Canada’s Trudeau to remain in power but with minority government

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are projected to form a minitorty government. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Updated 22 October 2019

Canada’s Trudeau to remain in power but with minority government

  • The Liberals had won or were leading in 156 out of 338 seats as of midnight EDT (0400 GMT on Tuesday)
  • Trudeau saw his popularity drop over old photos of him in blackface and his handling of a corporate corruption case

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will remain in power but with a minority government that will require the support of a smaller left-leaning party, official results showed on Monday after a hard-fought battle in which he was dogged by scandals.
The Liberals had won or were leading in 156 out of 338 seats as of midnight EDT (0400 GMT on Tuesday), according to Elections Canada. That put the Liberals far short of the 170 seats needed for a second straight majority government.
Trudeau, who took power in 2015 as a charismatic figure promising “sunny ways,” saw his popularity drop over old photos of him in blackface and his handling of a corporate corruption case. He will now have to rely on the New Democratic Party (NDP) to push through key legislation.
Although the NDP had a disappointing night, as the number of seats it was projected to win was down sharply from the 2015 election, the party could exercise significant influence over Trudeau’s next government.
“I think a Liberal government supported by the (NDP) is likely going to lean farther left,” said John Manley, a former Liberal finance minister who now works in the private sector.
“It raises a series of issues about what are the demands that an NDP party would make. What’s the price of governing going to be? And I think businesses are going to be reluctant to make any moves until they get some satisfaction around that.”
Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than 2-1/2 years.
Ahead of the vote, polls showed a neck-and-neck race between Trudeau and his main rival, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. The Conservatives, who trailed on Monday with 121 seats, actually held slightly more than a 1-percentage-point lead in the popular vote over the Liberals.
Trudeau, 47, who has championed diversity as prime minister, was endorsed by former US President Barack Obama in the final stretch of the campaign and is viewed as one of the last remaining progressive leaders among the world’s major democracies.
But the son of the late Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau also had to overcome a sense of fatigue with his government.
The Bloc Quebecois saw its support jump in the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec, the only place where the separatist party contests elections. It was elected or ahead in 32 seats, more than three times what the party won in 2015.
“The Bloc Quebecois is surging in Quebec,” said Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, who added that the election was a “clear defeat” for Scheer and the Conservatives.
The Greens, who have assailed Trudeau for not doing enough to combat climate change, also made gains on Monday.

Western anger
Liberal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi lost his seat in Alberta as did Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in neighboring Saskatchewan. Anger at Trudeau has mounted in those two provinces over federal environmental policies that the energy industry says will harm output.
The oil industry’s top lobbying group has blamed Trudeau’s policies for throttling investment in the sector, and some global energy companies have shed assets in the oil sands region of Alberta, the country’s main oil-producing province.
Canada’s economy, however, has been on a general upswing in 2019. The Canadian dollar has been the best-performing G10 currency this year, rising more than 4% against its US counterpart, as the economy added jobs at a robust pace and inflation stayed closed to the Bank of Canada’s 2% target.
The six-week official campaign period was a rough and meandering ride with dirty tactics on both sides.
The liberal image of Trudeau, whose father opened the country to mass immigration, took a severe blow when pictures emerged early in the campaign of him wearing blackface in the early 1990s and in 2001.
Trudeau had already been wrestling with the fallout from accusations he pressured his justice minister to help shield engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. from corruption charges. In August, a top watchdog said Trudeau breached ethics rules.
Scheer also proved to be a determined opponent, although his hopes for a major breakthrough were dashed.
Scheer, 40, promised to balance the federal budget and eliminate a “carbon tax” on fossil fuels. He was running his first campaign as party leader after winning a bitter leadership fight in 2017.
“The Tories made a fundamental mistake by being opposed to the carbon tax,” said Hugh Segal, who was chief of staff to former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
“I’ve often heard it said the worst mistake a party can make is to get sucked into its own low expectations of the population,” he said.


Gunmen fire on buses carrying Muslim Sri Lankan voters

Updated 16 November 2019

Gunmen fire on buses carrying Muslim Sri Lankan voters

  • Minority Tamils and Muslims are seen as crucial in the close election
  • The attack in the northwest of the island was likely aimed at deterring people from heading to the polls

COLOMBO: Gunmen fired at buses carrying minority Muslim voters on Saturday as Sri Lankans elected a new president, with the powerful Rajapaksa clan eyeing a comeback seven months after extremists staged deadly bombings.
Minority Tamils and Muslims are seen as crucial in the close election, and the attack in the northwest of the island — in which no one was injured — was likely aimed at deterring people from heading to the polls.
Election chief Mahinda Deshapriya said the shooting may not have prevented voting as just over 80 percent of the 15.99 million electorate was estimated to have turned out Saturday, compared to 81.5 percent at the previous presidential poll in 2015.
“Comparatively this is the most peaceful presidential election we have had in this country,” Deshapriya told reporters at the end of a 10-hour voting period.
Assailants set fire to tires on the road and set up makeshift roadblocks before shooting at and pelting with stones two busses in a convoy of more than 100, police said. After casting ballots, the voters were given an armed escort back home.
In the Tamil-dominated northern peninsula of Jaffna, meanwhile, police said they arrested 10 men they suspected of “trying to create trouble,” while also complaining that the army had illegally set up roadblocks that could stop people getting to polling stations.
Such tactics are nothing new in Sri Lanka, which emerged from a horrific civil war only a decade ago. At the 2015 election, there was a series of explosions in the north.
Supporters from rival parties meanwhile clashed in a tea plantation area 90 kilometers (55 miles) east of the capital Colombo, with two people taken to hospital with cut injuries, the election commission said.
Some 85,000 police were on duty for the election with a record 35 candidates running for president, an office with considerable power similar to the French political system.
Results could come as early as midday (0630 GMT) on Sunday if there is a clear winner.
One of the two frontrunners is grey-haired retired army lieutenant colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, younger brother to the charismatic but controversial Mahinda Rajapaksa, president from 2005-15.
Dubbed the “Terminator” by his own family, “Gota” is promising an infrastructure blitz and better security in the wake of the extremist attacks in April that killed 269 people.
“Gotabaya will protect our country,” construction worker Wasantha Samarajjeew, 51, said as he cast his ballot in Colombo.
His main rival is Sajith Premadasa, 52, from the governing liberal United National Party (UNP), son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa.
He is also pushing development and security as well as free sanitary pads for poor women, earning him the nickname “Padman” after a famous Bollywood movie.
The Rajapaksas are adored by Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority for defeating Tamil Tiger separatists and ending a 37-year civil war in 2009.
They are detested and feared by many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. The conflict ended with some 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly killed by the army.
During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, even allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off political rivals, journalists and others.
He denies the allegations.
What also concerns Western countries, as well as India, is that strategically located Sri Lanka moved closer to China under Mahinda Rajapaksa, even allowing two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014.
Under its Belt and Road Initiative spanning Asia and beyond, China loaned and granted Sri Lanka billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, many of which turned into white elephants and mired in corruption allegations.
Mahinda says credit was unavailable elsewhere.
Western capitals “should give a fair chance to us,” Basil Rajapaksa, another brother, told reporters. “They can’t be monitors of this country. They must be partners.”