Justin Trudeau has secured a third election victory, but his decision to call a snap election was criticised by political opponents – and even allies – after the Canadian prime minister failed once again to win a parliamentary majority.
As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals had won or were leading in 158 seats – short of the 170 needed for a majority. Erin O’Toole’s opposition Conservatives won 119, a result that largely mirrored the outcome of the 2019 election.
“It looks like nobody wanted an election and no one got what they wanted,” said the Toronto Star political columnist Chantal Hébert as results came in.
For the second time in two years, Trudeau has been handed a minority government by Canadians, meaning he will have to reach across the aisle to work with smaller parties in order to govern.
In his victory speech at 1.15 in the morning, Trudeau nonetheless told supporters that Canadians had given him a “clear mandate” to continue governing – but acknowledged that his election gambit had not been popular.
“I hear you when you say that you just want to get back to the things you love, not worry about this pandemic or about an election. That you just want to know that your members of parliament of all stripes will have your back through this crisis and beyond,” he said. “The moment we face demands real important change. You have given this parliament and this government clear direction.”
But the gamble to call a federal election during the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to produce friction among Liberals. As of Tuesday morning, three of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers had failed to win re-election. Across the country, a number of Liberal candidates were forced to compete in tightly contested races, often eking out narrow victories.
With the parliament largely mirroring the 2019 result, the progressive New Democratic party, led by Jagmeet Singh, is set to hold the balance of power – although despite earlier hopes the party could win more seats and earn “kingmaker” status in parliament, the NDP fell short of expectations.
“Our fight will always continue,” said Singh, congratulating Trudeau on his win. While Singh spent much of the election attacking Trudeau, at one point calling the prime minister an “abject failure”, Singh and his party are likely to support many of the Liberals’ policies as they try to push the government to the left.
“You can be sure that we will be there for you, and you can also be sure that if we work together we can build a better society, and that’s exactly what New Democrats will do,” Singh told supporters on election night.
O’Toole accused Trudeau of engineering a “quick power grab” after conceding defeat early on Tuesday.
“Five weeks ago, Mr Trudeau asked for a majority. Tonight, Canadians did not give Mr Trudeau the majority mandate he wanted. In fact, Canadians sent him back with another minority at the cost of $600m,” the opposition leader said.
While the opposition Conservatives led in the national popular vote, Monday’s result nonetheless marked a defeat for O’Toole. His centrist campaign failed to persuade enough voters to toss out the Liberal party after six years in power. The last time the Conservative party won an election federally was in 2011, raising broader questions about which direction the party could be pulled – and if O’Toole had the support of his caucus.
“Our support has grown, it’s grown across the country, but clearly there is more work for us to do to earn the trust of Canadians,” O’Toole told supporters, while suggesting that he planned to stay on as leader. “My family and I are resolutely committed to continuing this journey for Canada.”
The Green party leader, Annamie Paul, who has faced numerous challenges to her leadership in recent months, came in a disappointing fourth in her race in downtown Toronto. That result – and a collapse of Green support across the country – was unlikely to quell a wave of infighting which has beset the party.
Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s party of Canada, which has run on a platform against public health measures like vaccines and masks, and which critics have called xenophobic and racist, failed to win his race, as did all of the candidates his party ran. While the party received far more support this election than in 2019, Bernier will once again face the challenge of leading a party with no representation in parliament.
Elections Canada, which oversees the vote, had previously warned that some results would be delayed as mail-in ballots are counted. Most results should be finalized by Wednesday.