Justin Trudeau has managed to win a third term as Canadian Prime Minister. Openly disappointed, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole conceded defeat to Trudeau in the early hours of September 20.
In an untraditional move, Trudeau called for a “snap election,” in which voters took to the ballots two years ahead of schedule. According to Trudeau, this election was to confirm a strong mandate for him and his Liberal Party as they sought to bring the country out of panic and into a stage of healing. Many voters believed the election was merely an attempt to win the parliamentary majority. Trudeau was heavily criticised by political opponents and allies after only winning 158 seats, 12 short of the amount needed for a majority and a result remarkably similar to the Canadian election held just two years prior.
In a melancholy victory speech, Trudeau heralded the results as an endorsement of his leadership, even while admitting that his election gamble was unpopular, noting that “the moment we face demands real important change and that the electorate had “given this parliament and this government clear direction.” Again, Trudeau will need support from members of the opposition to pass upcoming legislation.
The decision to hold an optional election during a fourth wave of COVID-19 and a surge of the Delta variant was not well received. Coupled with the numerous scandals from the Prime Minister’s six years in office—which include pressuring the Minister of Justice Attorney General of Canada to offer a large Canadian engineering firm a deal allowing it to avoid criminal conviction on corruption charges and at least three separate instances of black-or brownface—this reaction points to waning public confidence in Trudeau. His results reflect that: rather than claiming the majority he hoped would bolster his ability to lead the country, Trudeau will instead have to turn to the New Democratic Party as his primary support, capitulating once more to a limit of his authority.
In the 2015 election, Trudeau was an underdog in the race, rivaling both the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party. He pulled off an electoral upset by expressing himself as a new politician with a new approach and new ideas to use—refrains that are not very new at all. After six years, he has failed to live up to many of his promises, but continues to lead the country. In this recent election, he told voters that if they returned to a conservative-controlled government under O’Toole, his government’s priorities in combating poverty and climate change, providing child care and gun control, promoting gender equity, and combating COVID-19 would fall by the wayside. Under Trudeau’s government, more than 70 percent of the Canadian population had been fully vaccinated by the election, contrasting the U.S. which had only fully vaccinated 55 percent of its population by the same time. Trudeau was criticized at first for his handling of the vaccine rollout but has since recovered. In response, O’Toole told Canadians that “There are five parties but two choices: Canada’s Conservatives or more of the same.” O’Toole suggested ideas like reversing Trudeau’s ban on 1500 models of assault-style rifles, which faced a surge of negativity from non-conservative voters. The politicians diverge most strongly in their responses to the pandemic: O’Toole opposes vaccine mandates or passports, while Trudeau has actively pushed for a more proactive response to COVID-19.
As voters expressed their judgement in the ballot box, the Canadian government seemed likely to remain left-leaning. Jagmeet Singh, the progressive New Democratic Party leader, will probably assume a large role in shaping Trudeau’s Parliamentary efforts, despite spending most of his time in the election criticizing the prime minister and calling him an “abject failure.” Also in the tumult of the snap election came a rebuke of the Green Party of Canada. After performing well below expectations in the downtown Toronto race, Annamie Paul, the first Black woman to lead a Federal party, stepped down from her position at the helm of the party, leaving its future uncertain. In contrast, the far-right People’s Party of Canada increased its popularity in this election (the party was founded by former Conservative Party member Maxime Bernier in 2018) but remains without a seat in Parliament.
Ultimately, Trudeau’s risky election seems to have played poorly for his agenda. Though he remains in power, becoming the eighth prime minister to win three federal elections, Liberals continue without a majority in parliament and have lost ground in Trudeau’s cabinet, where some Liberals were replaced by Conservatives and others just barely retained their positions. With O’Toole likely to remain at the helm of the Conservative Party and Trudeau stuck in a precarious parliamentary position, this is far from the victory Trudeau was no doubt hoping for.
By: Kevin Niu