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Polls close in Prairies, Ontario, Quebec as Atlantic voters show preference for Liberals

Global News' Decision Desk is ready to project the 2019 Federal Election will result in a minority government, though the party which will come out on top is still to be determined.

UPDATE: Global News projects a Liberal minority government. Read more here

Polls have now closed across the country.

The early comeback story so far out of Atlantic Canada is the win of the NDP’s Jack Harris against incumbent Liberal Nick Whelan in the riding of St. John’s East in Newfoundland. Harris, a veteran MP in that riding, lost his seat in 2015 to Whelan in the surge that propelled the Liberals into power.

READ MORE: Real-time results in the Canadian election

The Liberals won all of the seats in Atlantic Canada in the last election but already are showing early losses in the region that they painted red entirely in 2015.

In addition to the NDP’s Harris, three Conservatives have also been elected against incumbent Liberals but the Liberals have so far won the majority of the declared seats in that region.

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Liberal cabinet ministers Dominic LeBlanc, Seamus O’Regan, Bernadette Jordan, Ginette Petispas Taylor and Lawrence MacAulay held onto their seats, as did Geoff Regan, who was Speaker of the House of Commons most recently, and longtime Liberal Wayne Easter.

Federal Election 2019: First Liberal cabinet minister declared re-elected
Federal Election 2019: First Liberal cabinet minister declared re-elected

Liberal backbenchers Scott Simms, Gudie Hutchings, Ken McDonald, René Arseneault and Serge Cormier also secured their seats, as did Darrell Sampson, Darren Fisher, Sean Fraser, Sean Casey and Churence Rogers.

As well, the Liberals kept the seat vacated by former cabinet minister Scott Brison in Kings-Hants; rookie candidate Kody Blois won that seat for the party.

Conservative Richard Bragdon was the first to win a seat for his party in the region; he won the riding of Tobique–Mactaquac away from incumbent Liberal T.J. Harvey. John Williamson also won the riding of New Brunswick Southwest away from Liberal incumbent Karen Ludwig.

Conservative Rob Moore also won the New Brunswick seat of Fundy Royal away from Liberal Alaina Lockhart, who was among the crop of first-time MPs swept into office in 2015.

Throughout the 40-day campaign, public opinion polls have shown the Liberals and Conservatives in a statistical tie and that means questions have swirled about whether Canadians could elect a minority government for the first time in eight years.

Meanwhile, voting continues in the other regions of the country in an election where no party has a clear lead at this point over any other.

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Results do not come in instantaneously — ballots are still counted by hand in Canadian federal elections.

READ MORE: Election 2019 — Last-minute voters’ guide

The magic number every party is aiming for as the vote tally begins is 170, which is the number of seats in the House of Commons that a party must win in order to form a majority government. That’s when a party does not need support from any other parties to pass its legislative agenda.

However, in a minority situation no one party commands control of the House of Commons on its own.

In minority scenarios, a party seeking to form government must work with at least one other party in order to be able to govern and pass bills.

Federal Election 2019: First results of the night come in from Newfoundland
Federal Election 2019: First results of the night come in from Newfoundland

But even as questions continue about who will form government, there are more questions about reports of robocalls in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in which callers tried to misdirect voters by telling them to head to the polls at a future date.

READ MORE: Elections Canada probes reports that robocalls told some voters to vote after Monday

“We have received reports about some electors receiving robocalls indicating that election day is on a date other than today (from Quebec, NS and NB),” said Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.

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“We have no indication these calls are widespread. Today is election day, and the only day to vote.”

If voters have received a misleading communication about how to vote in the election, Ghislain said they should phone Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868, adding, “It is illegal to willfully misdirect electors in order to prevent them from voting.”

It’s not the first time Canadian voters have been targeted by robocalls: former Conservative staffer Michael Sona was convicted and sentenced to nine months in jail in 2014 for his role in the 2011 robocalls scandal.

