Canadians have chosen another liberal minority government, almost identical to the one it replaced, to end the fight against COVID-19 and rebuild the shattered economy.
Just how stable a minority is remains to be seen, as the results were still leaking and there were close contests in dozens of constituencies when the clock ran out Monday night.
There are also nearly 800,000 mail-in ballots to be counted, as of Tuesday, which could still change the preliminary results in many of those hotly contested seats.
On Monday night, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals led or were elected in 156 seats, one less than what they won in 2019 and 14 fewer than the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons.
Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives led or were elected in 122 seats, just one more than in 2019 despite winning slightly more of the popular vote than the Liberals, as they did last time.
Jagmeet Singh’s NDP led or was elected in 27, a gain of three seats, while Yves-François Blanchet’s Bloc Québécois dropped one to 31.
The Greens, who elected three MPs in 2019, were reduced to two. Leader Annamie Paul, who had faced an internal insurrection last spring, was projected to take a distant fourth at the Toronto Center in her third attempt to wrest that seat from the Liberals.
Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party, which ran on a platform against public health restrictions, came nowhere close to winning a seat anywhere, but it garnered enough votes from the Conservatives to rob them of victory in several close races, particularly in Ontario. .
The result raises questions about the judgment and strategy of both Trudeau and O’Toole.
Trudeau cut the plug on his minority liberal government on August 15, just under two years after Canadians first reduced Liberals to a minority.
He argued that Canada was at a pivotal moment in history and Canadians deserved the opportunity to decide how they wanted to move forward through the remainder of the pandemic and beyond.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win the third term but do not get a majority. #ItsOurVote #CdnPoli # Elxn44
But the timing of his election call, which occurred as a fourth wave of the new coronavirus began to sweep across the country, quickly undermined the goodwill that Trudeau had built among Canadians for his government’s handling of the pandemic during the 18 previous months.
And it gave rival leaders an opportunity to attack Trudeau’s character, describing him as a selfish selfish man who cannot be trusted to put the interests of Canadians before his personal ambition to secure a majority.
The 36-day campaign also exacerbated divisions in the country over the approach to mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports, sparking nasty profanity protests spewing at opponents of public health restrictions, including an incident in which gravel was thrown at Trudeau and his entourage.
It also cost Trudeau several cabinet ministers on Monday: former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan and former gender equality minister Maryam Monsef lost, while Deb Schulte, who served as a senior minister, was in a race yet. too closed to call.
Although the result was practically identical to that of 2019, the geographical landscape changed slightly. After being excluded from Alberta and Saskatchewan the last time, the Liberals were poised for two seats in Alberta.
In his victory speech, Trudeau, who never explicitly asked for a majority, suggested that the result was nevertheless a clear mandate for his government.
“Some have talked about division, but that’s not what I see,” Trudeau said, arguing that millions of Canadians voted for a progressive Parliament.
“I see Canadians united, together in their determination to end this pandemic, together for real climate action, for $ 10 a day child care, for homes that are affordable for middle class families, for our Shared journey on the road to reconciliation. “
Still, Trudeau acknowledged anger at the time of the election.
“I hear you when you say that you just want to go back to the things you love, that you don’t worry about this pandemic or an election, that you just want to know that your Members of Parliament of all kinds will stand behind you in this crisis and beyond.”
O’Toole won his party’s leadership last year by courting social conservatives, but later abandoned his “true blue” image in an attempt to broaden his party’s appeal outside of his base in western Canada. He presented himself to voters as a moderate with costly centrist policies, including a plan to put a price on carbon, which his party had previously criticized as a tax that kills jobs on everything.
But the move did not produce the expected breakthrough for conservatives in Ontario or Quebec, where liberals again won most of the seats and helped push some right-wing voters into the arms of the People’s Party.
In a speech to supporters after the result, O’Toole redoubled his centrist approach and, in an apparent attempt to prevent any move to topple him as leader, noted that he will not go anywhere.
Forecasting that Trudeau will plunge the country into another election in 18 months in another attempt to secure a majority, O’Toole said he is “firmly committed to continuing this journey through Canada.”
He said he had congratulated Trudeau on the electoral victory, but also told him: “If you think you can threaten Canadians with another election in 18 months, the Conservative party will be ready and when that day comes, I will be ready to lead.” . Conservatives in Canada to victory “.
The NDP, which had hoped to take advantage of Singh’s status as the most popular federal leader, also failed to make the number of breakthroughs it hoped for. It lost its only seat in the Atlantic and dropped one to five in Ontario. It got a seat in Quebec, where it now has just two of the 78 seats, and it won one in Alberta.
As before, Trudeau will need the support of at least one opposition party to pass any legislation and survive crucial votes of confidence.
Both Singh and Blanchet indicated that they will push their priorities in exchange for supporting the liberal government. For Singh, that includes making the “super rich” pay their fair share of taxes.
Blanchet said that the Bloc Québécois will support the minority government in matters and legislation that it considers most beneficial to Quebec, but that it will oppose it if Quebec’s interests are not served.
For her part, Paul admitted she was disappointed to lose her bid for a seat, but celebrated the re-election of former Green leader Elizabeth May and a win for Green candidate Mike Morrice at the Kitchener Center, where Liberal incumbent Raj Saini was dropped. by his party in the middle of the campaign on allegations of sexual harassment that he denies.
He did not mention whether he will try to continue as a leader.
This Canadian Press report was first published on September 20, 2021.