OTTAWA, September 19 (Reuters) – Canadians go to the polls on Monday in an election that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called two years earlier, seeking to transform public approval for his handling of the COVID pandemic- 19 in a new four-year term.
Since 2019, Trudeau has commanded only a minority in Parliament, leaving him dependent on other parties to govern. Trudeau argues that the pandemic changed Canada like World War II did and that Canadians should now choose who they want to make important decisions for decades to come.
Trudeau struggled to explain why an early election in a worsening fourth wave of COVID-19 was a good idea. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole consistently accuses the Liberal leader of putting Canadians at risk for his personal ambition. People also seem to tire of Trudeau, who carries the baggage of having governed for six years.
After Trudeau called the election, his huge lead in opinion polls wore off. Recent surveys point to a close race in which he could hold onto power with another minority. Polls:
The Conservatives’ steady gains in the first three weeks came to a halt when Trudeau attacked O’Toole for his opposition to vaccination warrants and his – now rescinded – promise to legalize some assault weapons the Liberals had banned.
Trudeau said on Sunday that only his Liberals can end the COVID-19 pandemic and accused O’Toole of taking the wrong approach. Read more
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES?
To fight the pandemic, the Liberals racked up a record national debt of C $ 1 trillion ($ 785.7 billion) and pushed budget deficits to levels not seen since World War II. During the campaign, they pledged an additional CAN $ 78 billion in new spending over five years. Read more
O’Toole says he will balance the books within a decade without making any cuts.
Analysts say financial markets don’t seem overly worried about the tax implications of either pledge, although stocks in banks and insurance companies could suffer after Trudeau pledged a new one-off tax on their profits.
The Liberal government has introduced COVID-19 vaccination warrants. During the campaign, Trudeau was mistreated and heckled by people opposed to the decision and said his Tory rival was taking inspiration from the crowd. O’Toole opposes vaccination warrants, including for his own candidates, and says he prefers frequent testing. Read more
Women’s employment has fallen thanks to COVID-19. The Liberals promise to spend up to C $ 30 billion over five years to build a long-promised national child care program of C $ 10 a day. The Conservatives say they will cancel these agreements and instead offer tax credits of up to C $ 6,000 per year to help pay for child care costs. Read more
House prices have climbed about 70% since Trudeau took office. It promises to build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes over the next four years, among other measures. The Conservatives would increase supply by building a million homes over three years and relaxing some mortgage requirements.
Forest fires in western Canada and a drought in growing areas are drawing attention to climate change. The Liberals promise more aggressive emissions cuts than the Conservatives, who are big supporters of the oil and gas industry. Read more
($ 1 = 1.2665 Canadian dollars)
Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker
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