Bland versus flash? Canada elects new parliament after tight race

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Canadians are electing a new Parliament on Monday after a tight election campaign that has raised the threat of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being knocked from power after just one term.

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The 47-year-old Trudeau channelled the star power of his father, the liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he won in 2015 but a combination of scandal and high expectations have damaged his prospects.

The Liberals and Tories went into the home stretch in a dead heat, each with about 31-32 percent support after 40 days of mudslinging.

Pollsters are predicting a minority government will result from Mondays vote – led either by the Liberals or the Conservatives – as the smaller New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party and Bloc Québécois have continued to chip away at the frontrunners leads.

Not in 84 years has a first-term Canadian prime minister with a parliamentary majority lost a bid for re-election.

Trudeau reasserted liberalism in 2015 after almost 10 years of Conservative Party government in Canada, but he is one of the few remaining progressive leaders in the world. He has been viewed as a beacon for liberals south of the border in the Donald Trump era, even appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine under the headline “Why Cant He Be Our President?”

I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President. He's a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change. The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term.

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 16, 2019

Perhaps sensing Trudeau is in trouble, Barack Obama last week made an unprecedented endorsement by a former US president in urging Canadians to re-elect Trudeau, calling him an “effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change”.

“The world needs his progressive leadership now,” Obama tweeted Wednesday.

Lapses

Plagued by a blackface scandal and accused of ethics lapses in the handling of the bribery prosecution of an engineering giant, Trudeau has seen his star dim, his judgment questioned and his personal popularity slip over the past year.

He was hurt by the scandal that erupted earlier this year when his former attorney general said he pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the damage gave a boost to the Conservative Party led by Andrew Scheer.

No party is expected to get a majority of Parliaments 338 seats, so a shaky alliance may be needed to pass legislation.

If it is the Conservatives who win the most seats – but not a majority – they will probably try to form a government with the backing of Quebecs separatist Bloc Québécois. In contrast, Trudeaus Liberals would likely rely on the NDP to stay in power.

Attack machine

Scheer, meanwhile, has struggled to convince voters to look past his dull, minivan-driving dad persona and the partys minimalist platform to give the rookie leader a chance to govern.

Throughout the campaign, the devout Catholic father-of-five faced criticism for padding his resume and over his personal opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

A career politician who served as Canadas youngest Speaker of the House of Commons, Scheer is described by those in his own party as bland, a possible antidote for those tired of Trudeaus flash. The 40-year-old fiscal and moral conservative calls Trudeau a phony who cant even recall how many times he has worn blackface.

Justin Trudeau will pay any price to stay in power and he will use your money to do it.

A Trudeau-NDP coalition is a coalition you can't afford.

Ive spent the last 39 days talking about my plan to help you get ahead, and a Conservative government will do just that. pic.twitter.com/y1lJ76ZSk2

— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) October 21, 2019

Conservative Jason Kenney, Albertas premier and a close friend of Scheer, calls the party leader “an extremely normal Canadian” who is so nice he “cant fake being mean”.

Scheer, however, has so relentlessly attacked Trudeau that Nik Nanos, a Canadian pollster, said he hasnt been himself.

“Scheer has been hostage to the message,” Nanos said. “His campaign has made him into an attack machine.”

Conservative supporters chanted “Lock him up! Lock him up!” at a rally Saturday after Scheer said he would investigate Trudeaus attorney general scandal – mirroring the Hillary Clinton “Lock her up!” chant popular at Trump rallies. Scheer moved to calm the crowd and changed the chant to “Vote him out”.

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