Canadians will vote for their new federal government Monday, but a clear winner may not be known for some days.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative Party head Erin O’Toole will hunker down for what most opinion polls promise will produce a razor-thin margin of victory.
But a lack of election staff and flood of mail-in ballots – both troubles chalked up to the coronavirus pandemic – may put no stamp on the declared victor for days. Elections Canada – the agency responsible for running the process – will not count the ballots until they have been authenticated the next day.
"Only after that will those ballots be counted," Elections Canada spokesperson Diane Benson told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). "So it could be Wednesday, Thursday, Friday...because it depends on the volume and it depends on how long it takes to do those verifications and then the count."
As of Friday, more than one million special ballot kits were sent to those who said they will vote by mail, the CBC reported. During the last federal elections in 2019, where Trudeau and the Liberals were returned with a minority, only 50,000 voted by mail. Trudeau won a majority in 2015, the first time he led the Liberals in an election.
Numerous polls have indicated that this one will be a toss-up between the two leading parties – the Liberals and the official opposition Conservative Party.
The latest Sondage Leger poll conducted for two newspapers in Toronto and Montreal and released Saturday put the Conservatives ahead of Trudeau's Liberals, with 33% and 32% respectively. The New Democratic Party (NDP) clocked in at 19%.
There was a very different result when those who voted by mail were polled.
A Nanos Research poll released two days ago involving people who voted by mail-in ballot shows the Liberals comfortably ahead 47% to 12% for the Conservatives. The poll even shows the NDP – traditionally ending in third place – polling 26%. But the Liberals are the clear frontrunners.
“Right now, assuming that this current scenario upholds for the next two days and there’s no significant movement, we’re looking at a Liberal win. Period. Full stop,” Nanos told CTV News on Friday. “Then the question is: ‘How big a win will it be?’"
The opposition parties have been hammering Trudeau for calling an election during the pandemic, something he is on videotape as saying he would not do.
But Trudeau leads a minority Liberal government – meaning he must team up with another party (usually the NDP) if he wants controversial bills passed.
Trudeau said he changed his mind about the election call because he needs a strong majority government mandate to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, including financial relief programs and vaccine passports. He was also looking for Canadians to validate the Liberal performance measures combatting the pandemic fallout so far.
To get there, Trudeau’s Liberals need to win 170 of the 338 Parliament seats in the House of Commons. The party now has 155 seats and the Conservatives 119, with the next closest NDP at 24.
Canada is such a vast country that it has six time zones from east to west.
The polls open at 9:30 a.m. Monday and close at 9:30 p.m. local time.