Canada votes on Sept. 20 – Trudeau may have gambled too high

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have miscalculated his decision to bring forward new elections. A few days before the decision, polls see his Conservative challenger Erin O’Toole ahead of the Liberal prime minister, who has formed a minority government since October 2019. Four years earlier, Trudeau had run as a “young hopeful” and managed to win an absolute majority.

Trudeau had justified the elections now taking place by saying that the people should decide on the way forward in the fight against Covid-19 and in rebuilding the economy. Many Canadians, however, have little understanding for the timing of the vote, because the government had already pushed through the budget, including measures against the pandemic, with the help of the opposition, and it was Trudeau himself who had previously rejected elections in the pandemic period.

His government’s rather half-hearted crisis management on current issues (fourth COVID wave, forest fires, foreign policy) and affairs such as public influence on a criminal trial in the so-called “SNC-Lavalin” trial have also damaged the public image of the former “shooting star” Trudeau and weakened the population’s trust in his leadership qualities.

In addition to the Liberals and Conservatives, the social democratic New Democratic Party, and the Bloc Québécois, which is only running in Québec, are also up for election, as are the Greens and independents, who are only considered outsiders. Similar to the USA, Canada has a first-past-the-post electoral system, i.e., the electoral district mandate is won by the candidate with the most votes.

Conservative Erin O’Toole thus has realistic chances of coming to power as prime minister of a minority government, especially since he has adopted some liberal positions for tactical reasons, such as support for unions or the demand for prices on harmful emissions, while at the same time shelving classic right-wing hardliner positions (e.g., certain gun laws) in order to win over liberal centrist voters. And the New Democratic Party, with its charismatic front-runner Jagmeet Singh, could also steal votes from the Liberals in the left-liberal sector, but Trudeau depends on them, especially in the metropolitan areas.

In a few days, it will become clear which fundamental course Canada is more likely to steer: a tendency toward further left-wing liberalism or a more right-wing, conservative path with liberal elements.