Canada at the polls, Trudeau's political future at stake

the essential Canadians vote Monday to decide whether to renew outgoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a third term or choose the alternative with moderate Conservative Erin O’Toole, in early legislative elections with very uncertain outcome.

In this country with six time zones, the first polling stations opened in Newfoundland and Labrador, in the east of the country, at 08 H 27 local (08 H 00 GMT). The last voters in British Columbia on the Pacific coast will have up to 11 H 00 (00 H 00 GMT Tuesday) to slip their ballot into the ballot box.

The two main candidates filed theirs at the end of the morning in front of the cameras after a blitz campaign of 31 days.

But they will have to take their trouble patiently, because the name of the winner may not be known in the evening: the ballot promises to be very close and a large number of voters have chosen advance or postal voting.

Trudeaumanie

However, Justin Trudeau said he was “serene” at the exit of his polling station in Montreal. “We worked very hard during this campaign and the Canadians are making an important choice,” he told AFP surrounded by his children and his wife Sophie Grégoire. The outgoing Prime Minister called snap elections in mid-August to try to regain the majority he lost two years earlier.

But he is, according to the polls, losing his bet. The erosion of power is felt, and the “Trudeaumanie” of 2015 seems far away … It thus tops out around 31% of voting intentions, at the same level as its main rival which was however still unknown to the general public not long ago.

Erin O’Toole has promised Canadians to embody renewal and is campaigning steadfastly at the center. Campaigning to the end, Justin Trudeau called for strategic voting, explaining that the return of the Conservatives would be synonymous with a step backwards, especially on the climate issue.

Lie

“I’m not happy with this ballot, Justin had said he would not call an election during the Covid and finally as soon as he believed it was the right time to have a majority, he called them. So I really think he lied to us “, enraged Douglas O’Hara, at the entrance to his polling station in Montreal.

For the first time in his life, this part-time gas station attendant of 73 will not vote for the Liberal Party.

But other voters are highlighting how the outgoing Prime Minister has handled the health crisis – with a country having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

“For me, the management of the pandemic is the most important stake of this election. And I think that the Prime Minister managed it well”, estimates Kai Anderson, 25 years old, voter in Ottawa, the federal capital.

And as in 2019, the country is divided and this “absolutely total suspense” makes analysts say that “the majority seems very complicated for anyone to achieve”

“It’s hard to imagine a tighter race,” Félix Mathieu, professor at the University of Winnipeg, told AFP.

Participation, the unknown

The approximately 27 millions of Canadians are called upon to elect the 338 the House of Commons. If neither of the two major parties which have alternated in power since 1867 is able to obtain a majority of seats in Parliament, the winner will have to compose a minority government.
And for that, he will need to deal with the smaller parties to govern in Ottawa.

Like the New Democratic Party (NDP, left), of Jagmeet Singh, credited with 20% of the voting intentions. Or the Bloc Québécois, an independentist formation led by Yves-François Blanchet, which seemed to regain color at the end of the campaign after a controversy over the place of Quebec within the Canadian confederation.

The last major party in the running, the Greens of Annamie Paul struggled to get their message of a climate emergency, fighting for their survival due to problems of unity and image.

It remains to be seen whether voters will go to the polls en masse for this election which has not interested them and which is being organized at a time when the cases of Covid – 11 are rising strongly in some provinces.

“The question at the start was whether the Liberals deserved to have a majority government. And now the question is whether they deserve to stay in power,” summarizes Daniel Béland, professor at McGill University.

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