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Canada Election 2019: 'Canadians rejected division and negativity,' Trudeau says

12:50  22 october  2019
12:50  22 october  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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Flanked by his wife, Sophie, Justin Trudeau hesitated only a second behind the stage, then stepped into the bright red light soaking the Liberal faithful gathered in Montreal and delivered a victory speech focused on unity and moving forward.

“From coast to coast to coast, tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity,” Trudeau told supporters gathered at the Palais des Congrès Monday night. “They rejected cuts and austerity and they voted in favour of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change.”

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Often interrupted by chants of “Justin! Justin! Justin!” from the crowd, Trudeau took the stage around 1 a.m., thanking his family, his campaign team, and the people of his Papineau riding.

“It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve you for these past four years and tonight you’re sending us back to work for you,” Trudeau said. “We take this responsibility seriously and we will work hard for you, for your families and for your future.”

As the close race predicted played out before Liberal supporters Monday night, the mood in the Montreal ballroom where they gathered shifted from a quiet unease early in the evening to a sense of relief and, finally, outright celebration.

When it was announced the Liberals would form the next government, shortly after 10 p.m., a reserved crowd wasted little time erupting into chants of “four more years.” By the end of the night, the Liberals sat on just under 160 seats, short of the 170 needed for a majority government.

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“Tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity . They rejected cuts and austerity. They elected a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” Trudeau said early Tuesday. His address to supporters came, unusually, as his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, had just begun speaking to

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But whatever the final result would be, it was clear among those gathered Monday that they weren’t focused on the scandals that came close to derailing Trudeau’s chances at re-election but instead on what they saw as his resilience throughout an often up-and-down election campaign.

“When you work hard, you’re always going to make mistakes,” said Abdul Dernaika, one of the first supporters to gather at the Liberals headquarters at the Palais des congrès.

Dernaika, 43, said he voted for the Liberal party for what it’s done for the middle class. But he also related to how Trudeau could bounce back from missteps, he said.

“It’s very easy to give pointers when you’re just observing. It’s always harder when you’re in the seat,” he said. “We’re all human beings. You move on and you correct your mistakes. And this is what Trudeau has done.”

Describing the feeling as a weight finally being lifted off his shoulders, Chip Smith, a 19-year-old McGill student who volunteered for the Liberal party, jumped off the floor in excitement when it was announced the Liberals would at least secure a minority government.

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“I think it shows Justin Trudeau is resilient,” Smith said between loud cheers and high fives as more results trickled in. “And that he’s someone you can’t underestimate.”

Forty days earlier, Trudeau had started his campaign with a much lower approval rating than most would have predicted four years ago, when his message of change and “positive politics” had led the Liberal party to a majority on the shoulders of its leader’s soaring popularity.

But after a challenging four years in office, during which he was criticized from the left and the right, polls heading into Monday’s election suggested Trudeau’s Liberals were deadlocked with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, leading the conversation around the campaign to shift toward potential minority or coalition governments.

As the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois continued to gain support, Trudeau remained focused on staving off Scheer, adjusting his approach and urging that a vote for the Liberals was the only way to keep the Conservatives out of power.

Throughout the campaign, Trudeau ran on a message that Canadians want to “move forward,” pledging to make life more affordable for families and to fight against climate change, positioning his party as the sole viable option for a sustainable future amid a climate crisis.

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But the Liberal leader’s progressive image was repeatedly questioned by critics and attacked by political opponents, with scandals at times overshadowing his party’s promises and appearing to threaten his chances at re-election.

Trudeau spent the months leading to the campaign embroiled in turmoil and internal party divisions over the SNC-Lavalin scandal . Though he insisted he was trying to save Canadian jobs, his handling of the affair earned him an ethics violation and cast doubt on his one-time promise to do politics differently.

His support of the Trans Mountain pipeline — which his government bought for $4.5 billion in 2018 — also exposed him to criticism from environmentalists and Indigenous groups, while making him an easy target for political opponents questioning his commitment to environmental issues.

It was a decision that followed Trudeau throughout an election campaign in which proposed climate action played its largest role to date. As was often the case during the 40 days, when Trudeau went to cast his vote in his Papineau riding Monday morning, accompanied by his wife and children, he was heckled by a protester waiting outside: “You’re a climate criminal,” the man shouted.

And after an early campaign that saw Scheer and Conservatives labelling the Liberal leader as two-faced and unethical, revelations in mid-September that Trudeau wore blackface and brownface several times before entering politics played into the Conservatives’ hands.

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If Trudeau’s confidence was shaken from the revelations, he was poised to move past it, quickly apologizing and pledging to do better, hoping to prevent it from hanging over the rest of his campaign.

Among supporters Monday night, it was clear Trudeau’s message had gotten across. If his record on environmental issues isn’t perfect, they said, the party’s plan remains the best realistic option to fight climate change. And if his character has been questioned, his responses to criticism have been enough to regain their trust.

Before leaving the stage, Trudeau used his speech to reach out to all Canadians and pledged to champion Canada in “all its diversity.”

“To those who voted for our party, thank you for having faith in us to move this country in the right direction,” Trudeau said.

“And to those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you,” he added. “We will govern for everyone. Regardless of how you cast your ballot. Ours is a team that will fight for all Canadians.”

jfeith@postmedia.com

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