Justin Trudeau, Canada's newly elected prime minister, won the country's federal election Monday in stunning fashion. The country's Liberal party, which Trudeau has led since 2013, captured 184 seats—adding an extraordinary 150 seats to what the party previously held.
The headlines sparked by his historic win have focused on how the victory is a referendum on Stephen Harper, the unseated Conservative prime minister; on the fact that Trudeau is the son of one of Canada's most famous politicians, the charismatic and long-serving Pierre Trudeau; and even on the younger Trudeau's good looks.
But what else should we know about Canada's prime minister designate? Here are five facts about the new leader of our neighbor to the north.
He's filling a role that some have long predicted he would.
Trudeau's family has been called the closest thing that Canadians have to the Kennedys. Justin Trudeau, the eldest child in the family, was born during his father's first term and is reportedly the first child to live at the Canadian prime minister's residence. Back in 1972, when he was just four months old, President Richard Nixon even told his father during a state visit that "tonight we'll dispense with the formalities. I'd like to toast the future prime minister of Canada: to Justin Pierre Trudeau."
While those words may have been mere pleasantries for a visiting statesman's new son, others have said the same thing about Justin Trudeau as he grew older. In 2000, Trudeau delivered a moving eulogy at his father's funeral, long before he entered politics. He gave the speech with a dramatic air and tone that hinted at his future skill on the stump as a politician.
"He taught us to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves," Trudeau said of his father during the eulogy. “We knew we were the luckiest kids in the world. And we had done nothing to actually deserve it. It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to.” The speech stirred thoughts among some of a political dynasty, and one of his father's advisers in attendance forecast that day that Justin would at some point become prime minister himself.
He had a round-about course for entering politics.
Before entering politics, Trudeau held a lot of different jobs. He's been a high school teacher, snowboard instructor, nightclub bouncer and bungee jump coach. He also acted in the film "The Great War," playing a war hero.
Trudeau, who will turn 44 in December, didn't enter politics until 2007, when he began running to become a member of parliament. Three years later, the Liberal Party fell to third place for the first time in its history, and later elected Trudeau as its leader, in 2013.
He sees the drawbacks of having a famous name.
When Trudeau ran to be a member of Parliament, he did so in a district of Montreal that was known for lower incomes and had a recent history of not backing his Liberal Party. He made that choice, he has said, to demonstrate “that I wasn’t taking anything for granted, and that I was willing to work for it."
He seems self aware that his family history—in addition to his father being prime minister, his maternal grandfather was a cabinet minister—could influence impressions of his career. Trudeau has said in the past: “I knew that the challenge I would be facing all my life would be having people think that I expected anything to be handed to me in politics because of my last name, that I somehow have a right to be in politics because my father was in politics and my grandfather was in politics.”
His leadership style is marked by positivity.
It's hard to imagine many politicians today saying the following: “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways, this is what positive politics can do." But that's in fact a line from Trudeau's victory speech. His campaign has been described as disciplined and positive. "We beat fear with hope," Trudeau said after winning. "We beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together."
He supports a range of liberal policies—he plans to raise taxes on the richest Canadians, has said he would move to legalize marijuana, and is decidedly pro-choice on abortion. Yet reports have said that what's most surprising about Trudeau's success is the role his economic policies have played. He called for deficit spending, holding up well-known economists to bolster his relative inexperience. “I know that I am a younger person than many . . . than the other leaders, anyway, but I have taken that as an advantage,” Trudeau told the Financial Times. “Because my style of approach is to gather around me brilliant people.”
As Canada's second-youngest prime minister ever, Trudeau has invoked that youth as an asset. In past remarks, he described his style of leadership as "a fresh approach" that is "respectful and collaborative." Whether that's political rhetoric or not, it appears to have paid off. In surveys, voters called Trudeau their top choice as a vacation buddy and the person they'd prefer to have babysit their kids, while voters said incumbent Harper was their choice to head a company or negotiate a contract.
He's a boxing fan—and has even done a mock strip-tease for charity.
In a 2012 charity boxing match for cancer known as the Thrilla on the Hilla, a bare-chested Trudeau, who boxes weekly, squared off against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau. As the winner, Trudeau got to cut off Brazeau's pony tail, and make his opponent wear a Liberal hockey jersey. (One thing's for sure: Canadian politics sounds like a lot more fun.)
But that wasn't the first time Trudeau had taken off his shirt for a good cause. In another charity event to benefit liver disease research, the political scion stripped down to an undershirt, removing his jacket, shirt and tie at the gala fundraiser. Video of the mock strip-tease was later used against him in ads by his opponent.