Trudeau Elected Canadian Prime Minister As Liberals Sweep To Power
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Let's head north now to continue this focus on politics. The words landslide, stunning route, sweeping victory, are all being used to describe what has happened in Canada. The leader of the country's Liberal Party was elected prime minister yesterday. His name is Justin Trudeau and his election ends nearly a decade of rule under the Conservative Party's Stephen Harper. Though, as NPR's Jackie Northam reports, that does not necessarily mean a change in policy over important issues to the U.S., like the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Like any good politician, Justin Trudeau campaigned on the promise of change, ushering in what he calls sunny ways. That will surely be good news to the Obama administration, which had a troubled relationship with the outgoing prime minister, Stephen Harper. Canada's economy relies heavily on its oil and gas exports, and the conservative leader had made a strong commitment to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a project which could send Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast. Diane Francis, a columnist with Canada's Financial Post, says the pipeline became a major point of friction.
DIANE FRANCIS: I happened to be in Harper's office two days after the first Keystone setback when Obama said I don't think so. We have to study it more. And he had the posture of a pouting child. He was cranky and he didn't like it.
NORTHAM: And the relationship deteriorated from there. Trudeau has an opportunity to reverse that.
GARY HUFBAUER: I think it is absolutely a new day on the Keystone.
NORTHAM: Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says Trudeau is taking a different tact when it comes to the oil pipeline project.
HUFBAUER: What Trudeau and his allies in the Liberal Party have been saying is that Harper put too much emphasis on Keystone. They're not saying that Keystone should be abandoned. They're not going that far. But they didn't want to center the Canada-U.S. relationship on Keystone.
NORTHAM: The White House is still waiting for the State Department to finish a review before making a decision on the proposed pipeline. Craig Alexander with the C.D. Howe Institute, an economic think tank in Toronto, says in the meantime Trudeau is expected to increase Canada's commitment to the environment, something which is near to President Obama's hearts.
CRAIG ALEXANDER: It's likely that if Canada made more progress on reducing emissions that this would then open the possibility of greater support for the Keystone XL pipeline.
NORTHAM: Columnist Diane Francis says any Canadian prime minister has to do a careful balancing act to make sure it doesn't look like it's doing Washington's bidding.
FRANCIS: This is deadly in politics in Canada, if you're perceived to be America's poodles.
NORTHAM: Which means Trudeau has to live up to campaign promises, such as ending Canada's combat mission against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
FRANCIS: That's going to not please a lot of people in Washington.
NORTHAM: Trudeau waffled on a couple of issues during his campaign, including where he and his center-left party stood on the Trans Pacific Partnership, the mega trade pact bringing together 12 Pacific Rim nations. Trudeau has only said the agreement needs a closer look. Alexander with the C.D. Howe Institute says he expects Trudeau's Liberal Party will agree to the TPP.
ALEXANDER: I think if we look at the history of the Liberal Party of Canada, they are pro-trade.
NORTHAM: And that should help Trudeau renew relations with his southern neighbor. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.