Canada’s snap election
The race is too close to call ahead of the Sept. 20 election, which could see Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defeated by a largely unknown Conservative rival.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals are in a tight race with the Conservatives, the main opposition party led by Erin O'Toole, as Canadians get ready to head to the polls on Sept. 20.
Trudeau called the vote last month, saying he needed a new mandate to ensure Canadians approved of his recovery plan from the coronavirus pandemic. O'Toole has gained traction by accusing Trudeau of calling an unnecessary election during a health emergency to consolidate his power.
Polls show a tight race
Since Trudeau called the snap vote, his hefty lead in the opinion polls has vanished and surveys showed the Liberals could lose seats, and possibly the entire election.
But steady Conservative gains during the first three weeks of the campaign seemed to have stopped as Trudeau attacked O'Toole for his opposition to vaccine mandates and his promise - now reversed - to legalize some assault weapons the Liberals had banned.
The party in power
Holds 155 seats
Trudeau, 49, has been prime minister since November 2015 after he became the first leader to take a Canadian party from third place to an election win. He then lost his parliamentary majority in a 2019 election. Over six years, Trudeau's government has championed women's rights, toughened environmental laws, legalized the recreational use of marijuana and spent heavily to stem the economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Liberals also launched a national daycare program, signing deals with a majority of the 10 provinces before the election was called. However, Trudeau has faced criticism over his foreign policy and his record on Indigenous reconciliation. He has faced crowds of angry protesters on the campaign trail, most of them opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The prime minister sank in polls during the first part of the campaign, but recent surveys suggest he is picking up steam.
Trudeau’s biggest threat
O'Toole, 48, was elected Conservative leader in August 2020 and was relatively unknown among Canadians before this year. His tightly managed campaign and his socially conscious platform have made his party unexpectedly competitive. O'Toole, a former army helicopter navigator, is vowing more restraint on government spending, but his platform promises tens of billions in investments and no clear path to a balanced budget. He also faces tensions with social conservatives within his party over issues such as climate change, gun control and abortion.
The other factions
Blanchet, 56, who started his political career in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, took over the separatist Bloc in January 2019 and more than tripled its seats in the federal election later that year. The Bloc only runs candidates in Quebec, and under Blanchet, who is a dynamic performer in English and French, it looks set to hold onto its gains.
New Democratic Party
Singh, 42, made headlines in 2017 when he became the first person from an ethnic minority to be elected leader of a major Canadian political party. His party lost almost 40% of its seats in 2019, but recent polls suggest Singh is gaining in popularity. He has a large following on Tik Tok and is adept at using social media to attract younger voters. The NDP favors more social spending to be offset by higher taxes for the very wealthy and multinational corporations.
Paul, 48, is the first Black person to head a mainstream Canadian federal party. The activist and lawyer was elected leader of the Greens last October but has recently become mired in a dispute over policy toward Israel that threatens to undermine the party.
Bernier, 58, a former Cabinet minister, defected from the Conservatives to create the populist PPC in 2018. Bernier was arrested in June in Manitoba for attending a rally against COVID-19 restrictions. He opposes lockdowns and rejects vaccine mandates. PPC signs are often seen among the anti-vax hecklers on Trudeau's campaign and a party official was expelled over allegations he threw gravel at the Liberal leader.
Bloc Quebecois (32)
New Democrats (24)
The Liberal and Conservative parties dominate Canada's political landscape on a federal level. Trudeau's centre-left Liberal Party faces an uphill battle to regain the majority it lost in 2019. The modern Conservative Party was formed in 2003 through the union of the centre-right Progressive Conservative Party and the more socially conservative Canadian Alliance.
Makeup of parliament since 1980
A previous version of this page displayed an incorrect number of seats held by parties in the current parliament. The People’s Party held zero seats going into the snap election. Five seats were held by Independents. One seat was vacant.
Chris Canipe and Paul Simao