MONTREAL — Dozens of Liberal supporters at Justin Trudeau’s campaign headquarters erupted in cheers Monday at the prospect of their party leader becoming Canada’s next prime minister.
Chants of “Trudeau, Trudeau, Trudeau” echoed through the ballroom at a Montreal hotel when the results rolled across big-screen TVs.
Partisans also pumped their fists and shouted as updates showed Liberal candidates leading in key Montreal and Toronto ridings.
The crowd took particular delight as early results flashed on TV showing that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair was trailing Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan in his Montreal seat of Outremont.
Trudeau’s campaign built significant momentum in recent weeks.
His celebrity appeal was front and centre during the home stretch.
The crowds at his events through the final week of the campaign seemed to grow bigger and bigger as election day approached. That surge came despite the fact the Liberal leader only held events in ridings held by rival parties at Parliament’s dissolution.
As he crossed the country, Trudeau was swarmed by enthusiastic rally-goers along the way.
Partisans packed restaurants, banquet halls and bakeries in hope of shaking his hand or capturing a selfie with the leader.
Chants of “Trudeau, Trudeau, Trudeau” and “Justin, Justin, Justin” could be heard at most stops.
Supporters jostled with each other and journalists in an attempt to get close to Trudeau. At some events, people continuously hopped onto media risers so they could catch a glimpse of the Liberal leader.
He drew large, raucous crowds in Edmonton and Calgary, even though Alberta has long been a political wasteland for the Liberals. The last time the party won a seat in Calgary was 1968, the same year his father won a majority mandate at the height of “Trudeaumania.”
Polls, however, suggested the Liberal surge only started a couple of weeks ago.
Until then, surveys had shown the Liberals locked in a tight race with the Conservatives and the New Democrats.
Several senior Liberals have said the party broke away with its vow to run deficits not exceeding $10 billion over each of the next three years. The plan calls for significant investment in job-creating projects like infrastructure.
The pledge, they say, set the Liberals apart from the New Democrats and the Conservatives, who offered balanced-budget promises.
Trudeau’s central plank of providing a tax break to the so-called middle class by making the biggest earners pay more has also been credited with helping his campaign.
Another boost came as a result of the NDP’s decline in its Quebec fortress. Surveys suggested that NDP support in the province started to sag due to its opposition to a proposed ban on face coverings, such as the Islamic niqab, at citizenship ceremonies.
Trudeau also opposes outlawing the niqab, but unlike the NDP the bulk of its Quebec support comes from the Montreal area, where support for the ban is weaker.
The Liberal leader was also credited with stronger-than-expected performances in the leaders’ debates.
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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press