Trudeau and challengers make final calls ahead of Canadian election
On the last day of campaigning in a close election battle, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned his Tory opponents would weaken the country’s battle against the pandemic and said Canadians need a government that follows science.
Polls indicate that Trudeau’s Liberal Party is in a close race with rival Tories and that it is unlikely Monday to secure the absolute majority needed to rule without relying on an opposition party to stay in power.
“We don’t need a Conservative government that won’t be able to show leadership in vaccinations and science that we need to end this,” Trudeau said during a campaign shutdown in Montreal on Sunday .
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has declined to say how many of her party’s candidates are unvaccinated and Trudeau reminds Canadians of this at every opportunity.
O’Toole described candidate vaccine choice as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated Canadians are increasingly unhappy with those who refuse to be vaccinated.
Trudeau supports the requirement for Canadians to be vaccinated by plane or train, which the Conservatives oppose. And Trudeau pointed out that Alberta, led by a Conservative provincial government, is in crisis.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, an O’Toole ally, said the province could run out of intensive care unit beds and staff within days. Kenney has apologized for the dire situation and now reluctantly introduces a vaccination passport and imposes a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting nearly all restrictions.
Trudeau played and called a snap election to capitalize on his government’s handling of the pandemic. But the opposition has repeatedly accused him of calling him for his own personal ambition.
“This pandemic election is futile, risky and selfish,” O’Toole said during a campaign shutdown in Ontario on Saturday.
A Conservative victory would represent a rebuke to Trudeau, whose opponent has only a fraction of his name recognition. O’Toole, 47, is a military veteran, former lawyer and nine-year MP.
Trudeau, 49, channeled the star power of his father, liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he won in 2015, but a combination of high expectations, overexposure and scandal contributed to the tired.
“A liberal majority is possible but it is not the most likely scenario,” said Daniel Béland, professor of political science at McGill University in Montreal. “It is clear that the issue of vaccination warrants has allowed the Liberals to score points against the Conservatives, who continue to emphasize personal freedom.”
A politician who narrowly lost the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017 now heads a far-right party that opposes vaccines and lockdowns. Polls suggest as much as 5-10% support for Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party of Canada, which could bleed Conservative Party support and help the Liberals retain power. A worried O’Toole said on Friday that while there are other parties, there is only one party that has a chance of defeating Trudeau – the Conservatives.
Canadians do not directly elect the Prime Minister. Instead, the position goes to the leader of the party that wins the majority of seats in the House of Commons or that can ally with another party to achieve a majority. Trudeau called an early election in hopes of winning a majority, but polls suggest no party is likely to win a majority of Parliament’s 338 seats, so an alliance may be needed to pass legislation.
If the Conservatives win the most seats, but not the majority, they should seek an arrangement with the separatist Bloc Québécois party in Quebec. Trudeau’s Liberals would likely lean on the left-wing New Democrats. The Liberals entered this election with 155 seats, the Conservatives had 119, the Bloc Québécois 32 and the New Democrats 24. The People’s Party had none.
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