A vote that some Canadians wanted got the country back in 2019.
Over the past few weeks, analysts and political advisers have told me repeatedly that Monday’s vote, which cost Canadian dollars 600 million, would create a parliament that looked a lot like the one Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dissolved in August.
[Read: Trudeau Will Remain Prime Minister, but Falls Short of a Majority]
It was an unusually accurate forecast. As I am writing this, some votes were still being cast and many had not been counted. But Mr Trudeau’s Liberals stood on 156 seats on Monday – one less than the seats they won in 2019 – while the Conservative Party held the same 121 seats as before.
There may be a slight change in the standings. But given that Mr Trudeau called for a vote to secure a majority in the House of Commons he lost in 2019 – without ever explicitly putting it in those words – it was a vote nowhere.
Here are some quick tips from the results.
What is the political future of Erin O’Toole?
Erin O’Toole, who had become Conservative leader just a year earlier, took the party in a new, more liberal direction to broaden its appeal. He rejected basic conservative positions at times, including opposing carbon taxes. And during the campaign, he reversed Mr Trudeau’s much-publicized promise to repeal a ban on 1,500 models of military-style assault rifles, with one condition.
His campaign was better organized and more disciplined than the one run by the party’s previous leader Andrew Scheer in 2019. Still it did not help.
On Tuesday morning Mr O’Toole devoted much of his concession speech to outlining how he would face the Liberals in the next election. But Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, told me that before that can happen, Mr. O’Toole must sell himself to his party.
“He couldn’t enter 905 in Ontario,” said Professor Bratt, referring to the area code for suburban Toronto. “As someone who rides in that area, he said he could win there.”
Mr O’Toole, Professor Bratt said, would most likely argue that there is an advantage to having him as leader for the next vote – something that the history of successful Conservatives in the past has shown. But it can be a tough sell.
“Is there any use in giving him a second run?” he said. “I think voters might like it. I just don’t know about the Conservative Party; they’re a tough party.”
And Justin Trudeau?
After Trudeau leads his party to two successive minority governments, will liberals begin to doubt the merits of their leader, who unexpectedly brought him to power in 2015 with a strong majority? Not likely, Lori Turnbull, a political scientist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told me last night.
“There is actually something to the argument that Trudeau has made the Liberal Party his own,” she said. “And loyalty to the party is actually loyalty to them. When everyone’s loyalty is to the leader, it is almost like the leader can do no wrong and people rally around him.”
Professor Turnbull said he was hard-pressed to recall another time when early vote calls by a government that had felt political play continued throughout the campaign.
It is also difficult to recall any election that was met with common joy in Canada. But Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant, a professor of political science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, said in an email that Canada is not a country of electoral hate, but certainly “push back” against early votes.
“From a political science standpoint, voters want accountability and ‘voice.’ So it seems a bit odd not to seize those opportunities to experiment,” she wrote. “Even if the result is the same as the 2019 federal election, instead of asking ‘what was the election for?’ We can also choose to see it as support for the path we are on.”
Is this the future of the Canadian vote?
Alan Tupper of the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia told me this morning that there is no clear indication that broad regional voting patterns will change over the past two elections.
“The pattern of support is quite strong,” he said. “Getting Canadians out of those patterns will require major changes in political problems, political issues, political values.”
Until that happens, Professor Tupper said, we are likely to see more elections like this one, in which the major parties trade a small number of seats without significantly changing their position relative to each other.
“What this means is that elections become a game of inches,” he said.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has been reporting about Canada for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.