Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party will form the next government, the country’s public broadcaster projected, after a close election battle against the opposition Conservatives.
CBC News reported late on Monday that the Liberals would hold onto power, but the network did not immediately say whether the party would get a minority or majority in Canada’s 44th parliament.
Liberal candidates won or were leading in 152 electoral districts – known as ridings – just before 11pm EST (03:00 GMT), CBC projected.
The final results may not be released on Monday, Canadian media have reported, as election officials will begin counting hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots on Tuesday morning.
In a push for a majority, Trudeau triggered the snap election in mid-August, telling voters he wanted them to have a say over how the country finishes its fight against the coronavirus.
But he faced a tough challenge from the Conservatives, headed by Erin O’Toole, and experts said Trudeau, who has been prime minister since 2015, struggled to convince much of the electorate about why the election was necessary during the pandemic.
The Liberals have been governing as a minority government propped up by opposition parties since they won 157 seats in the last federal election in 2019 – short of the 170-seat threshold needed for a majority.
This time, the federal election campaign was dominated by concerns over COVID-19 and mandatory vaccines, investments in health and child care, economic recovery plans and housing, among other issues.
O’Toole and Canada’s other opposition party leaders slammed Trudeau for calling the election during a fourth wave of the pandemic, however, heaping pressure on the Liberal leader throughout the campaign.
Speaking to Conservative Party volunteers on Sunday in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto, O’Toole accused the Liberal leader of calling “a $600m election rather than focus on the health of people”.
But Trudeau, who CBC reported was re-elected in his Montreal riding of Papineau, said on the eve of Election Day that Canadians had a clear choice: “We now get to pick the right direction for our country, to keep moving forward – or to let Conservatives take us back.”
The Liberals were polling at 31.4 percent support on Sunday, according to CBC News’s Poll Tracker, which aggregates all public polling data, compared with 30.9 percent for the Conservatives and 20 percent for the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) in third place.
Several major pollsters had said the Liberals would get the most seats in parliament, but predicted that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives would get a majority government.