Trudeau secures a second term, just

Justin Trudeau will remain the Prime Minister of Canada after an election that saw him lose his majority but remain the leader of the largest party in Parliament. It’s a rebuke for M. Trudeau whose government and campaign have been dogged by setbacks.

But this election will have something for almost everyone to be pleased about – even potentially the left-wing NDP whose seat numbers fell from 44 to 24 but who might still find themselves as power brokers.

Trudeau came to power four years ago as the darling of the liberal establishment, but he failed to live up to lofty expectations. He angered both right and left over the environment and ditched a pledge to reform the electoral system. That his victory yesterday was largely enabled by the retention of the First-Past-the-Post system will not have gone un-noticed and may dictate his choice of how to form a government. His ministry suffered a number of scandals as two ministers were forced out after claiming they had been pressured to drop the prosecution of a Candian firm. One of these ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould, retained her seat as an independent.

The main opposition Conservative party looks all but certain to have won the popular vote but will still come far short of the Liberals in seat tallies. 

As for the NDP, they enjoyed a good campaign and a late surge in the polls, but appear to have lost almost half of their seats. This disappointing night could still work to their advantage if M Trudeau decides he needs a coalition partner. Environmental issues and health care reform are key for the NDP and will push Trudeau in the direction he would like to go. Even if Trudeau decides to govern alone, he will be reliant on the NDP on a confidence and supply basis.

Two other national parties had mixed results. The Greens failed to make a significant breakthrough despite seeing their share of the vote almost double to 6.4%. The number of Green MPs in the new Parliament will be three. The far right People’s Party lost its only seat.

Perhaps the happiest party will be the separatist Bloc Quebecois. Despite only running candidates in the francophone province, they saw their vote rise from 4.6% to 7.7% and their seats more than treble to 32. They will be putting pressure on a weakened Liberal establishment to grant more autonomy to Quebec.

With 156 seats out of 340, Trudeau is short of an overall majority but may choose to govern as a minority administration. His alternative would be a coalition with the NDP, but this is likely to put the issue of electoral reform right back at the centre of debate.

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The nature of the FPTP system is no better demonstrated than by the fact that there are now huge electoral deserts with no Liberal MPs. The prairie provinces in the West were uniformly taken by the Conservatives (bar a single NDP MP in Edmonton) and there is no MP for the governing party between Winnipeg and the Vancouver suburbs. The scale of some of the Conservative victories in Alberta and Saskatchewan were huge with the centre-right party taking more than 70% of the vote even in some city seats.

Provisional results (with changes on last election):

  • Liberal Party 33.0% (-6.5%) 157 seats (-27)
  • Conservatives 34.4% (+2.6%) 121 seats (+22)
  • NDP 15.9% (-3.8%) 24 seats (-20)
  • Bloc Quebecois 7.7% (+3%) 32 seats (+22)
  • Green Party 6.5% (+3.1%) 3 seats (+2)
  • People’s Party 1.6% (new) 0 seats (new)