Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is now projected to hold onto his role as prime minister — but Canadians appear to have voted in the federal election on Monday to keep requiring him to work with the other parties in order to govern in a second minority government.
The decision by voters returns the Liberals to power but does not grant them the four years of stability and power that a majority win would have conferred.
“You are sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic and to the brighter days ahead,” Trudeau said of the results which are virtually identical to those in the Parliament he voluntarily asked the governor general to dissolve in order to hold an election.
“What we’ve seen tonight is that millions of Canadians voted for a progressive plan.”
He said Canadians sent a message that they want elected officials to work together during the ongoing public health crisis, and focus on passing legislation.
“You just want to know that your members of Parliament of all stripes will have your back through this crisis and beyond,” Trudeau said. “The moment we face demands real, important change and you have given this government and this parliament real direction.”
Trudeau will need to continue working with the other parties in order to govern and pass the major pieces of legislation he promised voters during the campaign.
He faced criticism from opposition parties and critics over recent weeks for calling the election in the midst of the fourth wave of COVID-19.
He billed the move as a necessary chance for Canadians to decide on which parties’ vision for the pandemic recovery they want to see put into place.
The Liberals ran a campaign centred around continued spending with no plan to balance the budget, but with key promises of $10-per-day childcare and vaccine mandates for federal workers as well as for travellers on planes and trains.
All eyes will now be on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is poised to once again play kingmaker and will have to decide whether to prop up a minority Liberal government.
Singh congratulated Trudeau early Tuesday morning and vowed his party will keep pushing for better access to health care and affordable homes.
“We are going to continue to fight for you,” he said in a speech to Canadians.
“We will continue to make sure you are first.”
Singh did not say in his speech whether he is prepared to prop up another Liberal minority government but pointed repeatedly to his arguments about the need to raise taxes on the richest Canadians and to improve health care.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole used his concession speech to emphasize the need for a “Team Canada” approach, something the parties all talked about during the beginning of the pandemic.
“Eighteen months later, our nation needs that more than ever,” he said.
“Mr. Trudeau was hoping for a quick power grab. Instead, he has thrust us into what he has promised will be 18 months of perpetual campaigning … If he thinks he can threaten Canada with another election in 18 months, Canada’s Conservatives will be ready.”
The pandemic election is the most expensive in Canadian history at an estimated $600 million.
A majority government was the glittering prize all parties eyed during campaigns, but last-minute polling released Sunday night raised questions on whether one would actually be possible.
Polls closed in B.C. at 10 p.m. ET and at 9:30 p.m. ET from Quebec all the way west to Alberta.
Early results had begun trickling in from Atlantic Canada shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday night.
Already there are indications that the federal Conservatives are not picking up key seats in the vote-rich ridings where they needed to seize big gains in order to oust the Liberals.
Liberals are leading or projected to be elected in 156 ridings compared to 120 for the Conservatives as of 2:30 a.m. ET Tuesday. The Bloc Quebecois is leading or projected to win in 33 ridings, with the NDP leading or projected to win 27 ridings and the Greens with two.
Liberals held 155 seats at the end of the last Parliament, while the Conservatives held 119.
The rest were divided between the NDP, Bloc Québécois, Green Party and Independent MPs.
Of the federal party leaders, so far Trudeau is projected to hold onto his Quebec riding of Papineau while Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is projected to hold onto the Ontario riding of Durham.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet is projected to win his Quebec riding of Beloeil-Chambly. Maxime Bernier, leader of the far-right People’s Party of Canada, is projected to lose his bid to retake the Quebec riding of Beauce by a significant margin.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is also now projected to lose her bid for the Toronto Centre riding, which is a Liberal stronghold. Paul’s expected loss is likely to now trigger questions about whether she can continue to lead the party, which has been plagued by infighting and turmoil over recent months.
“I’ve never seen the party so unprepared for an election,” said former Green leader Elizabeth May, who is running for re-election as the MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, during an interview with Global News.
Singh is also projected to hold onto his B.C. riding of Burnaby South.
Several prominent cabinet ministers are also now projected to both keep and lose their seats.
Prominent Liberal candidate and current cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan was the first to be projected as winning his Newfoundland riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl early in the evening. Fellow cabinet colleague and veteran Liberal Dominic LeBlanc was also quickly projected as winning the New Brunswick riding of Beausejour, which he has represented for roughly 20 years.
Lawrence MacAuley, also a longtime Liberal and a cabinet minister, is projected to hold onto his Prince Edward Island riding of Cardigan, as is Marc Garneau — the current foreign affairs minister — in his Quebec riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount.
Liberal cabinet ministers Marc Miller, Pablo Rodriguez, Omar Alghabra, Mary Ng, Mona Fortier, Carolyn Bennett and Bill Blair are also among those projected to hold onto their ridings and return to Parliament Hill, as is Chrystia Freeland, who was the first female finance minister.
Bernadette Jordan, who served as fisheries minister, is projected to lose her riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, which appears to have elected Conservative Rick Perkins as their next MP.
A number of prominent Conservatives also appear set to hold onto their ridings and return as MPs.
Longtime Tories Gérard Deltell, James Bezan, Alain Rayes, Pierre Poilievre, Cheryl Gallant, Marilyn Gladu, Michael Chong, Candice Bergen and Ted Falk are all projected to keep their seats as MPs, as is former party leader Andrew Scheer.
Falk made headlines earlier in the month after being quoted in a local newspaper spreading misinformation about the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines, suggesting they may do more harm than good.
He apologized on Sept. 14.
The result, nearly a mirror image of the 2019 election, is likely to raise more questions for Trudeau about why he called the election in the middle of the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Trudeau had billed the election, which he triggered on Aug. 15, as a chance for Canadians to choose which party’s vision for the COVID-19 recovery they most support over the coming years.
Political opponents argued his decision was motivated by a desire for a majority government and that his sole focus should be on governing, not campaigning, while the pandemic continues to spread throughout the country.
Throughout the campaign, party leaders made promises on Canada’s pandemic response, the economy, affordability, child care, climate change, spending, Indigenous reconciliation, taxes and housing.
About 6.8 million Canadians voted early via advanced polling from Sept. 10 to 13, and the rest through special balloting either by mail or in-person at Elections Canada offices.