OTTAWA, Canada — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared set to retain power in a close election Monday, but he may fall short of regaining the parliamentary majority he’s been coveting.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party is likely to win 155 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, compared with 119 for the opposition Conservatives under Leader Erin O’Toole, according to projections based on national polling averages compiled by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The prime minister tried to shore up support Sunday with a blitz through key districts in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia on the final day of the campaign. O’Toole made a handful of stops near his home district in the suburbs of Toronto.
The CBC’s projected result would leave parliament little changed from what it was before Trudeau called the election — a stable minority that gives the prime minister license to continue pursuing a big-spending agenda that is already largely backed by other parties.
It would also represent a historic milestone, marking only the eighth time a Canadian leader has won three successive elections. Trudeau’s father, Pierre, also accomplished the feat.
There’s also a new source of uncertainty this year: More than 1 million mail-in ballots were requested, due to the pandemic. That could leave the result unknown until Tuesday or beyond if the race is close.
Failure to secure a majority of 170 seats would ultimately be a disappointing result for the Liberals, the second time voters have denied this prime minister full control of the legislature — limiting his freedom to take big risks or govern unilaterally.
“It’s very close. There are certain advantages that incumbents hold, in terms of name awareness and that kind of thing,” Darrell Bricker, global chief executive of Ipsos Public Affairs, said in an interview Sunday. “But everything I’m seeing is that the level of energy in the Conservative vote is higher than the Liberal vote right now.”
As a share of the vote, polls show the Liberals at just over 31% support and the Conservatives just under 31%. A tie or even a small deficit in the popular vote favors the Liberals, who tend to win more seats with small margins in Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system.
Minority governments have become familiar political terrain in Canada, and popular given they maximize participation of a number of parties in the process of lawmaking. The previous six elections produced four minority governments, lasting on average about two years.