OTTAWA — The polls have closed in Atlantic Canada, signalling the start of what promises to be a long night to determine whether Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will get a second mandate to govern Canada.
Early results had the Liberals leading in six of the seven ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador, where polls closed half an hour before they did in the rest of the region. In the seventh, St. John’s East, former New Democrat MP Jack Harris led in the earliest count as he tried to make a comeback against Liberal Nick Whalen.
Liberals also led in the first counting in two ridings on Prince Edward Island. In New Brunswick, though, Conservatives were ahead in three of five ridings reporting results, with Liberals leading in the other two.
In 2015, the Liberals swept all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, a feat they’re not expected to repeat tonight. But they can’t afford to sustain many losses.
Polls have suggested that the Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives finished the 40-day campaign in a dead heat, with neither in position to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons.
The Liberals appeared to have an edge over the Conservatives in Ontario and Quebec, which account for almost 60 per cent of the 338 seats up for grabs.
Still, an unexpected surge in support for the Bloc Quebecois upended the hopes of both the front-running parties for gains in Quebec.
And a bounce for the NDP after Jagmeet Singh’s performance in the leaders’ debates ate into Liberal support in Ontario and British Columbia.
The Green Party, which had hoped for a big breakthrough in this election, appeared to stall mid-campaign but is in a battle with the NDP in B.C.
Maxime Bernier, leader of the fledgling People’s Party of Canada, is fighting to retain his own Quebec seat in Beauce.
Neither Trudeau nor Scheer seemed able to generate much enthusiasm throughout the campaign, which frequently devolved into mudslinging and misrepresentations of one another’s policies and records.
Trudeau, who had barely recovered from months of controversy over the SNC-Lavalin affair last winter and spring, was embarrassed during the opening week of the campaign when it was revealed that he had at least three times in the past dressed up in black- or brownface. The revelation undercut his image as a champion of diversity and inclusion.
He was also plagued with unsubstantiated rumours and fake reports, spread on social media, about his conduct as a teacher at a Vancouver private school.
Scheer was dogged throughout the campaign by questions about his personal beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage and repeatedly insisted that he would not reopen debate on either issue should he become prime minister. However, doubt remained whether he would allow Conservative backbenchers to initiate legislation to restrict access to abortions.
Conservative hopes in Quebec took a beating after Scheer put in what was widely considered a bad performance in the first French-language leaders’ debate. And in the dying days of the campaign, he was hit with reports that his party had hired an outside consulting firm to conduct a “seek and destroy” campaign against Bernier, Scheer’s one-time leadership rival.