Ottawa – Justin Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister today before a packed, flag-waving crowd, almost 50 years after his father took on the job.
The 43-year old former French teacher overcame campaign attack ads claiming he was “just not ready” to win the October 19 election by a landslide, bringing an end to nine years of Tory rule under Stephen Harper.
With his dark mop of curly hair, a confident swagger and hints of his father’s speech, the younger Trudeau stood tall, smiled and mouthed “Thank you” as applause erupted after he took the oath in the ballroom of the governor general’s mansion.
Stepping out on the world stage, he confronts a diverse set of challenges: cutting carbon emissions, ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership, legalizing marijuana, drafting legislation permitting medically-assisted suicide, and plotting a return to the multilateralism sometimes shunned by his predecessor.
The new Liberal government also has pledged to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end and to wind down Canada’s combat mission against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
“Canadians from all across this country sent a message that it is time for real change, and I am deeply honored by the faith they have placed in my team and me,” Trudeau said in a statement, adding that his Liberal government would hit the ground running.
Aboriginal throat singing capped off the event, attended by aboriginal and military leaders, former prime ministers and past governors-general, foreign envoys and other guests.
Trudeau’s mother Margaret wiped away tears. She had been first to arrive for her son’s swearing-in at Rideau Hall — the official residence of the governor general — carrying his youngest son Hadrian and with his two other children, Ella-Grace and Xavier, in tow.
Trudeau himself and his cabinet pulled up soon afterward in a bus, rather than the limousines traditionally used to ferry government ministers around the capital, and then walked up a winding lane to the governor’s mansion.
His team includes some well-known personalities such as former astronaut Marc Garneau who takes over as transport minister, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion (Canada’s new foreign minister), as well as several fresh faces.
For the first time ever, the Canadian public was officially invited to witness the swearing-in ceremony in person. Two massive screens were set up outside the mansion for additional public viewing.
A large crowd gathered in a carnival-like atmosphere for the event under a bright blue sky and colourful fall foliage.
“We all knew his father and after a decade of Conservatives in power this is a historic change in government,” Robert Boisvert, a spectator at the swearing-in, told AFP.
Many people at the ceremony had travelled to Ottawa from Montreal and Toronto, and camped out to get a glimpse of the new prime minister, who glad-handed dozens of people as he walked in with his wife Sophie Gregoire and his inner circle.