Canada has just elected a new government and the country suddenly feels lighter and brighter, as if a dark and heavy weight has been removed from its collective psyche.
The promise of change is freshening the stale mood of sobriety that slowly grew to oppressive levels during the 10 lengthening and tightening years of Conservative power.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seemingly more stiff, stingy, hollow and anachronistic than ever, made his brief concession speech to a quiet crowd at his party’s headquarters in Calgary, shook a few outstretched hands, and then — symbolically surrounded by his protective phalanx of omni-present security men — disappeared into the darkness between the long curtains hanging beside the stage of his history. Suddenly he was gone as the predominant figure in the Canadian persona, a spent political force now broken by its increasing rigidity, frugality, narrowness, meanness, control and deviousness.
Ten years in power is a long test for the survival skills of any prime minister, especially for one who has resisted change, who never quite adapted to the needs and opportunities beckoning from our rapidly evolving circumstances. He was welcomed when he was needed; he was rejected when he was not. That’s politics. His brand no longer matched the rising tide of consciousness washing over Canada and the world. The country’s caring and the planet’s needs outgrew his offerings, his objectives, his strategies and his character.
In the brevity of this fresh moment’s innocence, Canada feels released, unstopped and bubbling free with possibilities long held in check by restraint. A single day of voting magically uncorked the smiling optimism waiting across the land.
Renewal, hope, promise, possibility and change are enlivening the national spirit. This is the rejuvenation that democracy is so wonderfully adept at performing.
But this bright mood has a solemn side. The world is getting more complicated and the challenges more complex. The new prime minister designate, Justin Trudeau, is untested. However, he is young, energetic and principled.
He has passed numerous tests: being elected and re-elected a member of parliament, winning the leadership of his party, rebuilding it from political ruins, and performing extremely well in a marathon federal election campaign — an ordeal by fire from which only the best survive.
Propitiously for us all, he is usually underestimated.
Significantly, his long, laborious and meticulous preparatory work across Canada has enabled him to find the mood of the country and incorporated it into his platform and policies.
For the moment, he is the way Canada thinks and feels. He has learned the rare skill of following his country’s lead.
Much is to be done and he has much to do. The expectations are high, the challenges immense, the changes mandatory.
Even, however, with such daunting uncertainty, our prospects feel refreshingly hopeful — a strange incongruity given that we live in the most wealthy and comfortable era in human history.
But history always unfolds close to the precipice of misfortune.
Precisely because we possess so much is exactly why we have so much at risk. When the source of our wealth now threatens our prosperity, we must somehow find the elusive and precarious path to a secure tomorrow.
May Justin Trudeau once again exceed expectations.