A special returning officer counts ballots from National, International, Canadian Forces and incarcerated voters mailed during the federal election in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on September 20, 2021. REUTERS / Patrick Doyle

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Sept. 21 (Reuters) – Canadians woke up Tuesday to a virtually unchanged political landscape after an expensive pandemic they didn’t want, with many of their anger at the cost of $ 612 million US dollars) made air.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won the election, but it was unpopular from the start because of its timing, two years ahead of schedule and during a rising fourth wave of COVID-19.

The voters gave Trudeau a third term but denied him the parliamentary majority for which he had called the election. The Liberals run or are elected in 158 out of 338 districts, only three more than they stood in the election. A majority requires 170 seats.

Other parties did not do much better and ended up with largely the same number of seats as they did before the election.

“$ 600 million and all I got was that lousy pencil,” one Calgary man tweeted, referring to the short pencil used to mark ballots.

“Wasting money” was a trend on social media as voters questioned the time and cost involved. Elections Canada, which is conducting the voting, predicts it will cost $ 110 million more than the 2019 election, which will cost $ 502 million.

Holding elections during a pandemic caused additional expenses, such as counting a barrage of absentee ballots and providing disposable pens, masks and hand sanitizer, the electoral authority said.

The Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democrats were each allowed to spend approximately $ 30 million of their own money on the campaign.

The vote also took place as the Liberals amassed a record $ 1 trillion ($ 785 billion) in national debt to tackle the pandemic and push budget deficits to levels unseen since World War II.

Sheila Colla, associate professor of environmental studies at York University in Toronto, was concerned about the cost to the planet of campaign trips to one of the largest countries in the world by area.

“Fossil fuels were burned as reporters and guides flew across the country. Election 44 was an incredibly wasteful (liberal) vanity project,” she said.

Trudeau, in power since 2015, said in his Victory speech that the Canadians gave him a “clear mandate” to lead Canada through the pandemic.

But last week, Trudeau admitted the unpopularity of holding elections as infections proliferate.

“I understand the frustration some people feel,” he told his supporters. “They just want things to go back to normal and an election not to go back to normal.”

Angus Reid, chairman of the polling institute of the same name, said the election left the political landscape intact.

“Nothing happened! Trudeau got less than a third of the vote. He sees the election as a victory?”

Another choice might be on the horizon, as minority governments typically don’t last long. Trudeau said there could be another election in 18 months this month if no one wins a parliamentary majority.

“(It’s) almost as if the Canadians spelled out with their votes, ‘We don’t want elections now,'” said Doug Porter, chief economist at BMO Capital Markets, of Monday’s results.

($ 1 = 1.2814 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa Editing by Alistair Bell

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