Canadians packed into lengthy queues to solid ballots in elections which might be headed for a photograph end, with liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bid for a 3rd time period threatened by rookie conservative chief Erin O'Toole's sturdy problem.
Mr Trudeau known as the snap election hoping to parlay a clean Covid-19 vaccine roll-out – amongst the finest in the world – into a brand new mandate to steer the nation's pandemic exit, with out having to rely on opposition celebration assist to move his agenda.
But the contest, after a bumpy 5 weeks of campaigning, seems set for a repeat of the shut 2019 common election that resulted in the one-time golden boy of Canadian politics clinging to energy, but shedding his majority in parliament.
A sudden surge in Covid-19 circumstances led by the Delta variant late in the marketing campaign, after the lifting of most public well being measures this summer time, has additionally muddied the waters.
Voting throughout Canada's six time zones began early in the Atlantic island province of Newfoundland and was to wrap up in westernmost British Columbia at 7pm (3am Irish time).
Mr Trudeau mentioned he felt "serene" after casting a poll in Montreal.
"We worked very hard during this campaign, and Canadians are making an important choice," he instructed AFP, flanked by his spouse Sophie Gregoire and their kids.
At 49, Mr Trudeau has confronted harder bouts and are available out unscathed.
But after six years in energy, his administration is displaying indicators of fatigue, and it's been an uphill battle for him to persuade Canadians to stay together with his Liberals after falling wanting excessive expectations set in his 2015 landslide win.
Entering the ultimate stretch, the two essential political events that dominated Canada since its 1867 confederation had been nearly tied, with about 31% assist every, and 4 smaller factions nipping at their heels.
To hold his job, MrTrudeau's Liberals should win a plurality of seats in Parliament and take a minimum of 170 for a majority.
Pollster and former political strategist Tim Powers suggested not counting Mr Trudeau out. "I still think Justin Trudeau will win a minority government," he instructed AFP.
"But is that a win for him?" he added, suggesting Nr Trudeau could also be turfed as chief if the Liberals fare poorly at the poll field.
The marketing campaign noticed the contenders spar over local weather actions, indigenous reconciliation, reasonably priced housing, necessary Covid-19 inoculations and vaccine passports.
At rallies, Mr Trudeau was dogged by what he described as "anti-vaxxer mobs," together with one which threw stones at him.
Meanwhile Mr O'Toole, 48, was knocked for his backing of Alberta and two different Tory-led provinces' loosening of public well being restrictions too quickly, with Covid outbreaks now forcing their overwhelmed hospitals to fly sufferers throughout Canada for care.
He additionally fumbled over gun management and was warned by Beijing, in keeping with Chinese state media, that his proposed arduous line on China – Canada's second-largest buying and selling associate, with whom relations have soured over its detention of two Canadians – would "invite counterstrikes."
Overall, commented Max Cameron, a politics professor at the University of British Columbia, "this hasn't been a polarising election. There's actually a lot of clustering around the middle."
Mr O'Toole, a relative unknown who turned Tory chief solely final 12 months, tracked his celebration to the political centre, forcing the Liberals to compete for votes on the left with the New Democrats and Greens, as effectively as the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
The Conservatives, nonetheless, additionally noticed their assist clawed by former overseas minister Maxime Bernier's far proper People's Party.
primarily based on web site supplies www.rte.ie