MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau has won the right to remain prime minister, but will now have to find a way to make a minority government work for his Liberals.
Trudeau emerged from a mean-spirited campaign — and survived his own embarrassing stumbles that threatened to derail his re-election bid — with the most seats, but slightly less of the popular vote as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
Shortly before 1 a.m., the Liberals were in the lead with 156 seats, short of the 170 needed for a majority. The Conservatives were on track to hold 122 seats, followed by the Bloc Québécois with 32, the NDP with 24, the Greens with three, and one independent.
"You are sending our Liberal team back to work in Ottawa," a smiling Trudeau told supporters at the Montreal Convention Centre.
"We will continue to fight climate change, we will get guns off our streets, and we will continue to invest in Canadians."
The road to Trudeau's second mandate saw his Liberals continue to dominate in Atlantic Canada, hang on in Quebec, and take the lion's share in Ontario. But once the ballots were counted in the West, their fortunes took a hit — including in Manitoba, where they lost three of their seven Winnipeg seats.
It got worse the further west they went. They were shut out in Saskatchewan, costing long-time Liberal heavyweight Ralph Goodale his Regina-area seat, and in Alberta, where the province is painted Tory blue, save one NDP seat in Edmonton. In B.C., former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould — who was at the centre of stinging allegations involving SNC-Lavalin — won her old riding as an independent.
All told, the Liberals lost 22 seats since Parliament dissolved in September.
"To Canadians in Alberta and Saskatchewan, know that you are an essential part of our great country," Trudeau said. "I’ve heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you. Let us all work hard to bring our country together."
"Let us all work hard to bring our country together." -Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau
When Parliament resumes, the Liberals will have to get support from the Bloc or the NDP to pass major legislation. In the campaign, both parties were more aggressive — and quicker to the punch — with policy for everything from carbon emissions and drug coverage to housing and boil-water advisories.
For a party that spent the past four years building a brand that steered clear of consensus-building, the minority mandate will challenge Trudeau’s team to come up with short-term policies and cut deals.
In an unusual move, Trudeau began his address just minutes after Scheer began his concession speech, forcing the networks to cut away from Regina to Montreal.
While the result was clearly disappointed for Conservatives, Scheer did his best to portray the party he leads as bigger, stronger and ready to challenge the Liberals when the opportunity comes.
"Tonight, we put Mr. Trudeau under notice," Scheer said in Regina. "When your government falls, the Conservatives will be ready. And we will win."
The campaign was launched Sept. 11, just hours after Manitobans had voted provincially. Yet from Day 1, personal attacks and campaign distractions abounded.
The Liberals endlessly linked Scheer with unpopular Tory Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and dropped war-room bombshells on the Scheer campaign through a handful of unsavory social-media posts. That came to an end a month ago, when pictures emerged of Trudeau in blackface and brownface.
"Tonight, we put Mr. Trudeau under notice... When your government falls, the Conservatives will be ready. And we will win." -Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer
For the first time in recent memory, a prime minister was spotted wearing a bulletproof vest under his suit at a campaign rally, due to an RCMP risk assessment.
As the two parties stayed in statistical tie, the NDP and Bloc gained momentum.
In Quebec, the ire of Ottawa intervening in the province’s popular hijab-ban law, known as Bill 21, raised the Bloc’s profile. It put pressure on NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the first person of colour to lead a federal party, to stand up for minorities.
However, Singh has gotten enough support to help usher Liberal legislation. Late in the campaign, polls put the Bloc ahead of the NDP, which would have again made Quebec kingmaker on the federal scene.
Meanwhile, the support Green Leader Elizabeth May seemed to gain this summer largely dissipated. Her most notable event this campaign came down to her party altering a photo of her using a single-use coffee cup.
People’s Party of Canada founder Maxime Bernier was sounded defeated in the Quebec riding of Beauce.