Justin Trudeau’s future on the line as Canadians vote

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Published: October 22, 2019 7:47:01 AM

Polls opened at 1100 GMT in the Atlantic province of Newfoundland, the first of the country's six time zones. About 27.4 million Canadians are eligible to elect 338 members of parliament.

A supporter is seen at the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign headquarters during the federal election in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (Reuters)

Canadians voted Monday in what pundits called one of the country’s closest elections ever, leaving the future of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in doubt. Surveys predicted Trudeau’s Liberal Party could return with a minority government or lose its grip on power entirely.

The Liberals and the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, were set for a near dead heat.

Polls opened at 1100 GMT in the Atlantic province of Newfoundland, the first of the country’s six time zones. About 27.4 million Canadians are eligible to elect 338 members of parliament.

The first results are expected starting at 2300 GMT, a few hours before voting wraps up in westernmost British Columbia.

After 40 days of campaigning, neither of the two parties that have led Canada since Confederation in 1867 was expected to secure an absolute majority of seats.

At final campaign stops in British Columbia on Sunday, former golden boy Trudeau made an emotional appeal for voters to let him build on his first-term achievements.

He warned against Scheer’s pledged rollback of environmental protections, including a federal carbon tax that discourages the use of large amounts of fossil fuels.

“We need a strong, progressive government that will unite Canadians and fight climate change — not a progressive opposition,” Trudeau told a rally in suburban Vancouver.

“We need to unite as citizens. We need to unite as a planet.” Trudeau’s star has dimmed since winning a 2015 landslide that echoed the wave of support which in 1968 carried to power his flamboyant late father Pierre, who is considered the father of modern Canada.

The younger Trudeau’s image has been tainted by ethics lapses in the handling of the bribery prosecution of engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, while the emergence of old photographs of him in blackface makeup rocked his campaign.

Surging social democrats and resuscitated Quebec separatists have also chipped away at Liberal support.

Trudeau, accompanied by his wife and children, voted in the morning in Montreal while Scheer, also with his family, cast a ballot in Regina, Saskatchewan in the late afternoon.

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