Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party will return to power as a minority government following Monday’s general election, despite the Conservative Party winning the popular vote.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party lost 20 seats in the House of Commons, while the Conservative Party gained 26. Following his victory, Trudeau said Canada rejected “division and negativity”, and voted in favor of a progressive agenda.
Jeffrey Ayers, a Saint Michael’s College political science professor who specializes in Canadian politics, said despite Trudeau’s progressive outlook, he’s well aware of what the election signaled.
“He’s kind of replicated what his father Pierre Trudeau experienced in the 1970s,” Ayers said. “He sees that the Liberal Party was shut out, doesn’t have a single seat in Alberta or Saskatchewan. He’s going to have to compromise and think about the West.”
Ayers said Trudeau will likely look to collaborate with smaller parties like the New Democratic Party on issues like climate change and gun control, two areas he promised to tackle during his victory speech in Montreal.
Several polls from late September showed the Conservative Party with a slight edge. They came days after photos of Trudeau in brownface at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” themed party surfaced via Time Magazine. Ayers believes Trudeau’s apology may have prevented further damage to the Liberal Party in this election.
“There was a little bit of a hit in the polling for a few days, but after about a week it seemed to be that about half to three quarters of those who were polled were moving on and had accepted his apology or weren’t particularly concerned about it,” Ayers said.
Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party and Trudeau’s main challenger in the election, ran on a platform promising stable government, tax cuts and a balanced budget. His message may have contributed to the party winning the popular vote, but Ayers said traditional conservatism isn’t as effective in Canada.
“I think there’s some big public policy issues like Pharmacare, climate change, guns and immigration that Canadians are anxious and thirsty to talk about as opposed to some of those tried-and-true conservative issues,” Ayers said.
Last Wednesday, five days before the election, Trudeau got an unusual international endorsement that may have helped tip the scale – Former U.S. President Barack Obama. He praised Trudeau’s leadership on climate change, and said he was “proud to work with him” as President.