Justin Trudeau's Liberals have secured a second term, but will be forced to run a minority government. Trudeau is expected to form a coalition with a smaller left-wing party.
The Liberal Party won the most spots in the 338-seat Parliament but fell short of a majority, meaning they will have to form a coalition with an opposition party to stay in power. Early results showed them winning just 157 seats. The Conservatives were on track to secure at least 121 seats.
Around 27.4 million Canadians were eligible to vote at polling stations located in six different time zones.
"Tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity. They elected a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change," Trudeau said early Tuesday.
Quebec separatists resurgent
The Bloc Quebecois, a Quebec separatist party, enjoyed a massive comeback after softening its demands for independence.
The party, which has been revitalized under new leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, jumped to 32 seats from 10 seats in the predominantly French-speaking province.
"We have come far but we will go further," Blanchet told supporters in the early hours of Tuesday.
Trudeau hit by scandals
Although Trudeau won by a landslide in 2015, his fight to secure a second term was hobbled by several scandals. In recent months, old photos of the prime minister wearing blackface and brownface emerged, and he has come under fire for his handling of a corruption case involving a major Canadian construction company as well as for his decision to nationalize a controversial oil pipeline project.
Trudeau, son of the liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is viewed as one of the last remaining progressive leaders in the world's major democracies.
His main rival is Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who pledged to roll back several environmental protections, including Trudeau's carbon tax to discourage fossil fuel use. He also promised to balance the federal budget.
Scheer's campaign, however, was shaken by revelations that he holds dual US-Canadian citizenship and that his party hired a communications firm to go after the right-wing People's Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier.
Smaller parties to be kingmakers
Although much of the focus was on the major candidates, the environment and health care also emerged as top issues.
Having failed to win a majority, Trudeau will have to rely on support from smaller parties such as the Green Party and the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Jagmeet Singh — the first nonwhite leader of a federal party in Canada.
Singh said he had spoken with Trudeau and told him his party would be "working hard to deliver on making sure we deliver the priorities that Canadians have."
aw, rs/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters)