Justin Trudeau vs Erin O’Toole: Who will Canadians vote for?

As voting in Canada elections begins in a few hours from now, the incumbent Liberal Party leader Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has an edge in head-to-head battle with his Conservative Party rival Erin O’Toole.
Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (right) gestures to Conservative leader Erin O’Toole during the Canada elections French-language leaders debate at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. (AFP)
Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau (right) gestures to Conservative leader Erin O’Toole during the Canada elections French-language leaders debate at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. (AFP)
Published on Sep 20, 2021 10:49 AM IST
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By Anirudh Bhattacharyya I Edited by Amit Chanda

As Canadians head for voting booths few hours from now, the race for the 44th federal elections has turned into a battle between contrasting views of Liberal Party leader and incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his bête noire Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole on the management of Covid-19.

Justin Trudeau is pitching its management of the Covid-19 pandemic and leveraging the wedge issue of vaccine passports against the principal opposition Conservatives, as its leader Erin O’Toole has opposed imposition of mandatory vaccination.

That single issue has bolstered the campaign of incumbent Justin Trudeau to return to power in Ottawa, and indications on the eve of the election are that he may even have an outside chance at capturing the majority he craved for while precipitating snap elections on August 15. But to secure that, his party will require optimum results across marginal contests.

With Western Canada, particularly the province of Alberta, suffering from the fourth wave of the coronavirus, Justin Trudeau has, with some success, linked that to the failure of the provincial governments which are all run by right-of-centre parties and their ties to Erin O’Toole.

He has described the fourth wave as one caused by the unvaccinated while accusing Erin O’Toole for indulging anti-vaxxers. Canada, Justin Trudeau said, at a campaign event on Sunday, was “at a crossroads, at a moment where we have to make a really important choice”.

That single factor may have given Justin Trudeau’s party enough impetus for a majority, which may have been unthinkable a week back.

Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, is also making this a referendum, not just on Justin Trudeau but also on his “selfish” call for elections in the midst of the fourth wave, an issue that continues to resonate with voters. “Now is the time for Canadians to make a choice. We can choose to settle for second-best - for a party that hardly tries and barely delivers. Or, we can choose to believe in a brighter, better, more united future,” Erin O’Toole said.

Both leaders spent some of the last day campaigning in Canada’s most populous province Ontario, which could prove crucial in determining the shape of the next government.

Surveys on the last day continue to predict that the Liberals will not garner a majority. The CBC Poll Tracker placed the ruling party’s vote share at 31.3%, translating to 155 seats and the Conservatives at 30.9% and 119 seats. If that holds, both parties will lose two seats from their 2019 tally in the 338-seat House of Commons.

Turnout amid voter malaise could be the x-factor in the final outcome. The agency Ipsos Canada forecast a “photo finish” to the contest. Its CEO Darrell Bricker tweeted, “Here’s what I’m seeing. It’s very close. Tory vote a bit more certain, energetic than LPC vote but incumbents have built in advantages. Do they cancel out? Hard to gauge.”

It’s really that uncertain, but the edge definitely lies with Justin Trudeau.

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Monday, October 18, 2021