Paul Durand’s article was published in the  'LATIN AMERICA ADVISOR', Washington, D.C. - October 21, 2015

Note: As this article was written principally for an American audience, it tends to cover terrain already well known to Canadians 

The Canadian election of October 19, 2015 produced a stunning result - a massive defeat for Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, and a convincing victory for Justin Trudeau's Liberals. But observers shouldn't be surprised; the Conservatives'  nine-year rule under Harper  was simply out of synch with Canadian instincts and values. That it lasted so long is attributable to the split of the progressive vote between the Liberal and New Democratic parties; the Liberals' decisive victory under Justin Trudeau (son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) has put an end to that.

Domestically, Harper led a government focussed on division rather than unity, pitting Canadians against each other through ideological rigidity, vindictiveness and the cynical promotion of 'wedge' issues. He undermined  democratic institutions, imposed rigid controls on government agencies, and, in a breathtaking act of arrogance, impugned the integrity of the Supreme Court Chief Justice. As a result of these and other excesses, the Prime Minister was found in contempt of parliament - a first in Canadian history.

Internationally, Harper reduced Canada from a position of respect and constructive engagement to international insignificance, unrecognized and then ignored by its former friends and allies. In the Americas, he was unable to get along with the major leaders, including those of the United States, Mexico and Brazil. He spurned multilateral institutions, and distorted Canada's foreign policy through 'diaspora' politics, pandering to the narrow interests of immigrant groups. Here, too, there were consequences - for the first time, Canada's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council was massively rejected by member nations.

The cumulative effect of Mr. Harper's negative policies led directly to his devastating defeat, as did the positive, high-minded campaign of Justin Trudeau.

Canada and Canadians can now begin to repair their international image, and work toward playing a positive role once again in world affairs. The Americas should be among the first beneficiaries of this positive approach, and the Caribbean, in particular, should get renewed attention after years of neglect.

Tags: Paul Durand