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Gathering Grits under his wings

Liberal warfare 'ends right here,' Trudeau pledges

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OTTAWA -- Welcome to the Trudeau era 2.0.

Justin Trudeau was swept into the shoes of his famous father Sunday, winning the Liberal leadership contest with nearly eighty per cent of votes cast.

With his wife, Sophie, and their children, Xavier, 5, and Ella-Grace, 4, looking on, he thanked Liberals for their trust, past leaders for their work and the volunteers and party supporters who made it happen.

"We did this together," he said.

Then he issued a stern warning that going forward, sticking together is the only option.

"Canadians turned away from us because we turned away from them," Trudeau said.

"Because Liberals became more focused on fighting with each other than fighting for Canadians."

For years, factions within the party supporting John Turner, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin often worked against each other, hurting everything from party unity to fundraising to voter outreach. The battles and bad blood were evident Sunday. Chrétien spoke to the crowd before the leadership announcement and lauded his government's ability to balance the budget but never once mentioned Martin's name, even though Martin was sitting right in front of him. Martin was the finance minister who oversaw that budget process under Chrétien.

It was fitting and interesting that less than an hour later, Trudeau took aim at that kind of strife.

"Well, I don't care if you thought my father was great or arrogant. It doesn't matter to me if you were a Chrétien Liberal, a Turner Liberal, a Martin Liberal or any other kind of Liberal. The era of hyphenated Liberals ends right here, tonight. From this day forward, we welcome all Liberals as Canadian Liberals."

Manitoba's lone Liberal MP, Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North), who supported Trudeau for the top job, said he was glad Trudeau spoke about the issue straight up and immediately.

"It needed to be said."

Trudeau's win was expected. A first-ballot win was expected, as Liberals showed they favour the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau as the man to lead them back into the political game in Canada. With 104,552 ballots cast, Trudeau earned 81,389 of them. B.C. MP Joyce Murray finished a distant second, with 12,168. She was followed by Martha Hall Findlay (6,585), Martin Cauchon (1,630), Deborah Coyne (833) and Karen McCrimmon (757).

Trudeau will now face an uphill battle to bring the Liberals back from the brink of extinction. The party has only 35 seats in Parliament and just four seats west of Ontario, including one in Manitoba, one in Saskatchewan and one in B.C.

The leadership race showed the party is still dominated by Ontario, with almost half the registered voters coming from that province.

In Manitoba, 3,571 out of 4,450 eligible voters voted. Trudeau won every Manitoba riding and took two in every three votes overall. The party barely registered outside Winnipeg, with only 20 per cent of the votes coming from non-Winnipeg ridings. Within the city, Winnipeg South had the highest number of voters at 565, followed closely by Winnipeg South Centre at 548.

Trudeau made few policy pronouncements during the campaign, running instead on a Barack Obama-inspired theme of hope and change without saying much about what changes he will bring. Despite that, many polls show the Liberals under Trudeau have voters interested again, although with more than two years until the next federal election, there is plenty of time for the love affair to change.

The Conservatives indicated they will attack Trudeau on his inexperience, quickly issuing a press release calling him a lightweight. "Justin Trudeau may have a famous last name, but in a time of global economic uncertainty, he doesn't have the judgment or experience to be prime minister," said party spokesman Fred DeLorey.

About 1,500 Liberals packed a ballroom at the Westin in downtown Ottawa for the announcement of the new leader.

This leadership campaign was a bit of an experiment for the Liberals, who introduced a new "supporter" class of people who signed up for free to vote in the leadership.

It is unclear how many of the 127,000 registered voters were full party members and how many were supporters.

The announcement was different because there was no voting on the floor of the convention. Voting ended two hours before the event opened its doors and it all took place online.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 15, 2013 A4

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