CANADIAN prime minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals held onto power after a closely fought
election on Monday (21) but were reduced to a minority government that will need the
support in Parliament of a smaller left-leaning party.
The Liberals had won or were leading in 156 out of 338 seats in Monday’s vote, according to Elections Canada. That put the Liberals far short of the 170 seats needed for a second straight majority government.
“You did it, my friends. Congratulations,” Trudeau told supporters in Montreal early on
Tuesday (22), speaking as his main opponents were giving concession speeches.
Trudeau, who took power in 2015 as a charismatic figure promising “sunny ways,” saw his
popularity drop over old photos of him in blackface and his handling of a corporate
He will now have to rely on the New Democratic Party (NDP) to push through key
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he spoke to Trudeau and told him his party would be
“working hard to deliver on making sure we deliver the priorities that Canadians have.”
In his concession speech, Trudeau’s rival, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said,
“Canadians have passed judgement on (Trudeau’s) Liberal government,” noting that the
Liberals shed more than 20 seats as well as “support in every region of the country.”
“Canada is a country that is further divided,” he said, warning that its oil sector, the fourth
largest in the world but struggling with low prices and a lack of pipeline capacity, is “under
“We have put him on notice, his leadership is damaged and his government will end soon andwhen that time comes, the Conservatives will be ready and we will win!”
Some 27.4 million Canadians were eligible to vote in the election, and the turnout was
reported to have been large, at almost 65 per cent.
Although the NDP had a disappointing night, with the 24 seats it had won or was leading in
down sharply from the 2015 election when it won 44, the party could exercise significant
influence over Trudeau’s next government.
A leftist former criminal defence lawyer, Singh was elected in 2017 to lead the New
Democratic Party (NDP).
Born in Ontario to Indian immigrant parents, the 40-year-old observant Sikh who recently
married fashion designer Gurkiran Kaur, speaks English and French, but also Punjabi.
His party promised free dental care and prescription drugs for all, to be financed by raising
taxes on “multimillionaires and billionaires.”
“Progressive voting is us,” Singh said last week on the campaign trail on Montreal.
In the run up to the election, he accused Trudeau of protecting big business instead of helping families and called for support from Canadians who “want someone who will really fight climate change, cancel oil subsidies and deal with social inequities.”
On the campaign trail his orange, yellow, pink, purple and baby blue turbans became a
But not everyone is as keen to see Singh’s emergence on the national stage, and he has faced many derogatory, even racist remarks.
Recently in Montreal, an elderly man leaned in to whisper in his ear at a public market that
he should take off his turban “to look like a Canadian.”
Two years ago at a rally, a woman got in Singh’s face and let loose a rambling diatribe
accusing him of “being in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood” and seeking to impose
Sharia law on Canadians.
To reassure cynics, he regularly reiterates that although he wears a turban, he shares the same values as most Canadians.
“I’m pro-choice, for women’s rights, for gay marriage,” he has said.
And to sway French-speaking voters in the key election battleground of Quebec, he says he
“fell in love with the French language” while growing up in English-speaking communities
in Newfoundland and Ontario.
He has railed against a locally-popular Quebec law forbidding teachers and other public
servants from wearing religious symbols, however, calling it “offensive.”
Promoting Canadian multiculturalism through food, he served up “Punjabi poutine” – an
Indian twist on a traditional Quebec dish – in a social media video celebrating Canadian
Thanksgiving last week.
“It’s like Punjabi and Quebec styles merging,” he said.