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Canadians Go To The Polls. Will Trudeau's Party Stay In Power?


It is Election Day in Canada after what has been an unusually close and really divisive campaign. David McGuffin reports from Ottawa.

DAVID MCGUFFIN, BYLINE: Embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played up the differences he sees between his Liberal Party and the main opposition Conservatives, telling voters they have a stark choice.


PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Will we choose fear, division and austerity, or will we choose to continue to move forward in a way that has grown our economy, lifted people out of poverty and fought climate change?

MCGUFFIN: Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has been playing up Trudeau's scandals. Earlier this year, Trudeau was found guilty of breaking ethics laws after trying to pressure his attorney general into interfering in the fraud trial of a large construction company linked to the Liberal Party. And then photos emerged of Trudeau wearing blackface as a young man.


ANDREW SCHEER: Justin Trudeau only pretends to stand up for Canada. He's very good at pretending things. He can't even remember how many times he put blackface on because the fact of the matter is he's always wearing a mask. Mr. Trudeau, you are a phony and you are a fraud, and you do not deserve to govern this country.

MCGUFFIN: Scheer hasn't been able to pull away from Trudeau. Polls indicate centrist voters are wary of his stance against abortion. All this has given a boost to smaller parties. In the Liberal power base of Quebec, the separatist Bloc Quebecois is expected to make big gains. And the left-leaning New Democratic Party has picked up a lot of ground, led by their charismatic 40-year-old leader Jagmeet Singh, who has energized young voters much in the way Trudeau did four years ago.


JAGMEET SINGH: We're going to let young people know they can count on us to fight for them all the way. We're going to immediately end all oil and gas subsidies.


SINGH: We're going to reinvest that money...


SINGH: ...Into clean energy and renewable energy.


MCGUFFIN: Canadian pollster Nik Nanos says it's now unlikely any party will win the majority of seats in Parliament.

NIK NANOS: It's a dead heat in terms of the popular support. But when you crunch out the distribution, the Liberals have an advantage in terms of the number of seats that they can win. But they're short of a majority today.

MCGUFFIN: Justin Trudeau may manage to hold on to the prime ministership. If so, he'll likely need the support of opposition parties, and that will mean a much weaker grip on power. For NPR News, I'm David McGuffin in Ottawa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David McGuffin