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Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau is the son of former PM Pierre Trudeau, who served for 16 years and died in 2000. (Photo: Can Pac Swire/flickr/cc)

Campaigners Bid Harper Adieu While Vowing to Hold Liberals Accountable

Yes, Trudeau's sweeping win was a repudiation of "negative, divisive politics" in favor of "a positive vision that brings Canadians together"—but the new prime minister still has much to prove.

Deirdre Fulton

Even as Canadian environmentalists and social justice advocates celebrated Monday's electoral ouster of right-wing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, they vowed to push Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and his new ruling government on key campaign issues such as austerity, trade, and fossil fuel extraction.

Over 68 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Monday's national election, according to Elections Canada, marking the highest turnout in two decades and signaling a sharp rejection of Harper's Conservative rule. Notably, there appears to have been a large voter turnout from First Nation communities, with several polling stations in those communities running out of ballots. 

But though Trudeau's sweeping win was, as he declared in his victory speech, a repudiation of "negative, divisive politics" in favor of "a positive vision that brings Canadians together," the new prime minister and his majority government still have much to prove.

"While we welcome Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau's election night speech that focused on hope, inclusion and the end of the politics of division and fear evident under the Harper government, we are deeply concerned by his party's support for 'free trade' agreements like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)," wrote Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians on Tuesday.

"And with about 40 days until the critical United Nations COP 21 climate talks begin in Paris," he added, "the Liberals have only pledged 'real climate change solutions' rather than more concretely an end to export pipelines and no new approvals for the tar sands."

Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, urged (pdf) the Liberal government to seize the "unprecedented opportunity to reject boom and bust polluting industries by stopping tar sands expansion and making Canada a leader in renewable energies."

"It's now time to say yes to a brighter future and farewell to politics of fear and environmental degradation," Kerr added.

To that end, climate justice activists from across the country are planning an action for November 5-8, during which they will welcome the incoming prime minister to his new residence in Ottawa by presenting gifts that "tell a story of people power growing and demanding real climate action and a new, clean energy economy in Canada."

The call-to-action, supported by, explains further:

On the first day, we’ll deliver the evidence that confirms we must keep tar sands under the ground. On this day, we’ll present a basket of broken treaties — with documentation of the hundreds of violations of Indigenous rights that have taken place in the tar sands. We’ll also supply the Prime Minister with scientific journal papers that confirm the majority of tar sands must stay in the ground in order to prevent climate catastrophe, along with reports which confirm that reliance on fossil fuels will have devastating impacts on our economy.

The second, third, and fourth days of the nonviolent direct action will see the delivery of thousands of signatures from people who oppose tar sands and pipelines; water samples from the rivers, lakes, and coastlines that tar sands pipelines would—and have already—put at risk; and a "surprise gift" meant to show the new prime minster "that we have the technological solutions, we just need the right policies to begin the transition to a clean energy economy."

Trudeau made "many, many promises during this campaign," journalist Karl Nerenberg wrote on Tuesday. For example, Nerenberg said, the prime minister-elect vowed "[t]o make a major investment in on-reserve First Nations education, without imposing Harper's humiliating and draconian conditions on First Nations communities, all in the context of a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis people."

In fact, a series of tweets from former Rabble editor Derrick O'Keefe on Monday night on that exact topic illustrated how Trudeau's victory is simultaneously eliciting hope and skepticism.

As the Council of Canadians' Patterson wrote on Tuesday: "We should rightly celebrate the defeat of Stephen Harper, a significantly increased voter turnout, and an election apparently relatively free of the voter suppression evident in the last federal election, but we will have to campaign even harder now to ensure that the 70 per cent of Canadians who said 'it was the time for change' in Ottawa this election, get the change they deserve."

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