Justin Trudeau will win a third term as Canada’s prime minister, with his Liberal party set to remain the biggest group in parliament, after Erin O’Toole, the leader of the main opposition Conservative party, conceded defeat.
However, with results still trickling in late Monday night, Mr Trudeau appeared set for another minority government, forcing him to co-operate with smaller left-of-centre parties, and raising larger questions about his future as the head of the Liberal party.
The projected result largely mirrored that of the 2019 election.
Elections Canada, which oversees the vote, had previously warned that some results would take days to be finalised as mail-in ballots are counted.
While the opposition Conservatives led in the national popular vote, Monday’s result nonetheless marked a defeat for leader Mr O’Toole who conceded in the early hours of Tuesday. 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.
“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,” Mr 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 progressive New Democratic party, led by Jagmeet Singh, was on pace to pick up electoral seats.
Heading into the race, Mr Trudeau’s Liberals held 155 seats in parliament, the Conservatives held 119 seats, the Bloc Quebecois held 32 seats and the NDP held 24 seats. The Green party had only two seats and there were five Independent MPs. At least 170 seats are needed for a majority government.
Despite the forecast lack of a parliamentary majority, the prime minister is likely to find strong support in parliament for the Liberal party’s marquee policy – C$10 per day child care across the country.
Green party leader Annamie Paul, who has faced numerous challenges to her leadership in recent months, was set for a bitter loss in her race in downtown Toronto.
Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s party of Canada, which has run on on a platform against public health measures like vaccines and masks, and which critics have called xenophobic and racist, failed to win his race, nor did any of his other candidates.
Mr Trudeau gambled on an early election in a bid to win a majority of seats in Parliament, but it was not clear if he would do so.
The 49-year-old channelled the star power of his father, the Liberal icon and late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election in 2015 and now appears to have led his party to the top finish in two elections since.
Mr Trudeau bet Canadians did not want a Conservative government during a pandemic.
Canada is now among the most fully vaccinated countries in the world and its government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns.
Mr Trudeau had argued that the Conservatives’ approach, which has been sceptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and said Canadians need a government that follows science.
Mr O’Toole didn’t require his party’s candidates to be vaccinated and would not say how many were unvaccinated.
Mr O’Toole described vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of jabbed Canadians are increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
Mr Trudeau supports making vaccines mandatory for Canadians to travel by air or rail, something the Conservatives oppose, with the incumbent noting Alberta, run by a Conservative provincial government, is in a health crisis.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, an ally of Mr O’Toole, said the province might run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within days.
Mr Kenney apologised for the dire situation and is now reluctantly introducing a vaccine passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting nearly all restrictions. – PA