OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s political gamble fell on Monday when Canadian voters returned him to power, but denied him the expanded power bloc he sought in parliament.
The unofficial results of Monday’s election indicated that if he remained prime minister he would once again lead a minority government.
In August, with his approval rating high, Trudeau called an “early election,” calling voters to the polls two years before he was called. The goal, he said, was to get a strong mandate for his Liberal Party to pull the country out of the pandemic and recover.
But many Canadians suspected that his real ambitions were mere political opportunism and that he was trying to win back the parliamentary majority the Liberals had until they lost seats in the 2019 election.
Whatever his motive, it didn’t work.
With some votes still cast or not counted, the preliminary results were a virtual repetition of the previous vote. The Liberal Party won 156 seats on Monday – one less than in 2019 – while its main rival, the Conservative Party, won 121 seats, the same as before.
“If you missed the 2019 election, don’t worry, we just did a rerun for you,” said Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alta.
The result left Mr. Trudeau in a familiar situation. To pass laws, he will once again have to win opposition members to his side. And, at least in theory, his party’s faltering grip on power leaves his government vulnerable to parliamentary overthrow.
In his victory speech Tuesday morning, Trudeau acknowledged the unpopularity of his call for early elections.
“You don’t want us to talk about politics or elections anymore; you want us to focus on the job we have to do for you, ”he told a partisan crowd at a downtown Montreal hotel. “You just want to get back to the things you love, not to worry about this pandemic or an election.”
In calling for an early election, Mr. Trudeau had argued that, like his predecessors in the aftermath of World War II, he needed a strong mandate from the voters to defeat the coronavirus and rebuild the nation’s economy, severely damaged by the pandemic.
But the announcement was not well received by many Canadians.
The alarm that the government was holding an election when it was not obligated to do so, even though the Delta variant was straining hospitals in some areas, has never diminished for many voters during the campaign. 36 days. And Mr. Trudeau’s opponents were quick to call his decision a reckless power grab. Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, went so far as to call her “non-Canadian”.
In the end, Mr. Trudeau not only failed to secure a majority in Parliament, according to unofficial results, he also may have wasted the goodwill he had gained in leading his country through the coronavirus crisis.
“I wonder if the Liberals, in their minds, say, ‘Dang it, why did we – why did we call him? ”Said Kimberly Speers, professor of political science at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. during the last week of the campaign.
Now, she said, it is not clear how long a Liberal minority government will be able to hold up and what all this will mean for the leader of the party. “How long is Trudeau going to last?” Mrs. Speers wondered.
When Mr. Trudeau first ran for Liberal leadership in 2015, few political experts believed he could succeed. He started this campaign in third place, behind the outgoing Conservatives and the center-left New Democratic Party.
He won by presenting himself as a new voice in politics with a different approach and different ideas to go along with it.
But this fresh young politician was little to see this time around.
Mr. Trudeau, 49, offered voters less a vision of the future than a warning, sometimes explicitly. A return to the Conservative government under Mr. O’Toole, he said, would erase his government’s accomplishments in various areas including gun control, gender equity, climate change, child care , poverty reduction and, above all, the fight against the pandemic and immunization of Canadians.
“Sir. O’Toole will not make sure that the traveler sitting next to you and your children on a train or a plane is vaccinated,” he said at a campaign rally in Surrey, Colombia. -British, last week. “It’s time for real leadership. Mr. O’Toole isn’t leading, he’s misleading.
But in Mr. O’Toole, the Prime Minister came up against an opponent other than the Conservative leaders he had encountered in the previous two campaigns.
“I’m a new leader with a new style,” said Mr. O’Toole, who took over the party leadership just over a year ago, said at the start of the campaign. “There are five parties but two choices: Canada’s Conservatives or more of the same.
After condemning Mr. Trudeau for running up large deficits with pandemic-related spending, Mr. O’Toole released a plan that called for similar budget deficits.
He even reversed a major campaign pledge – to repeal Mr. Trudeau’s ban on 1,500 assault rifle models – when it became apparent he was alienating voters who weren’t the main supporters of the Conservatives. .
Mr. O’Toole, however, maintained his opposition to compulsory vaccination and vaccination passports.
Mr. O’Toole has also repeatedly attacked Mr. Trudeau’s personal integrity. He cited, as the Conservatives have repeatedly done in Parliament, several weak points in the Prime Minister’s career.
The Federal Ethics Commissioner discovered that Mr. Trudeau had broken ethics laws when he and his staff pressured his justice minister, an Indigenous woman, in 2018 to propose to a large Canadian engineering company an agreement allowing it to avoid a criminal conviction for corruption. Last year, a charity with close ties to the Trudeau family was awarded a non-competitive contract to administer a Covid-19 financial aid plan for students. The group withdrew, the program was canceled and Mr. Trudeau was cleared of conflict of interest allegations.
And while Mr. Trudeau stands up for diversity and racial justice, it emerged in the 2019 vote that he had worn the blackface or brownface at least three times in the past.
“Every Canadian has met a Justin Trudeau in their life – privileged, empowered and always looking for Number 1,” O’Toole said during the campaign. “He will say anything to get elected, regardless of the damage it does to our country.”
Mr Trudeau dismissed the criticism, saying Mr O’Toole’s willingness to abandon Tory policies and change his mid-campaign platform showed he was the one who would say or promise anything to the voters.
While many voters eagerly bumped their elbows and posed for selfies with Mr. Trudeau during campaign shutdowns, his campaign was often disrupted by unruly crowds protesting against mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports. One event was canceled for security reasons, and Mr. Trudeau was pelted with gravel at another.
Mr. Trudeau had a strong political challenger on the left nationally with Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats. Mr. Singh, a lawyer and former Ontario provincial legislator, has consistently garnered the highest approval ratings from all leaders before and during the campaign.
Mr. Trudeau will most likely count on the New Democrats as his main source of support in Parliament. But despite securing three seats, the New Democrats’ total, 27, is far from holding power.
In his victory speech, Mr. Trudeau referred to his “sunny” words from 2015, but in a very different context.
“You send us back to work with a clear mandate to help Canada navigate this pandemic in the better days to come,” he said to cheers. “My friends, this is exactly what we are ready to do.”