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MNI BRIEF: Trudeau Winning Another Minority Canada Government

OTTAWA (MNI)

Liberals fail to win majority of seats after triggering a pandemic campaign, TV networks project.

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Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party was re-elected to government while failing to win a majority of Canadian House of Commons seats in Monday's election according to preliminary media reports, a rejection of his bid to seek a clear mandate in the middle of the fourth wave of Covid.

The Liberals were leading in 156 of 338 seats in the House of Commons at 11:25 PM EST according to Elections Canada, while TV networks CTV, Global and CBC projected a minority government. Conservatives led in 122 ridings, the Bloc Quebecois in 29 and the NDP in 29. The early results compare with the last election when the Liberals won 157 seats, the Conservatives 121, the Bloc Quebecois 32 and the NDP 24.

Trudeau called the 36-day campaign seeking to capitalize on a vaccine rollout, massive government relief payouts due to expire next month and signs of a strong economy, a plan that frayed as Canadians were trapped in Afghanistan, the economy shrank in the second quarter and inflation surged to the fastest since 2003. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole also surprised by mirroring promises of deficit spending, downplaying social conservatism that was an easy target when Trudeau came to power in 2015, and offering headline grabbers like a platform cover photo showing off his muscles.

Sources have told MNI outsized deficit spending will continue no matter who wins, a strategy Parliament's independent budget office says is only affordable for so long. (See: MNI INTERVIEW: Big-Spending Trudeau Seen Calling Snap Election)

The results may also change the political futures of Finance Minister and Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland and former central banker Mark Carney, who supports the Liberals but declined to run in this campaign. The BOC also had a lot at stake, with some Conservatives openly attacking its QE program for triggering rapid inflation just ahead of a review of the central bank's mandate, while affirming support for the 2% inflation target.

The Liberal platform pledged an extra CAD78 billion of net spending over five years after accounting for a new bank tax, while the Conservative platform cost CAD51.3 billion over five years. Deficits at the end of five years were seen at CAD24.7 billion for the Conservatives and CAD32.1 billion for the Liberals. Both parties campaigned on making housing more affordable, a near impossible goal with typical prices at a million dollars in Vancouver and Toronto. They also promised to take more action on climate change and recover jobs lost during the Covid recession.

The Liberals also pledge: 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers; measures to help new homebuyers; adding self-employed workers to the employment insurance system; selling at least CAD5 billion a year of green bonds; mirroring Australia's recent law requiring large web platforms to share revenue with news outlets; and requiring six month mortgage deferrals if borrowers face financial stress.

Minority governments often last only half as long as a regular four-year majority, so another election could be coming within a few years.