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Justin Trudeau’s party suffers shock defeat in Toronto

Is Trudeau heading for the exit door? Credit: Getty

June 25, 2024 - 1:00pm

Results are in for last night’s by-election to the Canadian parliament: voters in the constituency of Toronto-St Paul’s elected the Conservative candidate Don Stewart over his Liberal opponent Leslie Church, taking one seat away from the government party and giving it to Pierre Poilievre’s official opposition. The count took longer than usual due to abnormally large ballots, the result of dozens of protest candidacies, meaning the suspense lasted until the winner was announced around 5am the next day, when Canadians woke up to what could be an altered political landscape.

By-elections are usually sleepy affairs. This contest, however, attracted a great deal of attention for reasons having to do with national trends. It was touted by commentators as nothing less than a “referendum” on struggling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose approval numbers (along with those of his party) have been in the doldrums for well over a year.

Toronto-St Paul’s happened to be one of the safest Liberal seats, which the party held for 30 years. Its last MP, Dr Carolyn Bennet, was a minister in Trudeau‘s cabinet who stepped down to become Ambassador to Denmark; her long string of victories in past elections — having won by a margin of 24% in the 2021 campaign — seemed to attest to how comfortable the residents of this affluent portion of Toronto’s Midtown had been with the Liberal brand. But during this election, Stewart won by 15,555 votes (42.1 %) to Church’s 14,965 (40.5 %). The fact that they have now rejected the Liberals speaks volumes about the scale of the party’s decline.

Issues that could have moved the needle in this particular constituency include opposition to Trudeau’s capital gains tax hike, a rejection of his government’s stand on Israel by the sizeable Jewish community there, and a general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country shared with Canadians from coast to coast. Reportedly, some Liberal supporters chose to stay home as a means of sending a message to their stubborn leader. Indeed, this Conservative victory opens the possibility that the city of Toronto, itself a vast Liberal stronghold, may now be up for grabs.

The outcome of the race, though regarded as entirely probable by pollsters, will still be felt as a “shock” and an “upset” in Canadian political world. It portends the real seismic shift in the next federal election, scheduled for autumn 2025, when the same polling trend lines predict a catastrophic loss for Trudeau’s Liberals at the hands of Canada’s Tories. Available seat projections show Poilievre’s Conservatives gaining 200+ seats, a mega-majority in Canada’s 338-seat House of Commons. Toronto-St Paul’s all but hastened that vision of the future.

Speculation about Trudeau’s next moves, whether he will take this as his cue to finally step down or defiantly stare down the prospect of a historic defeat, will only intensify in the days ahead. If last night’s devastating news doesn’t nudge him toward the exit door, perhaps watching UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his own exhausted ruling party get sent to political oblivion next week may do it.


Michael Cuenco is a writer on policy and politics. He is Associate Editor at American Affairs.
1TrueCuencoism

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AC Harper
AC Harper
26 days ago

It is my contention that politicians rarely learn from their own mistakes and never learn from others’ mistakes.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
26 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

True. Can any of us consistently do it for ourselves? I always remember my father telling me when I was young: the one thing I can’t teach you, sweetheart, is experience.

Daniel P
Daniel P
26 days ago

Will Canada last until fall of 2025?
That is a lot of time to do a lot more damage.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
26 days ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Considering just how far we’ve fallen since 2015, that we’ll even last that long is by no means certain.

It’s almost as if electing someone to lead a nation who’s on record as saying he doesn’t believe that nation or it’s identity even *exists* might not be very good for the health of said nation.

M James
M James
26 days ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Rumours of Canada’s impending death are greatly exaggerated. We are blessed with enough natural resources, including fresh water, that are the envy (and surreptitiously increasingly the target) of the rest of the world. And we have enough technical know how to manage them.

Our international politics and finance fail us, however. Our politicians run up debt with our tacit acceptance until international bond rating downgrades sober us back into more prudent habits.

