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Liberal Party's Justin Trudeau To Be Sworn In As Canada's Prime Minister


Liberals take power in Canada today. Justin Trudeau becomes Prime Minister after his Liberal Party won election. He is the son of a former prime minister. He's in his early 40s. He's taking over from conservatives, and we're about to ask what this means for Canada as well as for its nearest neighbor. James Baxter is editor in chief of iPolitics, a digital political media site in Ottawa. Welcome to the program.

JAMES BAXTER: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: How big a change is this for Canada?

BAXTER: Well, it's an enormous change, both generational and political. The generational changes - we have moved from Stephen Harper, who was in his mid-50s but really, sort of attitudinally, much older and fully attuned with the baby boomers, to Justin Trudeau, who is attitudinally much younger.

INSKEEP: Do people call it Generation X in Canada the way that they do here in the United States?

BAXTER: We do, and we follow in lockstep, mainly because our advertising industries follow in lockstep, so all of the generations are segmented very similarly.

INSKEEP: It's all about marketing, yeah.

BAXTER: It is all about marketing, and that's actually what this election became about. It became fairly evident early on that this was going to be an election about change.

INSKEEP: Well, what is the change that people are going to get now?

BAXTER: Well, I think one of the things that has shifted is we have been spoonfed the necessity - going back to actually the last liberal government - that we needed to have balanced budgets. What has changed here is that Justin Trudeau said that while balanced budgets in good times are a great idea, and in fact, putting money aside and paying down the debt, when your economy is faltering - and Canada's economy is faltering at this point - it - you need to invest. And you need to invest in bringing our infrastructure, which was largely like the American infrastructure, built, you know, in the Depression years and in the 1950s, you need to modernize it.

INSKEEP: Another thing that Justin Trudeau has done in the early going that caught a lot of attention in the United States was saying that he was going to withdraw Canadian warplanes from the military operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Why would he do that?

BAXTER: Well, it's really more a signal to Canadians that whatever we do, we're going to do in consultation amongst ourselves. And our planes were thrown into combat without any discussion. It never really went to Parliament. So the result of that has led to questions over the last years - not just about our military engagement, but about trade deals and everything else - that the government was really acting like a black box. It was just doing stuff. So it'll be really up to the Trudeau government to decide how they want to reengage on the world stage. Are we going to go back to a more peacekeeping role and focus on places, perhaps like Libya, or continue to play a role in Iraq? There's a debate to be had in Canada, and I think this was really a signal that he's hitting the reset button.

INSKEEP: Canada's change in its role in this U.S.-led coalition raises the bigger question of how Justin Trudeau intends to approach the United States.

BAXTER: I think for at least the next couple years, the relationship with the U.S. can only get better. I think a lot of the people who helped the liberals in their election strategy, you know, were top-level Obama officials. You know, we have David Axelrod coming here in two weeks to speak about the shift to the progressive attitude in North America. So I think for a couple of years, anyway - depending on what happens in the next election in the U.S. - there will be a bit of a honeymoon and certainly a lot of a thawing. Obviously, Mr. Obama's got a legacy he wants to put in place. It might not include what Mr. Trudeau has in mind, but they will certainly, I think, see eye-to-eye on things like climate change, perhaps on some trade issues and ultimately, perhaps on a better, more peaceful world.

INSKEEP: James Baxter, editor in chief of iPolitics in Ottawa, thanks very much.

BAXTER: Thanks, a pleasure Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.