(Bloomberg) -- Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party was on track to lose roughly half a dozen seats in Atlantic Canada, as expected, as results began to roll in for what is poised to be one of the closest elections in the country’s history.
The Liberals have won or were leading in 24 of 32 districts, according to preliminary results from Elections Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The Conservatives were ahead in six districts, known as ridings, while the New Democrats were leading in one. In 2015, the Liberals swept the region, which accounts for less than 10% of the 338 up for grabs in the federal election. Trudeau was widely expected to retain most of his seats there while losing some from the 2015 results.
Trudeau is seeking a second term as prime minister -- weighed down by scandal and voter fatigue but still poised to win more districts than any of his rivals, based on polling projections at the end of the campaign. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer were tied in popular support for much of the final week, though Trudeau’s support is spread more widely and in vote-rich regions like Ontario and Quebec.
No party looks poised to win 170 districts required for a majority, meaning the winner will likely require the support of other parties to pass laws. As the incumbent, Trudeau has the right to continue to govern and test parliament for support, even if he wins fewer districts than Scheer.
If Trudeau tries to govern with or without a plurality, it will likely force a leftward shift in his agenda. His most natural partner is the New Democratic Party, which is anti-pipeline, and wants more aggressive moves to combat climate change, higher taxes for companies and the wealthy, and the creation of new universal social programs.
A Liberal government propped up by the NDP wouldn’t be an ideal scenario for Canada’s energy sector, already saddled with reduced oil prices due to pipeline bottlenecks. The prospect of that loose alliance may also send the Canadian dollar lower.
There are many wild cards, including voter turnout, the strength of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, and whether Toronto’s vote-rich suburbs will break Trudeau’s way. The biggest question mark may lie on the West Coast. British Columbia, Canada’s third-most-populous province, looks like a dead heat among the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP led by Jagmeet Singh.
Minority governments are not uncommon in Canada -- it’s happened in three of the previous five elections. Precedent suggests that any prime minister, faced with a minority, would likely pass laws on an issue-by-issue basis with support from one or two other parties, rather than establish a formal coalition.
The polls in Ontario and Quebec, provinces with almost 200 seats at stake, close at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, followed by British Columbia at 10 p.m. Voter turnout in the last election was 68%, the highest in 22 years.
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