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Trudeau Wins Vote, Loses Majority      09/21 06:20

   

   TORONTO (AP) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party secured 
victory in parliamentary elections but failed to get the majority he wanted in 
a vote that focused on the coronavirus pandemic but that many Canadians saw as 
unnecessary.

   Trudeau entered Monday's election leading a stable minority government that 
wasn't under threat of being toppled -- but he was hoping Canadians would 
reward him with a majority for navigating the pandemic better than many other 
leaders. Still, Trudeau struggled to justify why he called the election early 
given the virus, and the opposition was relentless in accusing him of holding 
the vote two years before the deadline for his own personal ambition.

   In the end, the gamble did not pay off, and the results nearly mirrored 
those of two years ago. The Liberal Party was leading or elected in 156 seats 
-- one less than they won 2019, and 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority 
in the House of Commons.

   The Conservatives were leading or elected in 121 seats, the same number they 
won in 2019. The leftist New Democrats were leading or elected in 27, a gain of 
three seats, while the Bloc Qubcois remained unchanged with 32 seats and the 
Greens were down to two.

   "You are sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through 
this pandemic," Trudeau said. "I hear you when you say you just want to get 
back to the things you love and not worry about this pandemic or an election."

   But experts noted that it was not the victory Trudeau had hoped for.

   "Trudeau lost his gamble to get a majority so I would say this is a 
bittersweet victory for him," said Daniel Bland, a political science professor 
at McGill University in Montreal.

   "Basically we are back to square one, as the new minority parliament will 
look like the previous one. Trudeau and the Liberals saved their skin and will 
stay in power, but many Canadians who didn't want this late summer, pandemic 
election are probably not amused about the whole situation," he said.

   Trudeau bet Canadians didn't want a Conservative government during a 
pandemic, playing up his own party's successes. Canada has one of the highest 
vaccination rates in the world, and Trudeau's government spent hundreds of 
billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns. Trudeau argued that 
the Conservatives' approach, which has been skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine 
mandates, would be dangerous.

   Trudeau supports making vaccines mandatory for Canadians to travel by air or 
rail, something the Conservatives oppose.

   And he has pointed out that Alberta, run by a Conservative provincial 
government, is in crisis. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province might 
run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within days. Kenney 
apologized for the dire situation and is now reluctantly introducing a vaccine 
passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting 
nearly all restrictions.

   Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, meanwhile, didn't require his party's 
candidates to be vaccinated and would not say how many were not. O'Toole 
described vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of 
vaccinated Canadians are increasingly upset with those who refuse to get the 
shot.

   "The debate on vaccination and Trudeau taking on the anti-vaccination crowd 
helped the Liberals to salvage a campaign that didn't start well for the 
party," Bland said.

   Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, 
said the Conservatives were hurt by the situation in Alberta.

   "The explosion of the pandemic in Alberta in the past 10 days undermined 
O'Toole's compliments of the Alberta Conservatives on how they had handled the 
pandemic and reinforced Trudeau's argument for mandatory vaccinations," he said.

   The 49-year-old Trudeau channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal 
icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won election in 2015 
and has led his party to the top finish in two elections since.

   A Conservative win would have represented a rebuke of Trudeau by a 
politician with a fraction of his name recognition. O'Toole, 47, is a military 
veteran, former lawyer and a member of Parliament for nine years.

   "Canadians did not give Mr. Trudeau the majority mandate he wanted," O'Toole 
said. Conservative campaign co-chair Walied Soliman earlier said holding 
Trudeau to a minority government would be a win.

   O'Toole said he was more determined than ever to continue but his party 
might dump him as it did the previous leader who failed to beat Trudeau in 2019.

   O'Toole advertised himself a year ago as a "true-blue Conservative." He 
became Conservative Party leader with a pledge to "take back Canada," but 
immediately started working to push the party toward the political center.

   O'Toole's strategy, which included disavowing positions held dear by his 
party's base on issues such as climate change, guns and balanced budgets, was 
designed to appeal to a broader cross section of voters in a country that tends 
to be far more liberal than its southern neighbor.

   Whether moderate Canadians believed O'Toole is the progressive conservative 
he claims to be and whether he alienated traditional Conservatives became 
central questions of the campaign.

   Regina Adshade, a 28-year-old Vancouver software developer, said she was 
bothered that an election was called early, during a pandemic and with 
wildfires burning in British Columbia. But it didn't stop her from voting 
Liberal because the party represents her values.

   "I don't love there was an election right now, but it wasn't going to change 
my vote," she said.

   Trudeau's legacy includes embracing immigration at a time when the U.S. and 
other countries closed their doors. He also legalized cannabis nationwide and 
brought in a carbon tax to fight climate change. And he preserved free trade 
deal with the U.S. and Mexico amid threats by former U.S. President Donald 
Trump to scrap the agreement.

 
 
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