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Canada’s Early Election Begins as Trudeau's Party Slips in the Polls

Justin Trudeau faces a tight race against Conservative challenger Erin O'Toole 

Voting begins Monday in Canada’s 44th federal election which could end Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s time in office.

Wanting to secure a majority for his party in parliament, Trudeau pushed for an election two years before the deadline. 

Trudeau is betting that Canadians will reward him for navigating the coronavirus crisis better than most countries did,” reports AP News. “Canada is now one of the most vaccinated nations in the world and Trudeau’s government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns … Trudeau argues that the Conservatives’ approach, which has been more skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and says Canadians need a government that follows science.”

While the prime minister was initially hailed for his leadership during the early stages of the pandemic, he has become entangled with scandal and criticized for stagnating.

Trudeau faced his third ethics violation in five years in August of 2020 when his administration gave a no-bid contract to WE Charity Canada for a program to support students hit by the pandemic-induced economic downturn. The non-profit would have received 43.5 million Canadian dollars (about $34 million) to distribute 912 million Canadian dollars of federal funds as part of the program. It was further revealed WE Charity had paid Trudeau’s mother and brother to speak at several of its events. 

Trudeau has also spoken regularly at events for the organization and his wife, Sofie Gregoire-Trudeau, runs a wellness podcast for WE Charity.

Trudeau never recused himself from cabinet discussions regarding the contract. Additionally, his finance minister, Bill Morneau resigned from his position and from parliament after his ties to the organization were exposed

“This country is governed by a fairly small circle of elites and there’s a cult of the insider that buttresses this, that produces these kinds of scandals fairly routinely,” Canadian political theorist David Moscrop said to the BBC. “That’s the structural problem — that Canada ends up being a small country governed by a small handful of people.”

Trudeau has faced two other major scandals while serving as prime minister. In 2017, he violated conflict of interest regulation by accepting gifts from an influential religious leader, the Aga Khan. In 2019, he tried to interfere in a corruption and fraud case on behalf of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., a Montreal-based engineering giant, was accused of pressuring then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into resolving the charges. 

Trudeau called the snap election in mid-August, barely two years into his minority government, betting he could capitalize on his handling of the pandemic to win a majority in parliament,” reports CNN.

Now, he is tied with newcomer Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole.

Montreal-born O’Toole is a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran who served as Veterans Affairs Minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the MP for Durham. He is credited with united grass-root factions of his party as well as appealing to new voters in southern Ontario and Quebec. He has been criticized for dodging questions about vaccination mandates as well as his stances on gun control and abortion in recent weeks.

“We don’t need a typical career politician, but someone who can take charge and return the country back to prosperity. We need a leader that is proud of our industries and understands them,” O’Toole said in a statement on his website.

According to Foreign Policy, “Trudeau failed to understand just how much O’Toole could ultimately capitalize on Canadians’ lack of interest in going to the polls. Although it’s highly unlikely the Conservatives will form a majority government, there’s more than a 20 percent chance they could form a minority government. They could also partner with either the Bloc Québécois or NDP, both of which are further left than the Liberals, to form a coalition government.”

Last week, President Barrack Obama tweeted in support of his “friend” Justin Trudeau. Trudeau took office during the final years of Obama’s presidency.

Global News polling indicates that Liberals are slated to get 31% of Canada’s votes while Conservatives will likely receive at least 32%.

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