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Canada's new PM to withdraw fighter jets from Iraq, Syria

Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau speaks in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections
Canadian Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau speaks in Montreal on October 20, 2015 after winning the general elections AFP

Canada’s Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, who came from behind to trounce the Conservatives, told US President Barack Obama on Tuesday that Canadian fighter jets would withdraw from fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

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Canada will remain “a strong member of the coalition" against the Islamic State militants (IS) by maintaining humanitarian aid and training, Trudeau said, but will pull out of the bombing mission.

“About an hour ago I spoke with President Obama,” Trudeau told reporters. “He understands the commitment I’ve made around ending the combat mission."

The White House had earlier said it hoped the new Canadian government would continue to support the efforts of the US-led coalition to fight IS militants in Syria and Iraq.

Trudeau, who campaigned on a promise of change, toppled Stephen Harper’s Conservatives on Monday, giving him a clear mandate.

The 43-year-old son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau swept to victory with 39.5 percent of the popular vote in an election that saw the highest voter turnout since 1993.

Trudeau struck a chord with Canadians weary of nine years of Conservative rule, with right-wing leader Stephen Harper resigning shortly after the defeat.

The Liberal leader’s new policy direction for Canada will likely start at the high-profile UN climate change summit in Paris in December.

Trudeau also plans to double spending on infrastructure to jump-start growth and begin work on legalising marijuana “right away.”

'We're back'

“To this country’s friends all around the world, many of you have wondered that Canada has lost a compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years,” Trudeau told jubilant supporters in Ottawa. “Well, I have a simple message for you on behalf of 35 million Canadians: we’re back.” The win marked a turn in political fortunes that smashed the record for the number of seats gained from one election to the next.

The centre-left Liberals had been a distant third-place party before the vote.
“When the time for change strikes, it’s lethal,” former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said in a television interview.

Trudeau attacked Harper relentlessly for turning Canada into a “pariah” on climate change issues. He pledged to attend the Paris conference, and then convene the country’s provincial premiers within 90 days to create national emissions targets under a framework that would allow provinces to set a price on carbon.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Harper’s defeat will not affect Kerry’s decision on whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline between the two countries.

Trudeau backs Keystone and has vowed to repair cool relations between Ottawa and Washington. The Liberal leader said he did not raise Keystone in his conversation with Obama and made “a point of staying much broader in our conversation”.

Economic boost?

Choosing a cabinet will be one of Trudeau’s top priorities before he and his ministers are sworn in. Trudeau said he would unveil his cabinet on November 4.

Former Canadian finance minister Ralph Goodale is among seven top contenders to run that ministry, a senior adviser to Trudeau told Reuters.

The Liberals plan to run a C$10 billion annual budget deficit for three years to invest in infrastructure and help stimulate Canada’s sluggish economic growth.

The stock market cheered the Liberal victory, betting it would loosen government purse strings to kick-start growth. Shares in construction firms and railways rose on the Toronto Stock Exchange along with heavyweight resource and financial stocks. The new administration plans to run at a deficit, but it has also said it would keep corporate tax rates steady.

The Canadian dollar strengthened as fiscal policy could limit the need to cut interest rates. “People are breathing a sigh of relief and they are looking for those areas that should show a positive impact from what the Liberals were talking about,” said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.

Trudeau, a telegenic father of three, also brings a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa. Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper asked “Is Justin Trudeau the sexiest politician in the world?” while an Australian news website was more direct: “The votes are in and Canada has come out of its election with a super hot new leader.”

Trudeau kicked off his first morning as prime minister-designate by greeting astonished voters at a Montreal subway station in his home constituency.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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