Sona organized and paid for some 6,700 phone calls to voters largely in the region of Guelph, Ont., falsely telling them their polling station had been moved, and was the first person convicted under the provision of the Canada Elections Act that forbids willfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections is responsible for investigating any violations of the act and laying any potential charges.

A spokesperson for that office told Global News they were not able to say whether the commissioner was looking into any specific reports, but that the maximum penalty for violations such as impersonating Elections Canada staff in communications to voters is a fine of up to $50,000, up to five years in prison, or a combination of the two.

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Federal Election 2019: A look at the Global News political panel
Federal Election 2019: A look at the Global News political panel

Those reports come as the federal campaign draws to a close after 40 days.

The federal party leaders all cast their votes earlier in the day, with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet the first one to do so from a poll in Shawinigan, Que., alongside his partner, Nancy Deziel.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau voted in his riding of Papineau in Montreal, Que., earlier in the day as well, alongside his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, and their three children.

Trudeau has been active on Twitter throughout the day, encouraging Canadians to vote.

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Federal Election 2019: What past election results can reveal about this year’s outcome
Federal Election 2019: What past election results can reveal about this year’s outcome

People’s Party of Canada (PPC) Leader Maxime Bernier cast his ballot in Saint-Georges, Que., with his wife, Catherine Letarte.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May voted at St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Sidney, B.C., in her home riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

Federal Election 2019: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May heads to the polls
Federal Election 2019: Green Party Leader Elizabeth May heads to the polls

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is expected to cast his vote later in his political hometown of Regina. Earlier, he visited a riding belonging to longtime Liberal Ralph Goodale in hopes of drumming up support for the Conservative candidate running against him.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has so far spent Election Day with campaign staff at his Burnaby, B.C. office, thanking them for their work.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, right, speaks with people at his campaign office during a campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, right, speaks with people at his campaign office during a campaign stop in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

He was the only leader to vote in advance polling, which took place over Thanksgiving weekend.

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An estimated 4.7 million Canadians chose to vote in advance polls, according to Elections Canada. That’s up 29 per cent from 2015, when 3.7 million Canadians voted early.

There are a total of 27.4 million eligible voters in Canada this year and all polls so far are indicating a very tight race.

Sunday was the last official day of campaigning and the federal leaders spent it vying for last-minute support.

Federal Election 2019: Leaders descend on B.C.
Federal Election 2019: Leaders descend on B.C.

According to the latest Ipsos poll, conducted exclusively for Global News, Liberals and Conservatives are still neck and neck, as they have been through the entire five weeks of the federal campaign.

It found 33 per cent of decided voters would choose the Conservatives while 31 per cent would choose the Liberals. The difference is within the poll’s credibility interval of plus or minus two percentage points, meaning the parties are in what’s known as a statistical tie.

While support levels haven’t shifted very much over the last 40 days, both parties were polling up a point from the previous week’s poll.

The NDP, Green Party, Bloc Québécois and PPC were not polling within reach of either the Tories or the Liberals.

How can I still vote?

Polls remain open in some regions across the country.

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Voter information cards were sent by mail weeks ago, but it’s still possible for voters to register at their assigned station.

You can find out where you are designated to vote on the Elections Canada website.

For more information on what you need to vote, check out our voting guide.

The closing times for polls varies depending on the province, though voters in each province will have had a total of 12 hours in which to cast their ballots.

Here are the voting hours for each time zone. All times are local.

  • Newfoundland — 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Atlantic — 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Eastern — 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Central — 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Mountain — 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Pacific — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Polls in Saskatchewan, specifically, close at 7:30 p.m. local time.

All polls will be closed as of 10 p.m. ET.

A “mega-polling station” is open in Manitoba at the University of Winnipeg to ensure voters who have been evacuated or relocated due to a recent winter storm have safe and accessible voting options. A shuttle bus service is also available from local hotels — where some storm-impacted residents have been staying — to the university.

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With files from Rachael D’Amore.