And our inability to defend our own land, even from our surrogate protector to the south, has emboldened foreign parties to infiltrate our governance to a significant level only recently being realized. This is still trying to be hidden by our government, and is yet another source of one of the thousand cuts that lead to the death of Liberal hegemony in the St Paul riding yesterday.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Liberal party is being propped up by Singh’s NDP. It’s not officially a coalition, but Singh will block no confidence votes whilst squealing that Justin is not socialist enough. Many of this country’s problems can be solved by introducing a little bit of competition, opening up markets. This will help prices. Unfortunately Canada, like Australia, has a very protectionist streak.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
26 days ago

As with the US situation, the danger of a leftist leader being so low in the polls so far out is that The Natural Ruling Party may find a new shiny pony to trot out for the approval of the masses, with even better hair than Trudeau.
The next Liberal Party of Canada convention, like the coming Democratic party convention, is likely to be a. Merciful bloodletting, featuring the retirement of some big guns among the Grits (as we call our Libs). And then back to business as usual.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
26 days ago

Trudeau will probably self-identify as a woman – and then step down blaming all his mistakes on those nasty men in politics. At that point he will also claim that his lack of gon*ds means he should not be expected to hang around to experience his mass rejection.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
26 days ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

That would imply he’d feel the need to actually change anything about himself to account for his mistakes. He never has before. After all, everything is our fault, not his.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
26 days ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

True enough – the Sturgeon/Ahern playbook does not require any admission of culpability.

James P
James P
26 days ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

It’s not gonads he lacks, it’s brains and morals.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
26 days ago

The fact that they have now rejected the Liberals speaks volumes about the scale of the party’s decline.
The most eye opening thing in politics is to be affected or potentially affected by the people and policies you support. What a shock that an affluent area might not be favorable of jacking up capital gains tax rates or that Jews might take exception to pro-Hamas protests.

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
26 days ago

The irony of the Liberals’ much-predicted and almost inevitable defeat this upcoming election, and the much pontificating about it being ‘historic’, is that it is in actuality anything but. Trudeau himself is touted as having ‘saved’ the party after its utterly disastrous collapse under previous leader Michael Ignatieff, who’s remarkably out-of-touch performance saw the Liberals reduced to 3rd-party status for the first time in history.

And this is only the latest turn of a longstanding cycle in Canadian politics, both federally and provincially. The Liberals swoop in, promising us all the Moon, proclaiming they’ll give us everything we want only to muck everything up giving no one anything they asked for. Eventually voters get tired and elect the Conservatives to fix things, which unfortunately usually means getting a reign on the out of control spending by tightening our collective belts. This has the side effect of making them extremely unpopular, as voters apparently have extremely short memories. Something which the Liberals exploit to great effect. By the time the Conservatives have finally got us back on something of an even keel, it’s just in time for the Liberals to schmooze back in, turn up the shmarm, and promise us the Moon AND Mars this time. Just look at Stephen Harper, Trudeau’s predecessor, the Conservative PM who ruled for over a decade after winning in a massive landslide victory fueled in part by the failings of his Liberal predecessors Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

The Liberals may be our ‘natural ruling party’ having been in power more often in our history than not, but that has less to do with their competence than it does the aristocratic nature of their own party. The ‘Laurentian Elite’ that make up the foundational core of the Liberals are the oldest of old-stock Canadians, the descendants of the first and most successful English and French settlers, living in the wealthiest and most long-established colonial steadings of the St. Lawrence River valley. The only things that seperates them from the privileged landowners of the Old World is the lack of codified formal titles written into law. Otherwise, our country in many ways is a sort of corporate fuedalism, just like we were back in the days of the Hudson’s Bay Company and Rupert’s Land, with the rest of us plebs little more than modern serfs. At least in their eyes, and they can’t understand why we might resent that.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
26 days ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

Nice comment – very informative.
One question: do you think Trudeau’s handling of Covid and the truckers had anything to do with the recent by-election defeat? Or am I projecting? Thanks.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
26 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

At the time, Trudeau had a lot of support for his Covid policies. He did a good job scaring the pants off voters. Looking back now, voters likely have more negative feelings about his Covid policies. The by-election loss in Toronto is likely more reflective of high housing costs and inflation.

