US & Canada

Justin Trudeau: His rise - and slight fall

Justin Trudeau on the campaign trail Image copyright Getty Images

Justin Trudeau has won a second term as prime minister of Canada, after a narrow election win. So, who is the Liberal leader and what change has he brought to the country since 2015?

The 47-year-old and his party have retained power but the celebrations are not as unbridled as they were in 2015, when this fresh-faced politician won a landslide.

After that stunning rise to power, his first term and the realities of governing have taken the shine off his reputation as a beacon for the left.

But a second term at the prime minister's residence, 24 Sussex Drive, marks another chapter in a remarkable life.

Image copyright Peter Bregg/Canadian Press
Image caption A young Justin Trudeau in 1973 with his prime minister father

Born to lead

When Justin Trudeau was just four months old, then-US President Richard Nixon predicted the infant would one day follow in his father's footsteps.

At a gala dinner during a state visit to Ottawa in 1972, Mr Nixon addressed his Canadian counterpart: "Tonight we'll dispense with the formalities. I'd like to toast the future prime minister of Canada: to Justin Pierre Trudeau."

According to CBC, the elder Trudeau responded that should his son ever lead the country, "I hope he has the grace and skill of the president."

While Mr Nixon's political career, of course, ended in disgrace, Mr Trudeau went on to dominate Canadian politics until the mid-1980s, provoking passionate and polarising opinions.

His first election in 1968 inspired a frenzied fandom among young voters that became known as "Trudeaumania". And his administration included many historic accomplishments like making both French and English the official languages of the federal government.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Justin Trudeau and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro at Pierre Trudeau's funeral in 2000

His own path

Justin lived much of his childhood in the public eye. The family's security detail gave him the codename "Maple 3".

But as he grew up he shied away from politics. He attended McGill University then the University of British Columbia, where he earned a degree in education. He became a teacher.

In 1998, his youngest brother Michel was killed in an avalanche in British Columbia. That tragedy forced him into the public spotlight and he became a spokesman for avalanche safety.

When his father died two years later at the age 80, Mr Trudeau delivered the eulogy at the nationally televised funeral. His speech was widely praised and led many to ponder his potential for public office for the first time.

He married his wife Sophie Gregoire, a Quebecois television and radio reporter, in 2004. They have three children.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trudeau in 2008

Political beginnings

Mr Trudeau became more politically active following his father's death. He won the Liberal nomination in the Papineau riding in 2007 and became MP in 2008. Even at this early point he was seen as leadership material for the Liberal party.

He was re-elected as MP in 2011.

After declining to run for leadership of the Liberal party several times, Mr Trudeau finally declared his intention to run in 2012. During the campaign, he was criticised by his opponents for his inexperience and lack of policy positions - the same line of attack used in this general election campaign - but won the position in a landslide in 2013.

What the Trudeau effect has meant for Canada

Mr Trudeau swept into power in 2015 promising "real change" and a slew of progressive pledges.

Now, after four years in power, Mr Trudeau has faced criticism for his ability to follow through.

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Media captionFour years of Justin Trudeau in two minutes

His environmental record, for example, has been undercut by his support for the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project and his purchase of pipeline infrastructure to ensure it goes ahead.

Canada is also not on track to meet its Paris Agreement greenhouse gas reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

And Mr Trudeau's vow to institute federal electoral reform was quickly abandoned, angering some left-leaning voters excited by the prospect of seeing an alternative voting system

Still, according to an independent assessment by two dozen Canadian academics, Mr Trudeau has kept - fully or partially - 92% of these promises, the most by any Canadian government in 35 years.

Then there has been scandal - three instances of him wearing blackface - widely accepted as racist caricatures - landed like a bombshell in the Canadian election campaign.

He was contrite and it appears the voters accepted his apology and moved on.

Perhaps more corrosive was the SNC Lavallin affair, in which Mr Trudeau was accused of pressuring his former attorney general to cut a deal with a company facing corruption charges.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former attorney general, said the prime minister and his staff spent months trying to convince her that taking the company to trial would cost Canadians jobs, and their party votes.

She also said she was subject to "veiled threats", which she believes were made good when she was shuffled out of her department.

Mr Trudeau's popularity took a knock as a result and the Liberals and Conservatives were neck and neck throughout the 2019 election campaign.

But in the end, his party had enough support in the big cities to scrape home.

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