(Reuters) - Canadians go to the polls for a federal election on Oct. 21. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal party is tied in national opinion polls with Andrew Scheer’s Conservative Party, while Jagmeet Singh and the New Democratic Party jostle for third place with the Greens led by Elizabeth May.
Following are brief portraits of each of the leaders of the main six parties on the ballot in October.
The son of a former prime minister, Trudeau came to power with a majority for his Liberal party in 2015 by appealing to young voters and Canadians tired of ten years of Conservative rule. He gained global renown for his unabashed support of progressive issues, but at home his support has suffered after a series of scandals. An ethics investigation into a family holiday with the Aga Khan, another into his handling of a major construction company’s legal woes, the purchase of a pipeline, and several broken campaign promises has Trudeau and his party in a tough reelection fight.
Originally from Ontario, Scheer moved to Saskatchewan and worked in an insurance office before entering politics at age 25. He served as the youngest speaker of Canada’s House of Parliament, and pulled off an unexpected upset to become successor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the leadership of the Conservative party. Scheer is socially conservative - he has said he does not support abortion, but would not support any legislative measures to reopen the debate in Canada. Throughout the campaign Scheer has leaned into his reputation as a minivan-driving father and husband.
A former criminal defense lawyer, Singh is the first person of colour to lead a major political party in Canada. He started the campaign with a relatively low profile but has made significant gains in support thanks in part to strong performances in televised debates, although his party still trails in national opinion polls overall. Singh stands out with his brightly coloured turbans and is considered competitive to Trudeau, due to the two’s similarity in social media fluency and appeal to younger voters.
May was an environmental lawyer and a longtime activist in her adopted home of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, before entering politics in 2005. She has stood as leader of the Greens since 2006, and a member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands in British Columbia since 2011. With climate change polling as one of the top issues in the election and double-digit support for their party in national opinion polls, May and the Greens are hoping for a breakthrough in seat numbers this election.
Blanchet, a former musician manager who also served as president of Quebec’s arts association and a member of the province’s legislative assembly, is credited with healing divides within the separatist Bloc Québécois. In the 2015 election the death knoll seemed to be ringing for the party as it saw a loss of over 80% of its seats. Now the party is polling second in Quebec, the only province in which they run candidates. Blanchet’s support for Quebec’s controversial provincial ban on religious symbols is in line with the majority of Quebec citizens, as well as his support for action on climate change.
Bernier was a longtime Conservative MP and cabinet minister, after a career in business as a lawyer and director at various companies. But after losing a bid for party leadership to Scheer in 2017, Bernier left and formed the People’s Party of Canada, on a platform of limited immigration and small government. His party may peel off precious votes in competitive ridings from the Conservatives.
Reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Chris Reese