Trudeau party clings to power but loses seats

Top News | REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 Oct 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hung onto power after an election that saw his government reduced to a minority, but aides predicted he would be able to govern for two years without many problems.

Trudeau's Liberals won only 156 seats - a decrease of 21 - preliminary results showed.

He now looks set to govern with the left-leaning New Democrats, who have 24 seats. Together the two parties can muster a majority 180 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons.

Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than two-and-a-half years. Although the New Democrats lost 16 seats, leader Jagmeet Singh is now in a good position to press for action on more social spending and increased action on climate change.

The New Democrats struck deals to help keep Liberal minority governments in power from 1972-1974 and in 2005.

The Canadian dollar held near a three-month high, although some investors worried about the fiscal implications of Singh's influence on policy.

Trudeau barely mentioned the loss of his majority, telling supporters that he had "a clear mandate" for a progressive agenda and more action to combat global warming.

This is unlikely to please the western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which cast out every Liberal legislator amid anger over what the energy industry sees as overly stringent environmental rules.

The most prominent victim was Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, one of Trudeau's top cabinet members.

"From coast to coast to coast, tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity," Trudeau said. "And they rejected cuts and austerity and voted in favor of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change."

He reassured Quebec that his Liberal government, despite an electoral setback in the French-speaking province, "will be there for you."

He also spoke directly to a growing sense of Western Canada's alienation within the federation, telling those in Saskatchewan and Alberta provinces: "I've heard your frustration."

The 47-year-old former school teacher faced a grilling during the election, which he described as one of the "dirtiest and nastiest" in Canadian history.

The election was also a disappointment for Andrew Scheer, leader of the opposition Conservatives, who had sought a majority. Although the Conservatives won the popular vote, they gained only 25 seats, ending the night with 122.

In his concession speech, Scheer said: "Canadians have passed judgment on Trudeau's Liberal government," noting that the Liberals shed more than 20 seats as well as support in every region of the country.

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