The three major party leaders spent their last hours on the campaign trail Sunday stumping in key battlegrounds, making their final pitches to voters in a short and divisive campaign in which no party has managed to swing momentum its way.
Heading into election day, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives are in a dead heat nationally, according to Nanos Research polling released on Sunday.
In an election triggered two years early by Mr. Trudeau and in the midst of a surging fourth wave of the pandemic, voter turnout and the extent of vote splits on the right and left will be key to determining who forms government. In 2019, regional divisions in support allowed the Liberals to win more ridings, even when they had a smaller national vote share than the Conservatives.
While Monday is the final day to cast a ballot, it might not be when Canadians learn the result if the race remains tight. Elections Canada will only start counting the more than one million mail-in ballots on Tuesday and the agency has warned of other delays stemming from a mix of staff shortages, fewer polling stations and a slower voting process to accommodate physical distancing.
Spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said Elections Canada expects the “vast majority” of the counting will be finished on Wednesday but in some cases it could be Friday before the final counts are in.
Just how long voters will have to wait for the results will depend, in part, on how close the riding-level races are. On Sunday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Trudeau all tried to spur their supporters to get out and vote.
The Liberal Leader barnstormed the country, with events in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. “I need you, in the coming hours that are left, to make phone calls to your friends and colleagues and fellow citizens, to talk about the positive vision we’re putting forward,” Mr. Trudeau said in Niagara Falls, Ont.
At his first stop in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau took aim at the Conservatives and said the country is seeing what “wrong choices” have led to in Alberta and Saskatchewan during the pandemic.
The Conservative Leader parked his plane on Friday and spent the final three days of the campaign crisscrossing Southwestern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. Mr. O’Toole did not hold a press conference on Sunday. Instead, the party put its resources to a 30-minute paid advertisement that was billed as a “mini-documentary” on the Conservative Leader, which aired on Global, HGTV and the Food Network.
“We can’t reward Justin Trudeau for, 35 days ago, calling a $600-million election in a health crisis,” Mr. O’Toole said at a stop in Toronto’s North York.
The Liberals entered the race leading in the polls and there were very low expectations for the Conservatives. But Mr. Trudeau was unable to shake “people’s resentment” over the early election call, said Peter Donolo, the former director of communications to prime minister Jean Chrétien.
While Mr. Trudeau has been dogged by questions about the snap vote, Mr. O’Toole has been unable to adequately answer questions about the vaccination status of his candidates, Mr. Donolo, who is now a vice-chair at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, said Sunday. In each case, he said the leaders showed a “tone deafness” to the electorate that has buoyed smaller parties such as the NDP.
At his first of seven stops on Sunday, Mr. Singh told reporters in Burnaby, B.C., that a successful outcome on Monday would see his party forming government, an outcome few view as plausible. The NDP sat in fourth place in the House of Commons during the last Parliament, but the party is hoping to pick up seats in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, where Mr. Singh spent most of the final day.
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Singh has focused his attacks on Mr. Trudeau, accusing the Liberal Leader of breaking his promises to voters. “We are going to fight for you. That’s what we do,” he said.
After not making any significant inroads in the 2019 election, the People’s Party of Canada has leapfrogged the Green Party in popular support. That growth in support for the far-right party follows Mr. O’Toole’s decision to take the Conservatives closer to the centre of the political spectrum, a move some strategists say risks splitting the vote on the right.
In a Facebook video released on Sunday, Mr. O’Toole didn’t name the People’s Party but tried to persuade Conservative voters who have moved to “small splinter parties” to still vote blue on Monday. The People’s Party is led by former failed Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier, who decries vaccine passports and what he calls “authoritarian lockdown measures,” and also denounces “mass immigration” and “climate alarmism.”
Conservative strategist Kate Harrison, who said Mr. O’Toole defied expectations during the campaign, said a loss of seats for the party seems unlikely, but if that happens, “there’s probably going to be some questions.”
“Success certainly needs to be pick up in seats,” she said.
NDP strategist Marcella Munro said the New Democrats were unable to change the election frame set by the Liberals and Conservatives that there were only two choices for government. “The NDP traditionally, federally, has really struggled with that frame, and I don’t think this time is all that different, unfortunately for them,” she said. However, she said she expects Mr. Singh will come out of the race with a larger caucus and facing no risks to his leadership.
In Quebec, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet is in a tight race with the Liberals in popular support, with the Conservatives and NDP trailing behind. The Bloc Leader toured the corridor between Montreal and Quebec City on Sunday, where Mr. Trudeau and Mr. O’Toole have also made frequent stops in the five-week campaign.
Only in the past week did Green Party Leader Annamie Paul go on a national tour. Ms. Paul was back in Toronto on Sunday where she is hoping to win a seat in the House of Commons in Toronto Centre, an area that has voted Liberal since 1993.
Among decided voters in the daily tracking survey from Nanos Research on Sunday, the Liberals were at 31 per cent and the Conservatives at 30 per cent. The New Democrats were at 21 per cent, the Bloc at 7 per cent, the People’s Party at 6 per cent, and the Greens at 5 per cent. Among all respondents, 8 per cent were unsure.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,600 respondents in the random telephone survey between Sept. 16 and 18. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” Read the report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys.
With reports from Laura Stone in Toronto and Menaka Raman-Wilms in Burnaby, B.C.
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