Trudeau fights to stay prime minister as Canada heads to polls

Justin Trudeau is fighting for his political life. His star power dimmed, the Canadian leader has been campaigning hard ahead of a vote on Monday that could unseat him.

“I’m not taking any vote for granted. I know Canadians are reflecting on the kind of future they want,” the 47-year-old Trudeau said during a campaign stop in the town of Whitby east of Toronto, Reuters reported.

Canada’s tightly contested race is largely being seen as a referendum on Trudeau’s leadership. Polls show a neck-and-neck race between Trudeau’s Liberal Party and the rival Conservative Party led by Andrew Scheer in national elections, in part because a series of scandals has tempered the prime minister’s appeal among young Canadians.

According to the latest Nanos poll by The Globe and Mail and CTV released on Saturday, the Liberals are at 32.6% support with the mainstream Conservatives at 30.3%. The left-leaning New Democrats, who compete for the same voters as Trudeau’s Liberal party stood at 18.4%. If he loses, he would become the first Canadian prime minister to be tossed out after just one term since 1935.

If Trudeau doesn’t win a majority of seats in Parliament but bests the Conservatives, his party would have to rely on an opposition party to form a coalition in order to remain in power. That would leave them in a weakened position.

Armed with a highly progressive policy agenda Trudeau’s early years were focused on pushing through a litany of reforms to fulfill his campaign promises of change. The self-proclaimed “feminist” – who appointed women to 50% of ministerial posts, repaired damaged relations with indigenous people and vowed to act on climate change – earned the praise of world leaders including US President Barack Obama, who marveled at his political accomplishments.

But this time Trudeau’s campaign bears little resemblance to his first, with his government assailed by a series of scandals that have dimmed his star power and threatened to split his party’s left-leaning support base, possibly toppling his government.

A report issued by Canada’s ethics commissioner in August found that Trudeau had made “flagrant attempts to influence” Wilson-Raybould to abandon the prosecution of Montreal construction giant SNC-Lavalin. While prosecutors were seeking criminal charges for fraud and bribery against the company for its actions in Libya from 2001 to 2011, Trudeau and his aides pressed for a deferred prosecution deal that would allow the firm to pay a fine.

His leadership, however, had begun to falter even earlier. In 2018, a decision to buy an oil pipeline costing €2.4 billion to export oil to foreign markets sullied Trudeau’s environmental credentials. His government said it would invest the profits in green technology, but many Canadian environmentalists saw the move as a betrayal.

On Sunday, young climate activists rallied outside the prime minister’s campaign headquarters in Montreal to protest against the government’s purchase of the pipeline. The move has also played directly into the hands of his opponents. The left-leaning New Democratic Party, which in the final leg of the campaign has surged in polls, issued a four-word statement responding to Trudeau’s climate plan: “You. Bought. A. Pipeline.”

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