Canada’s national election, which upheld the status quo, produced no winners although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brand took quite a blow for calling the vote in the first place, political analysts told Sputnik.
Canadians went to the polls on Monday to choose their next government, putting an end to an election campaign that many saw as “unnecessary” amid a range of domestic and international challenges, including the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the messy evacuation from Afghanistan.
Canada’s governing Liberal Party led by Trudeau is leading in 158 out of 338 federal ridings with over 99 percent of polls reporting, according to official results, well short of the 170 needed to secure a majority. The Conservative Party is on pace to retain official opposition party status with 119 seats, followed by the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrat Party (NDP) with 34 and 25 seats, respectively.
The election result, should it hold with many mail-in ballots still outstanding, represents a near identical result to the 2019 election in which the Liberals took home 158 seats, the Tories – 121, while the Bloc and NDP settled for 32 and 24 seats, respectively.
The country’s 44th election campaign will be remembered as the campaign that “changed nothing” and where there were no winners, Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said.
“The legacy [of the campaign] is that nothing changed,” Wiseman told Sputnik.
Wiseman and other experts struggled to identify any parties that met their objectives in an election marked by voter apathy, with the voter turnout plummeting by approximately 8 percent to 59.2 percent – second lowest in the country’s history.
Wiseman said the Liberals, despite holding onto power, failed to attain the majority mandate desperately sought by Trudeau, while the Conservatives made no gains and appear to be on track to lose two seats in the House of Commons.
LIBERALS HOLD SERVE, WILL NEED IMPROVED TIES WITH OPPOSITION
While Trudeau and his Liberal Party failed to meet their objectives, they hung onto power and will now need improved cooperation with opposition parties, analysts said.
“A win is a win – and although not the desired outcome – a minority mandate means the Liberal Party of Canada will continue to build relationships across the party lines to ensure they address the priorities Canadians want and focus on achievable goals now and in the future,” Jacqueline Biollo, a Principal Consultant with Aurora Strategy Group, told Sputnik.
Allan Tupper, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, likewise, says closer ties with opposition will be key in an altered dynamic in Ottawa.
“The Liberals will approach governing with a clear agenda and they will work better with the opposition parties, particularly the New Democrats and the Bloc,” Tupper told Sputnik, noting that improved cooperation does not extend to the Conservatives.
Tupper added that Trudeau will be expected to deliver on a number of domestic promises, such as climate change initiatives, childcare and a pledge to resettle Afghan refugees.
“This time around he is going to have to go forward with a substantial legislative agenda that requires cooperation and I think he will modify legislation and deal with those opposition parties accordingly. I think he learned that lesson from this experience,” Tupper said.
Wiseman, however, disputes Trudeau’s assertion that he was given a “clear mandate.”
“Not at all,” Wiseman said. “There’s no mandate here, he’s just going to continue doing what [the Liberals] have been doing.”
‘TRUDEAU BRAND’ BRUISED
Trudeau’s personal “brand,” which was a key factor in his rise to world leader status, has since taken a beating and came into question on the campaign trail.
Trudeau, who after six years in office and a myriad of scandals is no longer the fresh-faced, charismatic media darling, was dogged by protests throughout the campaign, including some wild scenes of the Canadian prime minister being subjected to obscenities and in one instance pelted with gravel.
Cory Morgan, a political analyst and columnist with the Western Standard, says that Trudeau rode the coattails of his famous family name and a personal appeal into office but is increasingly becoming a burden to the Liberal Party.
“While the Trudeau brand may be losing its shine right now, the Liberal brand itself is as strong as ever. People are supporting the party rather than the leader,” Morgan told Sputnik. “Trudeau’s tougher task will be convincing the party to keep him after the election even if he maintains his minority government.”
However, other analysts say that Trudeau’s job remains safe, despite his failure to regain a majority mandate. The current edition of the Liberals is believed to be a party strongly influenced by the Prime Minister.
CONSERVATIVES, CAUGHT OFF GUARD, ‘UNHAPPY’ WITH ELECTION RESULTS
Meanwhile, inside the Conservative camp, members are displeased by the results, Clinton Desveaux, a political strategist and columnist, told Sputnik.
“People are unhappy,” Desveaux said, explaining that the Conservatives have lost parliamentary seats and the party brass is worried that more seats could flip as mail-in ballots are counted.
The disappointment was on full display on Tuesday, when Tory leader Erin O’Toole announced a campaign review, saying that no one is more disappointed than him.
The Conservative Party was caught off guard by the election result, Desveaux said, taking notice of a concession speech that critics panned as overly enthusiastic in light of defeat.
“[The Conservatives] were completely isolated as to what was happening on the ground,” the political strategist and columnist said, surmising that the speech was a hastily rewritten victory speech after the election outcome became apparent.
Desveaux blames the Tory defeat on a lack of clear messaging – O’Toole was often criticized on the campaign trail for flip-flopping on key issues, including gun control and the party’s stance on vaccination mandates – and the increased support for the populist conservative People’s Party of Canada (PPC).
The PPC, which failed to win a single seat but nearly tripled its vote count, won 5 percent of the popular vote eating enough into Conservative support to sink the Tories in several ridings, according to analysts.
