is a storied name in Canadian history, responsible for the country’s version of the bill of rights.
"We have a chance to bring real change to Canada and bring an end to the Harper decade," Trudeau said in Harper’s adopted home province of Alberta, traditionally a Conservative stronghold.
A Trudeau victory would ease tensions with the U.S. Although Trudeau supports the Keystone pipeline, he argues relations should not hinge on the project. Harper has clashed with the Obama administration over other issues, including the recently reached Iran nuclear deal.
Trudeau’s opponents pilloried him as too inexperienced, but Trudeau embraced his boyish image on Election Day. Sporting jeans and a varsity letter jacket, he posed for a photo standing on the thighs of two his colleagues to make a cheerleading pyramid, his campaign plane in the backdrop with "Trudeau 2015" painted in large red letters.
Harper, 56, visited districts he won in the 2011 election in an attempt to hang onto them. On Saturday, he posed with Toronto’s former crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford, in a conservative suburb.
Hurt when Canada entered a mild recession earlier this year, Harper made a controversy over the Islamic face veil a focus of his campaign, a decision his opponents seized on to depict him as a divisive leader.
Paula Mcelhinney, 52, from Toronto, voted Liberal to get rid of Harper.
"I want to get him out, it’s about time we have a new leader. It’s time for a change," she said.
Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha contributed to this report.