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Justin Trudeau is forecast to win re-election as Canadian prime minister, according to projections by local media, allowing the Liberal party leader to form his third government since 2015.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CTV News television both projected a Liberal victory shortly after voting ended in most of the country on Monday night. CBC forecast the ruling party would form a minority government after a tighter-than-expected election campaign that Trudeau called in a bid to capitalise on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Liberals had won or were leading in 154 seats as of 11pm Eastern daylight saving time, out of a total of 338 seats and needs to win 170 seats to secure a majority. The Conservatives trailed the Liberals with 121 seats, two more than their 2019 result.
Erin O’Toole, leader of the Conservative party, conceded defeat in a speech to supporters.
Trudeau called the election last month in a bid to obtain a Liberal majority after ruling for two years as a minority government. The party held 157 seats heading into the election.
Support for the prime minister dwindled as the campaign wore on but the party’s performance in the battleground province of Ontario, particularly in the Toronto metropolitan area, sealed its victory.
Trudeau will probably govern as a minority leader as he has for the past two years, with backing on important legislative priorities from the New Democrats, a socialist party to the left of the Liberals.
The results will raise questions about the future of O’Toole, who emerged from relative obscurity to lead a competitive campaign after analysts had expected the Liberals to expand their minority or win an outright majority.
But O’Toole’s liberal social and economic policies have caused consternation among some in the Conservative base and he may face a leadership challenge if the final results are disappointing.
The election campaign covered a panoply of issues, including affordable housing, economic policy, public healthcare, childcare, gun rights and climate change.
But the pandemic re-emerged as an essential issue in the final days of the campaign. Anti-vaccine protesters have picketed hospitals and forced schools to close, and a public health emergency in the western province of Alberta has highlighted the failure of a conservative premier in managing the pandemic.
Canada is in the midst of a fourth wave of the pandemic, even though it has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world with about 80 per cent of eligible individuals having received at least one shot of a Covid-19 jab.
Final election results are unlikely to emerge until later this week after mail-in ballots are tallied.
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