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Canadians Vote On New Parliament After Turbulent Election Period


Canadians are voting today on a new Parliament and the fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He called this election, hoping it would give him a parliamentary majority. His Liberal Party currently governs with a minority in Canada's House of Commons. But he faces a strong challenge from the Conservative Party, and it's been a turbulent campaign, partly because of disagreement in the country about how to deal with the pandemic. Reporter Emma Jacobs joins us from Montreal.

Hi there.


SHAPIRO: So I understand one of the issues in this election is the timing of the election itself. Explain what the controversy has been there.

JACOBS: Yeah. So Trudeau called this election early. He could've continued to govern for another two years with support from smaller parties. But he had pretty high marks for his handling of the pandemic, and he'd hoped to capitalize on that to win his party back majority control. But a lot of people saw his calling the election as a power grab for the same reasons, and they don't want to be voting right now. And so Conservatives - they saw a real surge in early polls. The Conservative leader, Erin O'Toole, has staked out policies that are a lot more centrist than Conservative Party platforms normally are in Canada on things like LGBT issues and climate policy. And now the overall polls going into the end of the race - they're very close. But you remember how Trudeau - he came in as a real star in 2015, someone that Canadians had known his whole life because he was born when his father was prime minister. And he was seen as progressive and praised for things like appointing equal numbers of men and women to his Cabinet. And now he's faced some corruption allegations and this criticism that calling an election was an overreach.

SHAPIRO: What have the voters that you've been talking to been telling you?

JACOBS: Yeah. I - so I spoke to voters at a school polling site in Trudeau's own electoral district. It's called a riding here in Montreal. One of them, Marie Frenette, said she did think the election was called too soon.

MARIE FRENETTE: I did not enjoy the campaign. I thought there was too many ideas that are negative.

JACOBS: Because this was such a close campaign, the candidates' messages have gotten very, very negative, trying to create fear of what it will be like if the other party wins. And Trudeau had been followed at campaign stops by protesters and some supporters of a right-wing party that oppose vaccine mandates and lockdowns. Some even pelted him with gravel at a campaign event.

SHAPIRO: What are some of the issues besides the timing of the election?

JACOBS: Well, there's the question of who's best to lead Canada out of this pandemic. The Conservative leader - he doesn't definitively support vaccine mandates in the way that Trudeau does. On other issues - Trudeau has been big on climate change. And O'Toole - he has emissions reductions targets, but they just aren't quite as ambitious. Trudeau has a subsidized child care plan that's gotten a lot of attention. And O'Toole has been focused on conditions for workers and actually is relatively supportive of unions. Prescription drug coverage is a big issue for the third-largest party, the New Democrats. But they...

SHAPIRO: And in just a sentence or two, when do we expect to get results?

JACOBS: It could be a very close vote. And so depending on how close the margins are with the number of mail-in ballots, we may not have results for a day or two.

SHAPIRO: That's reporter Emma Jacobs in Montreal.

Thanks a lot.

JACOBS: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emma Jacobs
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