Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has canoed to a campaign event, taken countless selfies and braved town halls with sometimes angry voters. One opponent — Jagmeet Singh — hopped on an orange tractor in northern Ontario at a plowing competition; his chief rival — Andrew Scheer — smiled with babies at a ribfest in Prince Edward Island.
Now Canadians will vote in their national election Monday, rendering their verdict on Trudeau and his challengers.
The prime minister has received plaudits for presiding over one of the most ethnically diverse cabinets in the world, legalizing recreational marijuana and hammering out an often fraught trade deal with President Donald Trump.
But his campaign has been shaken by his efforts to influence his former justice minister in a corporate corruption case, and by the publication of photographs and video from his past showing him in brownface and blackface.
A rock star of progressive liberalism overseas, Trudeau faces one of the toughest political challenges of his life in this election, which is the tightest in recent memory.
What’s Happening Monday?
The Canadian national vote is, in fact, 338 separate elections to pick local members of Parliament. The party that wins the largest number of seats generally gets to form the government with its leader as prime minister.
So technically, Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party, and the other party leaders are running for reelection only in their local constituencies.
The prime minister represents a multicultural electoral district in Montreal. Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, is from Regina, Saskatchewan.
What’s the Likely Outcome?
The quick take: It’s uncertain.
The Liberals and the Conservatives, the two largest parties in Canada, have been deadlocked in a statistical tie throughout the campaign although several analysts said that over the weekend, there was a slight shift in Trudeau’s favor.
With such a sprawling, fragmented system of local elections, polls tracking voter intentions are a tricky business.
As in the United States, Canada has liberal and conservative strongholds. The Liberals dominate urban centers like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The Conservatives are strong throughout the Prairie provinces in the West and in other rural areas.
If either party gets a majority — 170 seats in Parliament — it’s game over. If neither does, the leaders of smaller parties become kingmakers in forming a government.
The other parties include the left-leaning New Democratic Party, or NDP; the Bloc Québécois, a group that supports Quebec’s independence from Canada and runs candidates only in that province; and the Green Party, which focuses on environmental issues.
The NDP has ruled out supporting the Conservatives while the Greens say they will only support a government that champions their climate policies. If the Conservatives win more votes than the Liberals, but not a majority, new elections could be called if they cannot muster enough support from other parties.
Who Are the Players?
First is Trudeau, 47, a celebrity from birth as the first child born to a sitting Canadian prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
His progressive political agenda upon election in 2015 drew global attention at a time of rising populism in other countries, helping him forge a friendship with former President Barack Obama, who endorsed him last week.
A stylish man, with a well-documented penchant for colorful socks adorned with moose and other whimsical motifs, Trudeau is the quintessential prime minister of the Instagram age. His shirtless runs have helped burnish his reputation as “the internet’s boyfriend.”
His government made a splash early on, unveiling a gender-balanced Cabinet and legalizing the right to die. Trudeau also successfully navigated a trade war with the United States.
But his vow to do politics differently, with “sunny ways,” was undercut by his intervention in a criminal case involving a major engineering company. Trudeau says he did nothing wrong. But the broad perception stuck that he acted improperly and bullied his former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is an indigenous woman.
The brownface and blackface episodes from his past also reignited questions about the authenticity of his liberal positions.
Trudeau’s main challenger is Scheer, 40, a career politician who has largely campaigned on lowering taxes, but whose conservative views are at odds with those of most Canadians.
A native of Ottawa and a practicing Roman Catholic, Scheer has opposed abortion and spoken out against same-sex marriage.
Scheer’s authenticity was also challenged when it emerged during the campaign that he has also held U.S. citizenship most of his life.
Singh, the 40-year-old leader of the NDP, made history as the first nonwhite person to lead a major federal political party. A practicing Sikh, who wears colorful turbans and a long beard, his candidacy is a litmus test of sorts for Canadian multiculturalism.
He has encountered bias during the campaign, including a man in Montreal who told him to cut off his turban so he would “look like a Canadian.”
Singh, a lawyer from Ontario, has been dogged by the perception that he was a lightweight. But his witty one-liners during nationally televised debates and his calm demeanor under pressure have helped lift his personal popularity.
The most experienced leader among Trudeau’s challengers is Elizabeth May, 65, of the Greens. A lawyer who founded the Canadian branch of the Sierra Club, May wants to eliminate fossil fuels by 2050.
The Bloc Québécois was in disarray at the beginning of this year. But its leader, Yves-François Blanchet, has staged a dramatic turnaround, and several polls put the party in second place in Quebec after the Liberals, which could give it influence in Parliament.
Maxime Bernier, a former Conservative who lost the leadership contest to Scheer, has been the most polarizing figure of the election and the one, polls suggest, with the smallest following. His nickname? “Mad Max.”
His People’s Party of Canada promotes strong limits on immigration while Bernier also frequently rails against what he calls “extreme multiculturalism” and “hysteria” over climate change.
Trudeau’s opponents have tried to focus the campaign on his character. But they have also talked about issues that concern Canadians — the environment, immigration, guns, health care and taxes.
The environment: Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of people across Canada took to the streets to show support for the fight against climate change. The parties have noticed, and all have plans.
Trudeau’s signature environmental policy is a national carbon pricing plan. But his decision to buy a pipeline linking Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast angered many environmentalists.
The Conservatives want to replace Trudeau’s plan for carbon taxes and with a program that emphasizes new technologies. Most assessments have declared it inadequate.
Immigration: Canadians broadly favor immigration, leaving everyone except Bernier treading carefully on the issue. Scheer recently doubled down on his pledge to end illegal border crossings by asylum-seekers.
Guns: The Liberals want more gun controls, like bans and buy backs for semi-automatic assault rifles. The Conservatives want fewer controls and will repeal a Liberal law that enhanced background checks of gun purchasers.
Health care: The Liberals and NDP both want to expand government health care to include drugs. The Conservatives have promised to increase the amount of federal money sent to provinces for health care.
Tax cuts: As he did in 2015, Trudeau has called for middle-class tax cuts. The Conservatives have a competing package of tax cuts, including ending carbon taxes. Under Singh, the New Democrats’ signature tax measure is a 1% tax on extremely high incomes.