A third term for liberal Justin Trudeau or alternation with moderate conservative Erin O’Toole? Called to the polls, Canadians decide, Monday, September 20, who will form the next government in legislative elections with a very uncertain outcome. Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, on the Atlantic coast, are the first to vote, starting at 8:30 a.m. (local time, 1 p.m. in Paris).
On the other hand, as Canada spans six time zones, the last voters to leave a ballot off are in British Columbia, a province on the Pacific coast, where offices will close at 7 p.m. (4 a.m. in Paris, Tuesday). The thirty-six-day lightning campaign ended as it began: with a speech by the outgoing Prime Minister, who asked the population to renew their confidence in him for a new term in order, in particular, to manage the exit from the pandemic.
“It’s hard to imagine a tighter race”
Mr. Trudeau called an early election in mid-August to try to regain the majority, lost two years earlier. He would be, according to the polls, losing his bet. The erosion of power is being felt, the “Trudeaumanie” of 2015 seems a long way off… It tops out at around 31% of voting intentions, at the same level as its main rival, the conservative Erin O’Toole, unknown to the general public not long ago.
As in 2019, this « suspense absolument total » makes analysts say that “The majority seems very complicated to reach for anyone”. “It’s hard to imagine a tighter race”, explains to Agence France-Presse Félix Mathieu, professor of political science at the University of Winnipeg.
On the last day of the campaign, Sunday, Mr. Trudeau increased the number of trips. He called on voters to vote strategically, explaining that the arrival of the conservatives to power would mean a step backwards for the country, especially on the climate issue. Mr. O’Toole, who was in the Greater Toronto Area where he is running on Sunday, pledged Canadians to embody renewal and campaigned steadfastly in the center.
Towards a new minority government?
The approximately 27 million Canadians aged 18 and over who are eligible to vote will elect the 338 members of 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, the winner will have to compose a minority government. In this case, the Prime Minister, Liberal or Conservative, will have to work with the smaller parties to govern in Ottawa.
Like the New Democratic Party (NDP, left) of Jagmeet Singh, credited with nearly 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 the climate emergency across, themselves fighting for their survival due to unity, image and financial problems.
the “Copy-paste scenario” with this election is therefore very plausible, according to commentators. “The question at the outset was whether the Liberals deserve a majority government. Now the question is whether they deserve to stay in power ”, summarizes Daniel Béland, professor at McGill University. Patience may be required, as it is possible that the name of the winner will not be known as of Monday evening. Many Canadians have opted for postal voting and it could be very tight in some ridings.
“Everything will depend on the number of constituencies where the race is tight”, said Geneviève Tellier, professor of political science at the University of Ottawa, explaining that, in recent weeks, Canadians have questioned “The leadership of Justin Trudeau”.