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I suspect two things have happened (and not just in Canada) – 1) People now realise COVID was nowhere near as bad as it was made out to be, and 2) people are suffering under the economic malaise brought on by the fact that the world’s governments squandered trillions during COVID.

Angela Jones
Angela Jones
25 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

I disagree with your point 1). Covid WAS bad. Many people including health professionals died during the first wave. It’s only not bad now because of mass immunity. However, point 2 is spot on …..

Jae
Jae
25 days ago
Reply to  Angela Jones

Still drinking the Kool Aid. We do not know how “Bad” COVID was because we have never been told the truth about it or the vaccine.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
25 days ago
Reply to  Angela Jones

Infection fatality rate was never higher than 0.4%. For young and non-obese people, it was significantly lower. And as the successive waves struck, that number just kept going down.
As to Martin’s point, the government never acknowledged this. They just kept pumping out the fear porn. And so did the media.

Martin M
Martin M
25 days ago
Reply to  Angela Jones

It wasn’t worth tanking the world’s economy over though.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
21 days ago
Reply to  Angela Jones

Hmm. I very much doubt that healthy people working in hospitals were dieing from Covid in a substantial way. What numbers do you have for us?

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
26 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

As Jim Veenbaas has pointed out, Trudeau’s attempts at demonizing the Truckers were extremely successful. Even now they’re an extremely divisive topic that people still express distaste for, even if they have with the benefit of added context and hindsight since acknowledged they had a point. The feelings linger even if the ‘facts’ don’t.

Instead Jim is correct that this was more likely a result of the average Canadian’s growing discontent over Trudeau’s mishandling of the country, especially on economic matters, which are more obvious and less able to be fudged with sleight of tongue and peer pressure. Things are eye-wateringly more expensive than before, and people see it. Not to mention the stubborn, out of touch contempt he clearly has for our concerns, but that being a major factor might just be wishful thinking on my part.

Sylvia Volk
Sylvia Volk
26 days ago
Reply to  Thomas K.

Also, video showed us the Liberal candidate’s office in the riding. And the homeless person sleeping in its doorway. How can that be explained away with fast talk?

Thomas K.
Thomas K.
24 days ago
Reply to  Sylvia Volk

That’s exactly my point why they lost this election. The scale and obviousness of the problems mean the usual tactics are no longer working. However that doesn’t mean there won’t be a point in the future where they will work again. As I mentioned in my original comment, Canadian voters unfortunately have short memories.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
26 days ago

After what he did to the truckers and to his own people under Covid, nothing short of a long jail sentence is good enough for Trudeau.
There are few ppl who since Covid I detest more.

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I can only assume you know nothing of Daniel Andrews, former Premier of the State of Victoria in Australia.

Bernard Kelly
Bernard Kelly
25 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Very true. He and his fellow accomplice Mark McGowan have both received Order of Australia awards for their fine efforts in protecting the community. In the meantime they have both ridden off into the sunset on highly paid private sector jobs and left their political successors to clean up the mess. Victoria is now an economic basket case.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
26 days ago

I give credit to the author, with whom I usually disagree, for not invoking the term, “far-right” to describe the winning candidate.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
26 days ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Fun fact: whoever uses the term ‘far-right’, thereby identifies himself as ‘far-left’.

James Westby
James Westby
26 days ago

Its a shame that the UK is about to head into 5 years of Trudeauism. I just hope Labour will self-immolate on issues such as Palestine and Net-Zero so we can have a chance to correct course before then.

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago
Reply to  James Westby

Starmer may have his issues, but he’s not as much of a smug preppie as Trudeau.

