All eyes are on turnout as Canada’s tight election campaign enters its final days
OTTAWA, Sept. 17 (Reuters) – As Canada’s election race enters its final weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is stepping up efforts to motivate his supporters, knowing that his candidacy for re-election on Monday could be doomed to the failure by low turnout.
Recent opinion polls show Trudeau’s Liberals are neck and neck with opposition Tories led by Erin O’Toole, suggesting that getting the vote out will be crucial.
The low turnout tends to favor the Conservatives, who are traditionally better at making sure their supporters vote.
“It’s time to step up. Join our movement, make a few calls, knock on doors, talk to your neighbors, talk to your family,” Trudeau said this week at a rally in Ontario, a call he has repeated often over the past week. in the countryside.
Trudeau, 49, called a snap election on August 15, seeking a parliamentary majority after two years of minority government in which he had to work with other parties to govern. But he is now scrambling to save his job.
Two senior Liberal leaders with direct roles in the campaign both told Reuters they fear Canadians are focusing more on getting back to their routines – rather than politics – as growing numbers of people are fully vaccinated.
While Canadians voted in record numbers in early polls, demand for mail-in ballots was much lower than expected.
The pandemic is intensifying in parts of the country and voters are likely to face longer queues than usual on election day, due to fewer polling stations and distancing requirements.
O’Toole, 48, a former cabinet minister who led his party for just over a year, has proven competitive with a disciplined campaign attracting centrist voters with progressive commitments, while avoiding alienation his center-right base.
“It’s no longer about convincing people that they should be thinking about voting for you. It’s about getting people who have committed to voting for you to vote,” said Darrell Bricker, CEO of ‘Ipsos Public Affairs.
“Participation is going to be everything.”
The latest Ipsos poll puts the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 32%, the left-wing New Democrats in third with 21%. Trudeau has a slight lead over O’Toole as preferred prime minister, from 32% to 29%.
But opinion polls don’t always reflect what happens on election day, as turnout can dramatically affect the number of seats. In the past, higher turnout has favored Liberals and NDPs, Bricker said.
The turnout was 67% in the 2019 election when Trudeau lost his majority, down from 68.3% when he came to power in 2015.
“If attendance is unusual, we could have a lot more surprises on Monday night,” Philippe Fournier, poll analyst for the 338Canada.com website, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum on Thursday.
CLOSER THAN EXPECTED
Trudeau held a comfortable lead in the polls ahead of the campaign, but that has vanished because of what many voters see as an unnecessary election.
He also faces a challenge from New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, 42, who overtakes Trudeau and O’Toole in personal popularity and appeals to the same voters the center-left Liberals need. Read more
If enough voters opt for Singh, it could divide the progressive camp and allow O’Toole to take power. Trudeau said at a rally on Sunday that the Liberals were “the only progressive party that can stop the Conservatives from pushing us back.”
Over the past two weeks, Trudeau has also accused O’Toole of getting closer to the gun lobby and allowing Conservative lawmakers to try to reopen the abortion debate.
O’Toole sprinkles his daily election appearances with criticism of Trudeau’s decision to call a snap election during a pandemic, describing the Liberal leader as selfish and power-hungry.
As polls show a slight uptick in support for the small far-right People’s Party of Canada, whose supporters backed Trudeau’s campaign with protests against vaccination warrants, O’Toole must convince his supporters that he is their only hope of making Trudeau resign. , without alienating the conservatives of the hard core.
“Make no mistake about it. A vote for someone other than Canada’s Conservatives is a vote for the same from Mr. Trudeau,” O’Toole said Tuesday.
“It’s a tighter race than people expected … and now there is a real possibility that the Conservatives will win. So that should stimulate Conservative voters, but also Liberals,” said Daniel Béland , director of the Institute for the Studies of Canada. at McGill University in Montreal.
“Perhaps we would have done all of this to achieve the same result as last time.”
Reporting by Julie Gordon; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Steve Scherer in Montreal and Lisa Mattackal in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.