Canadians To Decide If Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party Will Remain In Power

Oct 21, 2019
Originally published on October 21, 2019 7:28 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Canadians are voting today on whether to keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party in power. The race is tight after revelations of scandals involving Trudeau. David McGuffin reports from Ottawa.

DAVID MCGUFFIN, BYLINE: There is a sense of relief that voting day is finally here and the campaigning is over. It's been an election featuring moments like this - a familiar American chant, this time aimed at Justin Trudeau at a Canadian conservative rally.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #1: (Chanting) Lock him up. Lock him up.

MCGUFFIN: Conservative leader Andrew Scheer did put a stop to lock him up, but overall, this has been a campaign where the focus by the main party leaders has been on why the other guy isn't qualified for the job. Here's Andrew Scheer.

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ANDREW SCHEER: Over the last four years, he has demonstrated time and time again that he is unworthy of that office. He is unworthy of the trust Canadians place in him to respect taxpayer dollars and safeguard our democracy against corruption. His ongoing scandals and cover-ups have caused Canadians to lose faith in the integrity of their government.

MCGUFFIN: Trudeau's scandals have included photos that emerged during the campaign of him wearing blackface as a young man. And this summer, he was found guilty of trying to pressure his attorney general to obstruct justice in a case involving a Liberal Party-linked company. It's all work to undo his reputation as a progressive leader pushing for change.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD #2: (Chanting) Four more years. Four more years.

MCGUFFIN: Trudeau, in return, has shelved his pledge against negative campaigning. He has played on voter concerns about the Conservative Party's reluctance to tackle climate change and on their history of budget-cutting.

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PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Andrew Scheer would cut services for families and rip up Canada's only real climate plan, taking back the money we've been putting in people's pockets by making big polluters pay.

MCGUFFIN: Even with the negative tactics, neither party has been able to break away from the other. They went into today's election deadlocked at 32% in the polls.

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JAGMEET SINGH: Thank you. Thank you.

MCGUFFIN: The politician who appears to be benefiting most from this situation is Jagmeet Singh, the son of Sikh immigrants. The young, charismatic leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party has surged in the polls into a strong third-place showing. His rallies have a youthful, party-like atmosphere, very similar to what Justin Trudeau experienced four years ago.

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SINGH: I heard from people who tell me their stories about not being able to find housing, their stories by not having health care when they need it, young people that are worried about the environment. And this campaign has really been about letting their voices be heard, letting their struggles, their worries, their fears be heard, but also to give them hope.

MCGUFFIN: Aisha Grey is among those young people impressed by Singh. She cast her vote this morning in the Pontiac district of Quebec just outside of Ottawa...

AISHA GRAY: I looked at all the people that were running, and it was a lot of white people, and there was just that one man of color, so I was like, yes, finally. It's good to see that there's diversity that's starting to happen, so it's giving me a little bit of hope.

MCGUFFIN: ...While her mother Linda Jones is sticking with Trudeau.

LINDA JONES: I thought the Liberals did a pretty good job, as they say, with their climate action plan. That's really where I was focusing my attention.

MCGUFFIN: But David Jost may sum up the attitudes of many voters on this day.

DAVID JOST: Little bit disappointed about the last four years with the Liberals. I don't see myself with the conservatives either, but the other ones - I mean, I haven't seen any real solutions either.

MCGUFFIN: Polls indicate that is a prevailing attitude on this election day, meaning a tight Liberal or Conservative win but without enough seats in Parliament to form a majority government, and smaller parties like Jagmeet Singh's New Democrats could end up holding the balance of power.

For NPR News, I'm David McGuffin in Ottawa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.