Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing the evergrowing possibility that he will be out of a job before the year ends, as Canadians get ready to go the polls on September 20th and elect a new parliament after the PM called for a snap election. Trudeau, who is the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, is trailing in many of the polls with the Conservatives led by Erin O’Toole slightly ahead in the surveys.
Trudeau was elected in 2015, managing to return the Canadian Liberal Party to power after defeating former Conservative PM Stephen Harper, who had ruled Canada since 2009. He then was reelected in the 2019 general election, managing to form a minority government despite his party losing the popular vote to the conservatives.
Canada is a parliamentary system, just like the UK and much of Europe, meaning that citizens do not directly vote for the Prime Minister but for the Parliament, which then elects who will be the head of government of the country. Usually, the leader of the party who had the most seats in Parliament is the one who is elected as Prime Minister, which is why Trudeau managed to stay in office even if the Conservative party had more votes.
Although a new election was not due until 2024, the Prime Minister decided to dissolve Parliament and call for a snap election last August, which is a move that is not uncommon in Parliamentary systems around the world. Trudeau called the election to, in his words give Canadians the opportunity “to chose how we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better”, while also hoping that his party could improve from their numbers in 2019 and form a majority government.
Trudeau’s scandal-ridden goverment
During his tenure, Trudeau has been mired in a series of scandals. In 2019, an ethic watchdog concluded that Trudeau had breached ethics rules by undermining a federal prosecutor to investigate a firm under corruption charges; he was also sanctioned over ethics violations in 2017 after spending vacations in a private island owned by one of its contributors, and most recently he was also investigated (and later cleared)after his government announced a partnership with a charity that had paid many speaking fees to members of Trudeau’s family.
The prime minister’s list of scandals is not only limited to financial wrongdoing, with pictures of Trudeau with a blackface costume infamously becoming viral in September 2019. He also faced criticisms for inviting Sikh extremist Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted for attempted murder in 1986, to a reception when the PM visited India.
Despite these scandals, the government was very optimistic of their odds to ensure a stunning victory come September, with the number of COVID cases in Canada decreasing at the time and the vaccination rollout has already vaccinated 68% of Canadians. However, the political panorama has changed significantly and the Liberal Party is now trying its best to retain the slim margin it has today in Parliament.
Trudeau’s gambit backfired
Currently, poll aggregates collected by the Candian Broadcast Company (CBC) show that the Conservatives would be the party with the most votes, with 34%, with Trudeau’s Liberals trailing with 31.1% of the vote, and the New Democrats (another leftist party) led by Jagmeet Singh in third place with 20% of the total vote.
Although these are not great numbers for the Liberals, they are not a death sentence. Due to Canada’s allocation system, having the most votes does not mean that the Conservatives will win the most seats in Parliament, with the CBC also forecasting that the Liberals will have 140 seats to the Conservative’s 133, which would be a reduction of the number of MPs that the Liberals have today (155).
Conservative leader O’Toole has lambasted Trudeau for the decision of calling an election as Canada faces the Delta variant wave, saying that “we should not be in a campaign. Only Mr. Trudeau wanted this campaign for personal interests”. The Conservative leader has led an impressive campaign against the current Prime Minister, managing to harness the growing discontent over Trudeau and shrink the early lead of the Liberal Party in the polls.
However, O’Toole has recently faced some hurdles in his campaign as he was forced to change his party’s platform regarding the sweeping weapons ban imposed by Trudeau (without Parliamentary approval) in 2020, with O’Toole now saying that he will keep the ban while implementing a review on the current gun control policy.
With a few more weeks to the polls and with the polls showing a very close election, Canada’s political future looks uncertain. However, if there is one thing that no one doubts is that Trudeau is surely regretting his decision to call an early election.