Prime Minister Justin Trudeau secured victory in parliamentary elections but failed to get the majority he wanted, an outcome that threatened his Conservative rival with the loss of his job after moving his party to the centre and alienating its base.
Trudeau bet Canadians didn’t want a Conservative government during a pandemic and voiced the concerns of Canadians who are increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.
That argument helped propel Trudeau to victory in the election Monday, and while the gamble to win a majority of seats in Parliament didn’t pay off, Trudeau leads a strong minority government that won’t be toppled by the opposition any time soon.
The results nearly mirrored those of two years ago. The Liberal Party secured or was leading in 158 seats – one more than it won in 2019, and 12 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons.
The Conservatives were leading or elected in 119 seats, two less than in 2019. The leftist New Democrats were leading or elected in 25, while the Bloc Québécois were poised to win 34 and the Greens were down to two.
Hours after the results came in, Trudeau greeted commuters and posed for photos Tuesday morning at a subway stop in his district in Montreal – a post-election tradition for the prime minister.
“I hear you when you say you just want to get back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic or an election,” Trudeau said in his post-victory speech hours earlier.
Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, was scheduled to give a news conference later Tuesday, where he was expected to face questions about whether he will be able to keep his job.
“The results are disappointing for the Conservatives and O’Toole’s move towards the centre is a source of contention within the party,” said Daniel Béland, a political science professor at McGill University in Montreal.
Conservative campaign co-chair, Walied Soliman, said before the votes were counted Monday that holding Trudeau to a minority government would be a win. But Jenni Byrne, campaign manager and deputy chief of staff to former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told The Associated Press she was “stunned” by Soliman’s comments and later said O’Toole gave a tone-deaf concession speech in which he acted as if he’d won.
O’Toole said he was more determined than ever to continue, but his party might dump him as it did his predecessor who failed to beat Trudeau in 2019. Whether he remains a Conservative leader has big implications for the conservative movement in Canada. If he’s removed the party could swing back right.