Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was projected to win a second term Monday, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., after an often ugly campaign that became a referendum on his character and on his authenticity as an earnest standard-bearer for liberalism.
With votes still being counted, the CBC projected that Trudeau’s Liberal Party will not retain its majority in Canada’s House of Commons. But it would have enough seats to allow Trudeau to form a government, with support from two left-leaning parties.
The victory was a personal vindication for Trudeau, who battled accusations that he had bullied his former attorney general, an indigenous woman, and faced damaging revelations late in the race that he had dressed in blackface and brownface as a young man.
A charismatic figure, Trudeau came to power in 2015, touting himself as a new kind of politician — a self-proclaimed feminist committed to fighting climate change, open to refugees and dedicated to transparent, collaborative decision-making, what he called “sunny ways.”
He quickly captured the global imagination with his shirtless jogs, gravity-defying yoga poses and feel-good progressivism. “Canada is back,” he famously said.
During the campaign, crowds flocked to his events and to take selfies with him. In the end, voters appear to have concluded, even if reluctantly, that he was the best option to lead the country.
Trudeau’s carefully groomed image began to shatter this year when his former attorney general and justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, accused him of improperly pressing her on how to handle a criminal corruption case against a major engineering company.
The prime minister wanted her to use a new law to settle the case with a hefty fine, rather than pursuing a criminal conviction. He said he was trying to save jobs because a criminal penalty would have barred the company, SNC-Lavalin, from government work.
When the campaign officially began in September, Trudeau appeared to be bouncing back from the controversy. But then old photographs of him dressing in brownface and blackface appeared. Long-standing questions about his character and authenticity resurfaced.
Trudeau may have benefited from having an opponent, Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, who lacked his star power. Scheer focused his campaign on Trudeau’s character — calling him a “fraud” who is “always wearing a mask” — rather than putting forward his own defining vision for the nation beyond cutting taxes.