As Canadians vote in a federal election on Monday October 21st polls have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer in a dead heat, according to AFP.
Neither of the two parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, that have led Canada since Confederation in 1867 is forecast to win enough support to secure an absolute majority of seats in parliament.
Canada's election takes place in 338 ridings or seats across the country, and preliminary results should be announced around 8pm on election night. One hundred and seventy seats are needed to be able to form a majority government, and polls show neither Trudeau nor Scheer are anywhere near that threshold.
Furthermore, forming a minority government will also be complicated as the incumbent PM Trudeau is usually granted the first crack at forming a government, even if he wins fewer seats than his opponents. That means that an opposition politician who wins the popular vote might have the most seats in parliament though still not get the chance to form a government.
After winning in a 2015 landslide, Trudeau's star has dimmed while in office. On Sunday, October 21st, he made an emotional appeal to voters at final campaign stops in westernmost British Columbia to enable him to build on the achievements of his first term.
"We need a strong, progressive government that will unite Canadians and fight climate change, not a progressive opposition," Trudeau told a rally in a suburb of Vancouver after whistle-stops in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.
He also warned against Scheer's pledged roll-back of environmental protections including a federal carbon tax that discourages the use of large amounts of fossil fuels.
The prime minister’s authenticity deficit is his bigger problem. The self-described champion of women and minorities took a hit when photos emerged last month showing blackface make-up during a school event nearly 2 decades ago.
It was an embarrassing look for his campaign. Trudeau has apologised profusely and by most accounts Canadians don’t brand him a racist. For good measure he got President Obama to endorse him last week.
Former US President Barack Obama broke with convention to tweet his support for Trudeau, writing, "The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbours to the north support him for another term."
Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has tried and failed to capitalise on the scandal and other criticisms of Trudeau. His campaign has fiercely and consistently attacked Trudeau, but the negative emphasis hasn't engaged voters the way Scheer had hoped.
Scheer also has had a bumpy ride. He has been criticised for holding dual US-Canadian citizenship; something he and his party had blasted other Canadian political figures for and never mentioned until the Globe and Mail newspaper revealed it earlier this month.
Scheer said he began the process of renouncing his American citizenship in August, just before the election campaign started, but it could take 10 months.
"Whatever it is, we know Trudeau would pay any price to stay in power and he'd use your money to do it," Scheer said at the end of a marathon last push from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans.
If Conservatives win the most seats, though not a majority, they will probably try to form a government with the separatist Bloc Quebecois party. Trudeau's Liberals would likely rely on the leftist New Democrats to stay in power.
The first polling stations open at 8:30 am (1100 GMT) in Newfoundland, Canada's most easterly province. Preliminary results across six time zones are expected shortly after 7:00 pm Ottawa time (2300 GMT).
The 40-day campaign, described by Trudeau as "one of the dirtiest, nastiest" in Canadian history, has been "a desert from a public-policy point of view," according to pollster Nik Nanos of Nanos Research.