Canadians vote in tough challenge for Trudeau

 Canadians are voting for the country’s next parliament after a short campaign that saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in a neck-and-neck fight against the opposition Conservative Party.

The first polls opened in Newfoundland, on Canada’s east coast, at 8:30am local time (11:00 GMT) on Monday. More than 27 million people are eligible to cast their ballots, according to Elections Canada, which administers the vote.In the Montreal neighbourhood of Parc-Extension, which falls within the Papineau riding where Trudeau is seeking re-election, local resident Edgar Mendoza, 65, said he was casting his vote to “keep stability”.

At a polling centre in the neighbouring area of Villeray, also within the Papineau riding, 61-year-old Isabelle Faucher said she wasn’t enthusiastic about any of the political parties. “I feel like right now there aren’t really any leaders we can trust,” she told Al Jazeera, adding that the environment is a top priority for her.

“We waited until the last minute to vote because honestly we couldn’t decide,” she added. “Today we’ll make a decision hoping, in the best of all worlds, that it will represent the interests of all the Canadian provinces.”

A day earlier, Trudeau and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made their final pitches to Canadians.

“Canada is at a crossroads. We now get to pick the right direction for our country, to keep moving forward – or to let Conservatives take us back,” Trudeau said during a rally in Montreal.

Speaking to Conservative Party volunteers on Sunday in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto, O’Toole hit back at Trudeau, accusing the Liberal leader of calling “a $600m election rather than focus on the health of people”.

“So tomorrow we can vote for better, tomorrow we can make sure that we do not reward Mr Trudeau for a $600m election,” O’Toole said.

The Canadian election campaign has been dominated by concerns over COVID-19 and mandatory vaccines, investments in health and child care, economic recovery plans and housing, among other key issues.

Trudeau triggered the vote in mid-August, two years ahead of schedule. While experts said the Liberal leader called the election in hopes his government’s handling of the coronavirus would give the party a majority, Trudeau has faced angry protests along the campaign trail and many voters have criticised him for calling the vote during a fourth wave of the pandemic.

Trudeau has been prime minister since 2015, but the Liberals lost their majority in the last federal election in 2019.

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