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Canada to Vote, Could Cost Trudeau     09/20 06:16

   

   TORONTO (AP) -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gambled on an early election 
in a bid to win a majority of seats in Parliament, but now faces the threat of 
being knocked from power in Canada's election on Monday.

   Polls indicate Trudeau's Liberal Party is in a tight race with the rival 
Conservatives: It will likely win the most seats in Parliament, but still fail 
to get a majority, forcing it to rely on an opposition party to pass 
legislation.

   "Trudeau made an incredibly stupid error in judgement," said Robert 
Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the 
University of Toronto.

   Trudeau entered the election leading a stable minority government that 
wasn't under threat of being toppled.

   The opposition has been relentless in accusing Trudeau of calling the early 
vote -- two years before the deadline -- for his own personal ambition. Trudeau 
channeled the star power of his father, the Liberal icon and late Prime 
Minister Pierre Trudeau, when he first won in 2015, but a combination of high 
expectations, scandal and calling the election last month during the pandemic 
have hurt his brand.

   Trudeau is betting that Canadians will reward him for navigating the 
coronavirus crisis better than most countries did. Canada is now one of the 
most vaccinated nations in the world and Trudeau's government spent hundreds of 
billions of dollars to prop up the economy amid lockdowns.

   Trudeau argues that the Conservatives' approach, which has been more 
skeptical of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, would be dangerous and says 
Canadians need a government that follows science.

   Conservative leader Erin O'Toole didn't require his party's candidates to be 
vaccinated and won't say how many are unvaccinated. O'Toole describes 
vaccination as a personal health decision, but a growing number of vaccinated 
Canadians are becoming increasingly upset with those who refuse to get 
vaccinated.

   "He's more interested in standing up for the rights of anti-vaxxers within 
his own party than he is in standing up for people who have done the right 
things and want to get back to normal," Trudeau said at a campaign stop in 
Windsor, Ontario, on Friday.

   Trudeau supports making vaccines mandatory for Canadians to travel by air or 
rail, something the Conservatives oppose. And Trudeau has pointed out that 
Alberta, run by a Conservative provincial government, is in crisis.

   Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, an ally of O'Toole, said the province might 
run out of beds and staff for intensive care units within days. Kenney has 
apologized for the dire situation and is now reluctantly introducing a vaccine 
passport and imposing a mandatory work-from-home order two months after lifting 
nearly all restrictions.

   A Conservative win would represent a rebuke of Trudeau, who now is at risk 
of losing office to a politician with a fraction of his own name recognition. 
O'Toole, 47, is a military veteran, former lawyer and a member of Parliament 
for nine years.

   O'Toole advertised himself a year ago as a "true-blue conservative." He 
became Conservative Party leader with a pledge to "take back Canada," but 
immediately started working to push the party toward the political center.

   O'Toole's new strategy, which has included disavowing positions held dear by 
his party's base on issues such as climate change, guns and balanced budgets, 
is designed to appeal to a broader cross section of voters in a country that 
tends to be far more liberal than its southern neighbor.

   The son of a long-time politician has faced criticism he will say and do 
anything to get elected.

   "I'm not your dad's Conservative Party," O'Toole said.

   Whether moderate Canadians believe O'Toole is the progressive conservative 
he claims to be and whether he has alienated traditional conservatives have 
become central questions of the campaign.

   Jenni Byrne, who served as campaign manager and deputy chief of staff to 
former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said there is a lack of 
enthusiasm among Conservatives across the country.

   "We will know on Tuesday morning whether the Erin O'Toole version of the 
Conservative Party is connecting with voters, but if there is any truth to the 
polls, it's something that I don't think is connecting in numbers that we have 
connected with in the past, including in the last election," Byrne said.

   The wild card could be a politician who narrowly lost the leadership of the 
Conservative Party in 2017 but who now leads a far-right party that opposes 
vaccines and lockdowns. Polls suggest as many as 5% to 10% support Maxime 
Bernier and the People's Party of Canada -- potentially bleeding support from 
O'Toole's Conservatives and helping the Liberals retain power.

   Trudeau's legacy includes embracing immigration at a time when the U.S. and 
other countries closed their doors. He also legalized cannabis nationwide and 
brought in a carbon tax to fight climate change. And he preserved free trade 
deal with the U.S. and Mexico amid threats by former U.S. President Donald 
Trump to scrap the agreement.

   Perhaps sensing Trudeau is in trouble, former U.S. President Barack Obama 
and ex-Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted support for Trudeau.

   There won't be a Trump endorsement of O'Toole. Conservative campaign 
co-chair Walied Soliman said there is no alignment whatsoever between O'Toole 
and Trumpism.

   But if O'Toole wins, he has promised to take a tougher stand against China, 
including banning Chinese technology giant Huawei from Canada's next generation 
of telecommunication networks.

   O'Toole has also said he'll move Canada's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem 
just as Trump moved the U.S. embassy, upending decades of policy.

 
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