Justin Trudeau wins second term in Canada elections but loses majority

Justin Trudeau has weathered two political scandals to secure a second term in office yesterday, but the close-run election has left the Canadian prime minister leading a minority government.

Mr Trudeau fared better than predicted, but his Liberal Party secured just 33 per cent of the national vote, compared to 35 per cent for the Conservative opposition – the lowest a government has held in Canadian history.

The Liberals won 157 seats, falling short of the 170 needed to form a majority, while the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer won 121 seats.

Having lost 20 seats, Mr Trudeau’s Liberals will now likely rely on the left-leaning New Democrats (NDP), led by Jagmeet Singh, to form a new government and pass legislation.  

“Canadians rejected division and negativity – and voted in favour of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” Mr Trudeau said at a victory rally early Tuesday morning in Montreal.

Mr Trudeau delivered unexpectedly strong results despite having been weakened by a series of scandals Credit:
Canadian Press

But Mr Trudeau was forced to acknowledge the country’s deep divisions which the election had laid bare, with the Liberal Party failing to win a single seat in oil-rich Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Addressing voters in the two provinces directly, he said: "I’ve heard your frustration."

Mr Trudeau broke with tradition by delivering his remarks while Mr Scheer was addressing his supporters, forcing news channels to break away from the Conservative leader’s concession speech.

It capped off a nasty electoral battle between Canada’s two main political parties, with both locked in a dead-heat in polling throughout the 40-day campaign.

The results will have been a relief for Mr Trudeau, whose clean-cut image was tarnished during the election campaign when several photos of him wearing blackface before he took office emerged.

Despite retaining his position, Mr Trudeau took a historically low share of the national vote Credit:

The 47-year-old leader, who came to power in 2015 on a wave of goodwill, also faced a sense of fatigue among the electorate.

It was the second scandal that had threatened to jeopardise Mr Trudeau’s re-election bid. Earlier this year, his former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould claimed the prime minister had pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company.

Mr Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but an ethics watchdog ruled he had violated federal conflict of interest rules by improperly trying to influence Ms Wilson-Raybould.

Mr Scheer put a positive spin on Tuesday’s outcome, declaring the Conservatives have put Mr Trudeau "on notice” and warning that "his government will end soon" and the Tories “will be ready and we will win.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer must now reconsider his positionCredit:

But the results are a blow for the Conservative leader, a career politician who lacked the charisma of his rival.

"He’s gone," predicted Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto. "He ran a really dirty campaign. There is nothing to be proud of on his side. He had the opportunity and blew it."

One clear winner from the election was the Bloc Québécois, a nationalist, traditionally sovereigntist party in the French-speaking province of Quebec, which more than tripled its seats to 32, to become the third party in parliament displacing the NDP, which lost 15 seats.

Mr Singh, a turban-wearing Sikh, faced a formidable  challenge in Quebec, where the provincial government this year passed a controversial secularism bill that bans public workers, such as police officers  and teachers, from wearing religious symbols.

Despite the setback, the NDP leader will now play a crucial role in forming the next government.

Jagmeet Singh has emerged as a kingmaker in the next parliamentCredit:
Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press/ AP

Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than two and a half years, but Mr Singh said on Tuesday that he had congratulated Mr Trudeau and vowed to play a constructive role in Parliament.

He is likely to press for action on more social spending and increased action on climate change.

One surprise was the relatively poor showing of the Green Party, which added just one seat to bring its parliamentary total to three, including leader Elizabeth May’s seat.

Meanwhile Ms Wilson-Raybould, Canada’s first Indigenous attorney general before being expelled from Mr Trudeau’s Liberal Party, achieved the difficult feat of retaining her seat in British Columbia as an independent candidate.

Political pundits highlighted how the deep partisanship currently present in the United States had crept into Canada during the 2019 election campaign.

The race was devoid of discussion on major issues such as healthcare, deficit reduction, trade or Canada’s relationship with  allies, such as the United Kingdom, or healing rifts with other countries, namely China, said Conservative commentator Tim Powers.

Instead, Mr Powers said, the main political parties “catered toward certain segments of the electorate,” with the Liberals pushing subsidised camping in national parks and the Tories promoting tax credits for home renovations.

US President Donald Trump, who has clashed with Mr Trudeau over trade, tweeted his congratulations early Tuesday, saying, "Canada is well served."

But Canadian voters were largely left unimpressed by the campaign.

Uche Odiatu, a 56-year-old dentist in Ottawa voted Liberal and was pleased  that the party will hold onto power. But he added that Mr Trudeau “has to work very hard now to get the west  feeling heard and to break through the misconceptions about him.”

The Liberals, who have brought in a 5 per cent carbon tax, lost all four of its seats in oil-rich Alberta, a province that  will now be represented by mostly Tory MPs, save one district held by the NDP.