Trudeau retains power but will form minority govt
OTTAWA, Oct 22: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party held onto power in a nail-biter of a Canadian general election on Monday, but as a weakened minority government.
Television projections as of 2 am Tuesday (0600 GMT) declared the Liberals winners or leading in 156 of the nation's 338 electoral districts, versus 122 for his main rival Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives, after polling stations across six time zones closed.
As early as Tuesday, Trudeau will have to form an alliance with one or more smaller parties in order to govern a fractured nation.
The first test of his future government will follow in the coming weeks with a speech to parliament outlining his legislative priorities and a confidence vote.
"From coast to coast to coast, tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity," Trudeau said. "And they rejected cuts and austerity and voted in favour of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change."
He reassured Quebec that his Liberal government, despite an electoral setback in the French-speaking province, "will be there for you."
He also spoke directly to a growing sense of Western Canada's alienation within the federation, telling those in Saskatchewan and Alberta provinces: "I've heard your frustration."
The 47-year-old former school teacher dominated Canadian politics over the four years of his first term, but faced a grilling during the 40-day election campaign, which he described as one of the "dirtiest and nastiest" in Canadian history.
Trudeau and Scheer exchanged barbs as attack ads and misinformation multiplied.
Trudeau evoked the bogeymen of past and current Tory parties fostering "politics of fear and division" while Scheer called the prime minister a "compulsive liar," "a phony and a fraud."
Going into the election Trudeau's golden boy image had already been damaged by ethics lapses in the handling of the bribery prosecution of engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. His popularity took a further hit with the emergence during the campaign of old photographs of him in blackface makeup. -AFP