© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative leader Irene O’Toole take part in the English leaders debate in the federal election in Gatineau, Canada, September 9, 2021. Adrian Wyld/Pool via Reuters

Written by Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – As Canada’s election race enters the final weekend, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is redoubling his efforts to galvanize supporters, realizing that his bid for re-election on Monday may fail due to a low turnout.

Recent polls show Trudeau’s Liberals neck and neck https://graphics.reuters.com/CANADA-ELECTION/zjvqkjkomvx/index.html with the opposition Conservative Party led by Erin O’Toole, suggesting that exiting the vote would be critical.

Low turnout tends to favor conservatives, who are traditionally better at ensuring that their supporters vote.

Trudeau said this week at a rally in Ontario, a call he has repeated frequently over the past week of the campaign.

Trudeau, 49, has called a snap election for August 15, seeking a parliamentary majority after two years of minority rule that had to work with other parties to govern. But now he is striving to save his job.

Two senior liberals with direct roles in the campaign told Reuters they worry Canadians may be more focused on getting back into their routines – rather than politics – as increasing numbers of people are fully vaccinated.

While Canadians voted in early polls https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadians-rush-early-polls-election-mail-in-ballots-underwhelm-2021-09-15 in record numbers, mail order – The ballot papers were much lower than expected.

The pandemic is worsening in parts of the country and voters are likely to face longer-than-usual queues on Election Day, due to fewer polling stations and distancing requirements.

O’Toole, 48, a former cabinet minister who led his party for just over a year, has proven he can compete with a disciplined campaign that appeals to centrist voters with progressive promises, while avoiding alienating his center-right base.

“It’s not about convincing people that they should consider voting for you anymore. It’s about getting people who are committed to voting for you out to vote,” said Daryl Bricker, Ipsos CEO of Public Affairs.

“Turnout will be everything.”

A recent Ipsos poll showed the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 32%, while the left-leaning New Democrats ranked third with 21%. Trudeau is slightly ahead of O’Toole as preferred prime minister, at 32% to 29%.

But opinion polls don’t always reflect what happens on voting day, as turnout can significantly affect the number of seats. In the past, Big Turnout has been in favor of Liberals and New Democrats, Bricker said.

Turnout was 67% in the 2019 election when Trudeau lost his majority, down from 68.3% when he took office in 2015.

“If the turnout is unusual, we could have several surprises on Monday night,” Philippe Fournier, a polling analyst for online 338Canada.com, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum on Thursday.

Closer than expected

Trudeau had a comfortable lead in the polls on the campaign trail, but that was frayed by what many voters consider an unnecessary election.

He also faces a challenge from New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/new-democrats-singh-looks-dance-his-way-role-canadas-kingmaker-2021-09-15, 42, who surpasses Trudeau and O’Toole in his personal popularity and attracts the same voters that center-left liberals need.

If enough voters chose Singh, it could split the progressive camp and allow O’Toole to take power. Trudeau said at a rally on Sunday that the Liberals are “the only progressive party that can prevent the Conservatives from holding us back.”

Over the past two weeks, Trudeau has also accused O’Toole of cozying up to the gun lobby and allowing conservative lawmakers to try to reopen the abortion debate.

O’Toole excels in his daily campaign appearances with Trudeau’s decision to call an early election during the pandemic, portraying the liberal leader as a power-hungry selfish.

With polls showing a slight increase in support for the far-right small Canadian People’s Party https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-mad-max-stokes-anti-vax-rage-could-help-trudeau-2021 -09-14, whose supporters have faced Trudeau’s campaign with protests over vaccine mandates, O’Toole must convince her supporters that he is their only hope of getting Trudeau out of office, while not impeaching core conservatives.

“Make no mistake. A vote for anyone other than the Conservatives in Canada, is a vote on the same from Mr. Trudeau,” O’Toole said on Tuesday.

said Danielle Byland, director of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal.

“Maybe we did all this to end up with the same result we got last time.”