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Canadians Vote In Pandemic Election That Could Take Toll On Trudeau

Canadians voted Monday in a tight pandemic election that could weaken Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or reward his government’s handling of the pandemic.

Trudeau gambled on an early election, trying to capitalize on Canada’s position as among the most fully vaccinated countries in the world. But the opposition has been relentless in accusing Trudeau of calling an unnecessary early vote — two years before the deadline — for his own personal ambition.

Photo Credit: 2017 Canada Summer Games

Polls indicate Trudeau’s Liberal Party is in a neck-and-neck race with the rival Conservatives. The Liberals will likely win the most seats in Parliament, but still fail to get a majority, forcing it to rely on an opposition party to pass legislation. And an extremely close outcome could raise questions about Trudeau’s judgment and whether he should continue to lead the party long-term. A majority win would cement his legacy and leave him in power for another four years.

Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that wasn’t under threat of being toppled. Polls showed before the campaign began last month that he would win a majority government. But a combination of high expectations, scandal, and calling the vote during the pandemic have hurt the brand of the 49-year-old prime minister, who channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election in 2015.

Trudeau is betting that Canadians don’t want a Conservative government during a pandemic. Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns and he argues that the Conservatives’ approach, which has been more skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and says Canadians need a government that follows science.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole hasn’t required his party’s candidates to be vaccinated and won’t say how many are unvaccinated. O’Toole describes vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated Canadians are becoming increasingly upset with those who refuse to get vaccinated.

“We do not need a Conservative government that won’t be able to show the leadership on vaccinations and on science that we need to end this,” Trudeau said at a campaign stop in Montreal on Sunday.

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

A Conservative win would represent a rebuke of Trudeau against a politician with a fraction of his own name recognition. O’Toole is a military veteran, former lawyer, and a member of Parliament for nine years.



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