Trudeau poised for weakened mandate as Canada voting day arrives

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a rally in Vancouver, Canada, on Oct 20, 2019.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a rally in Vancouver, Canada, on Oct 20, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appears set to retain power in a close election on Monday (Oct 21) but lose his parliamentary majority, forcing him to rely on a left-leaning party to survive a second term.

A victory would avert a historic collapse for the Liberal leader who was elected four years ago on a wave of optimism and change, only to hobble himself with a series of scandals, including revelations that he wore blackface when he was younger.

Only four times in the nation's history has a prime minister been ousted after one term.

Mr Trudeau's governing Liberals, benefiting from a late campaign surge, are projected to win 136 of the 338 districts in the House of Commons, compared with 124 for the opposition Conservatives, according to a poll tracker compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Another aggregator - 338Canada.com - has the Liberals winning 142 seats, short of the 170 needed for a majority.

"It looks like things are breaking for the Liberals," said pollster Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research Associates. "I don't see how the Conservatives can win right now."

Mr Trudeau's weakened position may force a leftward shift in his agenda - already the most left-leaning in at least a generation.

Without a majority, Mr Trudeau, 47, may be able to govern with the support of the New Democratic Party (NDP), the country's version of social democrats.

The party is anti-pipeline, and wants more aggressive moves to combat climate change, higher taxes for companies and the wealthy, and the creation of new universal social programmes.

A Liberal government propped up by the NDP would be a blow to Canada's energy sector, already saddled with reduced oil prices due to pipeline bottlenecks.

 
 

The prospect of that loose alliance may also send the Canadian dollar lower, strategists have said.

The outcome remains far from certain.

The Liberals are still close in the popular vote with the Conservatives, led by Mr Andrew Scheer.

The last polls had the two leading parties deadlocked at 32 per cent.

The Liberals won almost 40 per cent of the vote in 2015, when they took 184 seats.

A tie or even a small deficit in the popular vote favours the Liberals, who are projected to win the most districts because their support is more widespread across regions.

The Conservatives have large leads in western Canada, where there are fewer districts to be won.

The CBC's poll tracker assigns a 12 per cent chance the Liberals will eke out a majority, and 48 per cent odds on a Trudeau minority.

The Conservatives have a 37 per cent probability of winning the plurality of seats, according to the CBC.

Even if the Conservatives win the most seats, Mr Trudeau, as the sitting prime minister, would still have the first crack at forming a government, though that would be politically challenging if he loses by a wide margin.