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
26 days ago

JT has been a disaster for Canada, in 10 years he will have more than doubled the national debt from about 600 billion to over 1.2 trillion. He is presiding over a disastrous and out of control immigration policy, letting in over a million people a year when available housing and social services cannot accommodate even half that amount, resulting in out of control housing costs and rental crisis in all major cities. Homelessness and crime is on the increase. Our military is a neglected basket case, we are not even close to the 2% requested by Nato for years, lots of babble about supporting Ukraine, with little tangible done. The federal bureaucracy is in shambles, the services are poor quality, they still can’t even pay their employees properly. There is waste and corruption, the auditors reports are simply ignored. Spending is out of control, Canada has a productivity crisis due to poor investment and skills training. Their handling of covid was totally inconsistent, and led to the truckers fiasco which was poorly handled by all governments, including the federal. Whichever government wins in 2025 will have a hell of a mess to try to cleanup, good luck to them, I already feel sorry for them to try to get things done in this unmanageable country of overloaded bureaucracy and incompetence

Bernard Kelly
Bernard Kelly
25 days ago
Reply to  Dave Canuck

Sounds just like Australia, NZ, USA and the UK. What do these countries have in common?

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
25 days ago
Reply to  Bernard Kelly

Gosh. Quite so.

I wish I could say the the Mother Country could lead our former colonies toward righteousness.

In Blighty, we have been afflicted by half arsed idiots who think they know how to save the world. Can we ever understand that our best hope is that individuals, families and small communities solve most problems themselves? Even if there remain failings?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
26 days ago

Under Trudeau Canada is currently a place where a middle-aged man’s “right” to participate in girls’ swimming events – and use the same changing facilities to dress and undress – is protected and a women’s salon was just this week fined $35,000 for the “trauma” caused to a man-who-identifies-as-a-woman by them refusing to wax his male genitalia.
Perhaps ordinary voters have finally woken up to this insanity?

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
26 days ago

Hope so! Common sense isn’t so common these days, perhaps we will see a rebound.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago

That man wasn’t a Mr ‘wax my balls’ Yaniv was it? I thought his repeated attempts at suing businesses, usually run by ethnic minority women, had been kicked into touch.

net mag
net mag
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yaniv is/was a Vancouver, BC, case, the latest case is in Windsor, Ont. Each province has their own Human Rights Commission. Of course, Canada being Canada, there is also Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
26 days ago

As a US macro economist I follow says regularly: people don’t care that prices are going up more slowly. They are still reeling from the real terms 30% increase over the past 2 years.

Biden doesn’t get it either. John Williams’s Shadowstats well worth a look every so often to reassure yourself that you aren’t imagining it.

Don Holden
Don Holden
26 days ago

He certainly looks like his dad!

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago
Reply to  Don Holden

The Cuban guy?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
26 days ago

Justin Trudeau will go down as one of Canada’s greatest leaders but it looks like the great Canadian public have decided its time for a change. A few months of that pipsqueak Poilievre will show them the error of that…

Dave Canuck
Dave Canuck
26 days ago

I am sure at some point a woke and left leaning historian will make that claim, no doubt. He was probably a good school teacher, he should go back to that., He was pushed by the NDP to implement some programs like dental, other than that I can’t think of much. Legalized marihuana turned into a fiasco, there is still a huge black market, more drug use including increasing car accidents under the influence. His foreign policy was ambiguous to say the least, he ignored foreign interference and pretended China was not a problem. This in addition to the mess he is leaving behind in my comments above. Yes Poilievre may look bad, because of the mess he will inherit.

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago

Absolutely agree (apart from the “greatest leaders” bit).

Jae
Jae
25 days ago

I wonder if Trudeau will move to China? He openly stated he really likes the way they govern there.

There’s many a slip between here and November, 2025. Trudeau is a slithering snake, and his right hand woman Freeland is even worse. Plus Canadians are, to date anyway, so malleable, they shrug at almost everything their government does.

Jae
Jae
25 days ago

A large part of the problem for Canada is they have no media to speak of, the government controls it.

Not that the US can boast a robust media, CNN/MSNBC/NYT/WaPo are basically State media, but there’s at least robust attempts to call them out for their bias. Don’t think that happens much in Canada.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
22 days ago

It may be that Canadians are finally tired of this lovel child of Fidel and his arrogant and preening Macron manner. Happily for Castro, Cubans never got a chance to vote out their Communist tyrant. Though a submissive people generally speaking, Canadians kick up their heels from time to time.