Canadians vote Monday to determine whether centrist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who swept into office four years ago as a charismatic figure promising “sunny ways,” will remain in power after two major scandals.
He was shaken during the campaign by a blackface scandal and has been dogged by criticism of his handling of a corruption case involving a major Canadian construction company. Trudeau, the son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has also had to overcome a sense of fatigue with his government.
Left-wing activists have also accused Trudeau and his government of breaking their promises to the Indigenous communities in Canada who have seen their lands being invaded by oil companies and pipelines.
“When the prime minister says that this pipeline expansion will be done no matter what, and his minister adds that Canada will not be able to accommodate all Indigenous concerns, what that means is that they have decided to willfully violate their constitutional duties and obligations,” Romero Saganash, First Nations lawmaker from the Quebecois New Democratic Party, said last year in a parliamentary session speaking of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“Sounds like a most important relationship, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t the prime minister just say the truth and tell Indigenous peoples that he doesn’t give a fuck about their rights?”
The liberal prime minister has also adopted an aggressive foreign policy against the government of Venezuela, joining the so-called “Lima Group”, made up of right-wing governments in Latin America, and backed by the government of Donald Trump. The group’s main objective is to overthrow the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro using economic and diplomatic pressure.
Trudeau’s Liberals and the main opposition Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer are in a neck-and-neck race, according to opinion polls.
“The truth is it’s a coin toss right now,” said Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker.
A year ago, no one would have predicted that Trudeau risked being the first prime minister since the 1930s to secure a parliamentary majority and then fail to win a second term.
The latest opinion polls suggest he may narrowly avert that result and could return to office with a minority in the 338-seat House of Commons. That would still leave Trudeau in a weakened position and needing the support of left-leaning opposition parties Five parties are contesting Canada’s federal election to push through key pieces of legislation.
Trudeau’s main rival has proven to be a determined opponent. One of the defining moments of the campaign was when Scheer attacked Trudeau during the English-language debate.
“He can’t even remember how many times he put blackface on, because the fact of the matter is he’s always wearing a mask,” Scheer said. “Mr. Trudeau, you are a phony and you are a fraud and you do not deserve to govern this country.”
The liberal image of Trudeau took a severe blow when pictures emerged early in the campaign of him wearing blackface in the early 1990s and in 2001.