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Change in Canada

Earlier this week, three of the five most-viewed stories on the New York Times website were about Canadian politics.

When’s the last time that happened? Maybe never.

While most Americans typically greet news from north of the border with supreme indifference, this time was different. The Liberal Party’s sweeping victory—which ousted Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his fellow Conservatives after nearly a decade in power, and capped the meteoric rise of Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau—proved hard to ignore.

No doubt, Canada soon will slip from the minds of many people in this country—if it hasn’t already. But for the Rochester region, the prospect of change up north matters. Canada is the No. 1 destination for locally produced exports, and many businesses here have cross-border ties.

What does a shift to the left in Ottawa mean for business in both countries? It’s perhaps telling that Canadian markets received the election news calmly, with both equities and the value of the loonie rising slightly.

That’s in part due to the fact the Liberals won a clear majority of legislative seats; before the vote, the prospect of an unstable minority government loomed large. But it also reflects the fact that Mr. Trudeau’s economic plans are favored by many in the private sector.

Canada started 2015 with two straight quarters of declining GDP—one of the weakest performances among major industrialized economies.

Mr. Harper responded to Canada’s economic woes with more austerity. By contrast, Mr. Trudeau pledged to run deficits for a few years in order to pump up infrastructure spending.

Mr. Trudeau also has promised to build a more positive relationship with the United States, saying that Canadian prime ministers are “rightly judged by how they foster that relationship for the greater common good.”

The task that awaits Canada’s new leader will not be easy. This region, though, has strong reason to hope for his success.

10/23/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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