Wiseman cites the uptick in PPC support and the pandemic surge in Western Canada, which is governed by conservative governments and which O’Toole – until recently – lauded, as reasons for the Conservative defeat.
The PPC’s gains cost the establishment Conservatives as much 10 seats, Wiseman estimates, adding that the NDP’s lackluster performance didn’t create enough of a split vote on the left, especially in vote-rich metropolitan areas such as Toronto, to help the Tories.
Additionally, Desveaux admits it was the Liberals’ who were best able to leverage the “get out the vote” push in their victory.
Wiseman purports that, as in previous election disappointments, there will be an immediate push by some within the party to remove O’Toole as leader. However, he also said the Tory leader will be safe for “a while.”
Meanwhile, Desveaux says media reports of “mutiny” within the party are accurate and that O’Toole has until Christmas to right the ship or face dismissal.
PPC HAPPY WITH GAINS, BUT LAMENT LACK OF PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION
The PPC appears to be happiest with the increased support but also laments the missed opportunity to pick up representation in Canada’s parliament.
PPC leader Maxime Bernier, who was the party’s best chance at a House of Commons seat, lost by a wide margin in the riding of Beauce, which he carried four times as a member of the Conservative Party.
“Disappointed that we didn’t get any seats in parliament, but the increased number of votes is very promising,” Bill Tufts, a PPC strategist told Sputnik, highlighting the Party’s performance in traditionally conservative Alberta, where the populist party garnered 7.5 percent of the popular vote.
Tufts also pushed back against allegations that his party torpedoed the Conservatives’ bid to oust Trudeau, saying that the PPC appropriated voters from all parties and, most importantly, tapped into the pool of abstainers.
While analysts, including Desveaux and Wiseman, say the PPC is a one-issue party – the People’s Party support closely mirrors the opposition to vaccination mandates – Tufts says the global populist movement is here to stay, including in Canada.
Tufts adds that as COVID-19 fades into the background attention will turn towards issues such as interprovincial relations, the economy and immigration, which, in his view, did not get the due attention during the 2021 federal campaign.
Bernier’s job, despite now falling short in two straight elections, is safe at the present, according to Tufts.
CANADIANS SAY ELECTION ‘COULD HAVE WAITED’
In Montreal, voters were not impressed with the Prime Minister’s election call, telling Sputnik that the election was a “waste of time and money” and dubbing the campaign a “promotional” tour for Trudeau.
Voters in Mississauga Center, a Toronto-area voting district where Liberal Omar Alghabra coasted to victory, struck a more conciliatory tone, emphasizing their civic duty to vote, but noted that the election could have been delayed.
“I think we maybe could have waited a year, but it is what it is,” Kamlesh, a voter from the riding of Mississauga Center, told Sputnik, emphasizing that it is his civic duty to vote.
Kamlesh’s sentiment was echoed by other voters in the riding Sputnik spoke with, including Carol Li and Samira Munawar.
BRINGING TOGETHER A DIVIDED COUNTRY
While voters were split on the need for change or maintaining the status quo, all stressed the need for the country to unite after a campaign where emotions boiled over on several occasions, including unruly protests at Trudeau’s campaign stops.
“I think people should make peace,” Munawar said.
“We don’t want to be like our neighbors down south,” Kamlesh added, emphasizing the need for Canada’s political parties to work together when the next government forms. Li said bringing the country together comes down to “reinforcing what [Canadians’] common ground is.”
Voters in Montreal, meanwhile, were less enthusiastic about the prospects of uniting the nation, saying that division along partisan and identity lines, including language and culture, will endure beyond the election.
While fault lines emerged during the campaign, Wiseman says they are par for the course in an election, noting that the country has seen deeper splits.
“Canada may in fact be sprained, not fractured, in a sense – so the Prime Minister will have to work on healing and relieving the pain Canadians are feeling,” Biollo says.
The political consultant says that Trudeau will have to strike a humbler tone and acknowledge his government’s shortcoming, while staying firm on other issues, to begin healing the divisions among Canadians.
THIRD INSTALLMENT WITHIN 24 MONTHS?
There is strong speculation that the country could be plunged into another election in the next 18 to 24 months, the average tenure for a minority government. Trudeau himself referenced the mean lifespan of a minority government, when asked about subsequent elections during one of the country’s debates.
Wiseman says that it is entirely conceivable that Canadians go to the polls for the third time in four years 18 to 24 months from now but notes that the timing will depend on political quakes, such as scandals, or opportunism.
Desveaux disagrees, saying that the NDP appears to be interested in working more closely with the Liberal government, which entails political stability until the next election, officially set for October 20, 2025.
Meanwhile, Biollo says talk of deeper integration between the Liberals and NDP is “speculation at best,” emphasizing that the Liberals will “choose the relationships carefully” and attempts at integration will be met with pushback.
Biollo, however, notes that internal pressures may prevent the Prime Minister from pressing the button on another snap election.
“Anything is possible – but there is much at stake, including a leadership review or similar should Trudeau seem too eager to head back to the polls,” Biollo said, noting that the Liberals will likely take time to reflect on this election.
“I think we will not see another snap election,” Tupper said.