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Canadian PM hopes his gamble pays off as early election begins

Sep 20, 2021


Voters in Canada took to the polls for an unusually early election Monday. It comes two years before the deadline to hold one.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to set the election date early hoping to win a majority of seats in Parliament for his Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is in the minority and wasn’t under threat of being toppled.

If the Liberal Party can secure a majority, it would cement Trudeau’s legacy and leave him in power for another four years. However the early election is close, and now some question Trudeau’s judgment and whether he should continue to lead the party long-term.

It appeared the latter was the more likely scenario heading into the early Election Day. While polls indicate the Liberals will likely win the most seats in Parliament, the race is expected to be neck-in-neck, and winning a majority appears unlikely.

“Trudeau made an incredibly stupid error in judgement,” said Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto.

Trudeau waited in line to vote in the early election with his wife and children in Montreal Monday while his conservative challenger, Erin O’Toole voted with his wife in his local district in Ontario. The video above shows each of them voting.

Trudeau is betting Canadians will reward him for how he navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada is one of the most vaccinated nations in the world, and Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns.

Meanwhile, O’Toole has been trying to appeal to centrists, after advertising himself as a “true-blue conservative” a year ago. Since then, O’Toole has disavowed positions held dear by Conservatives on issues such as climate change, guns and balanced budgets.

“I’m not your dad’s Conservative Party,” O’Toole said.

The wild card in this early election could be a politician who narrowly lost the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2017. Now, Maxime Bernier leads a far-right party that opposes vaccines and lockdowns. Polls suggest as many as 5 to 10 percent of Canadians support for Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada. This could bleed support from O’Toole and help the Liberals retain power.

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