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Trudeau's Liberals win Canada election but miss majority

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau channelled the star power of his father, former PM Pierre Trudeau, when he first won an election in 2015 and has led his party to the top finish in two elections since. Picture by Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Canadians have given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party a victory in parliamentary elections, but his gamble to win a majority of seats failed.

The 49-year-old channelled the star power of his father, former PM Pierre Trudeau, when he first won an election in 2015 and has led his party to the top finish in two elections since.

Mr Trudeau’s Liberals were leading or elected in 156 seats – one less than they won 2019, and 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons.

The Conservatives were leading or elected in 121 seats, the same number they won in 2019. The leftist New Democrats were leading or elected in 27, a gain of three seats, while the Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois remained unchanged with 32 seats and the Greens were down to two.

“You are sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic,” Mr Trudeau said.

“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.”

Mr Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that was not under threat of being toppled.

The opposition was relentless in accusing Mr Trudeau of calling an unnecessary early vote – two years before the deadline – for his own personal ambition.

“Trudeau lost his gamble to get a majority so I would say this is a bittersweet victory for him,” said Daniel Beland, a political science professor at McGill University in Montreal.

“Basically we are back to square one, as the new minority parliament will look like the previous one. Trudeau and the Liberals saved their skin and will stay in power, but many Canadians who didn’t want this late summer, pandemic election are probably not amused about the whole situation,” he said.

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 Mr Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns.

Mr Trudeau 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.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole did not require his party’s candidates to be vaccinated and would not say how many were unvaccinated. He described vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated Canadians are increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.

“The debate on vaccination and Trudeau taking on the anti-vaccination crowd helped the Liberals to salvage a campaign that didn’t start well for the party,” Prof Beland said.

Mr Trudeau supports making vaccines mandatory for Canadians to travel by air or rail, something the Conservatives oppose. And Mr Trudeau has pointed out that Alberta, run by a Conservative provincial government, is in 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.

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