How Did Justin Trudeau Lose 27 Seats in the Liberal Party?

Reem Abouchleih, Scarlet Staff

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On October 21, Canadian election results were announced: incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will continue to hold office. For many Americans, especially those aligned with the Democratic party, this was unsurprising. Canada has long been hailed a beacon of liberal values.

However, there was an unexpected turn of events when the Canadian Liberal Party lost 27 seats in the House of Commons. According to an Atlantic article, “This Election Brought Out Canada’s Worst.” Trudeau’s popular vote dropped by 6.5 points from 39.5% to 33% this year. Conservatives won the largest share of the popular vote, 34.4%.

That leaves the question: why did such an alleged haven of leftist democracy lose so many liberal seats?

To many Americans, the re-election of Justin Trudeau is unsurprising – he is a generally well-liked man who speaks about important social issues, welcomes those fleeing terror and war, believes in equality and maintains a good economy. The Prime Minister has experienced many scandals in the past year: it was discovered that he wore blackface many times before getting involved in politics, “he intervened in a criminal case to protect a business corporation with close ties to his party”, and he violated conflict-of-interest rules.

Several provinces in Canada have enacted a carbon tax. One ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (i.e. coal) used to cost $20 ($15.31 USD) now costs $50 ($38.28 USD). This is an attempt to reduce carbon emissions, but has angered many; a consequence of raising CO2 emission price is a higher cost for electricity, natural gas, and oil. The verdict on this was polarizing: some were willing to pay a higher price for environmental benefits, but others were furious as it takes a toll on how much they must spend on electricity bills.

One of the many points of contention for members of the Conservative party with Justin Trudeau surrounded immigration. After the 2016 election where immigration was a hot-button issue, Trudeau tweeted “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” The tweet triggered major havoc. Though it was likely intended to be political pandering, the Canadian government had no plan preceding the tweet. How would they accommodate thousands of refugees coming into the country?

Thousands of people flooded into Canadian borders, hoping it would be a beacon of acceptance, and so it was. Over 20,000 people immigrated to Canada – many of them undocumented immigrants from the US that originally lived in Central & South America and the Carribean. Many working in the government expressed their concerns with letting in so many people without a proper system.

This year, Trudeau called for a reconciliation between indigenous communities and Canadian citizens; the plan was to grant indigenous people rights over natural resource development. Trudeau made a statement that indigenous women were most often killed by someone close to them, suggesting that there was a “war” between people in indigenous communities. Many non-indigenous people were offended by the accusation of a “genocide”, causing his approval rate to drop the lowest it ever has within indigenous communities. Though Trudeau intended to respect indigenous people, it came off as the opposite.

Though Canadians rooting for Justin Trudeau ultimately succeeded in electing him as Prime Minister again, this year marked a new era in Canadian politics where the majority Liberal party no longer rules in their decisions. Though the split between the Conservative and Liberal party is less divisive in Canada than the United States, passing legislation will become more difficult.