Liberals take back Canada

Canada’s centrist Liberal Party, led by the 43-year-old former teacher Justin Trudeau, had been widely written off when the latest election campaign began 11 weeks ago. But last Monday it won a healthy majority, taking 184 of the 338 Seats in Ottawa’s House of Commons and turfing out Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper after almost a decade in power.

What the commentators said

People had had enough of Harper, “who governed sensibly but in his later years had grown increasingly insular and autocratic”, said The Wall Street Journal. He was also “an unabashed advocate” of the oil industry, which has dragged down growth in recent quarters now that prices have fallen.

Trudeau’s policy of running budget deficits for a few years, taking advantage of low interest rates to bolster Canada’s infrastructure, proved a popular alternative to Harper’s cost-cutting, said Gary Silverman in the Financial Times. The politics of austerity have taken a “beating”.

Shoddy infrastructure is hardly Canada’s only problem post-commodities boom, said Business investment and exports have yet to take over from indebted consumers as growth drivers. Consumer debt and house prices “are frighteningly high” and it’s unrealistic to expect much more momentum from them. Indeed, they make Canada more vulnerable to external shocks.

Trudeau will have to tread carefully with his fiscal stimulus, however, said The Wall Street Journal. The Liberal party’s “statist economics” made Canada the “sick man of the developed world” in the 1980s. But Liberal reformers in the 1990s, followed by Harper, ensured a turnaround. “Any return to a runaway fiscal policy” could scare global investors into thinking that “the bad old days are back”.

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