Sometimes It’s Not Just a By-election…

We Won, They Lost

No one was more surprised by last night’s victory than my fellow Conservatives. When St. Paul’s boundaries were redrawn 1996 the riding went from a bellwether riding to a safe Liberal seat that meant little to the ebb and flow of national politics — until yesterday when the electors of St. Paul’s sent a message to Canada. The Liberals are in trouble.

It’s a truism of Canadian politics that incumbent governments defeat themselves and the role of the Opposition is to get out of the way as they fall. But sometimes (1984 and 1993) something more is happening. And the coming 2025 election has all the signs that something more is going on in the electorate. When liberalism became woke, and Trudeau and his Cabinet tore down core Canadian policy pillars, Canadians began to push back. A once respected immigration policy has been torn asunder, a federal government is growing uncontrollably, a foreign policy that is an embarrassment, an energy policy that undermines Canada’s natural competitive advantages, and lectures from Ottawa as they embrace whatever is the latest trend on social media.

St. Paul’s also spoke to an embrace of the Conservative Party message and its leader. While Liberals and much of the media scramble to define Pierre Poilievre by looking south of the border, they miss what Poilievre is saying as he goes across the country. It’s quite amazing how the Liberals and media are missing the message. I’ve seen him deliver the message in my own riding just north of St. Paul’s, where Karen Stintz is getting ready to upend yet another safe Liberal seat. He offers common-sense policies that restore some Canadian policy pillars, responds to growing anxieties on issues of crime and affordability, and his message is delivered without the pious hectoring that so defines the current Liberal crew. Change is coming and it can’t come soon enough for many of us.

Paul Brown

Rough Night for the Liberals in St. Paul’s

With Election Eve coinciding with the Seventh game of the Stanley Cup, hockey analogies come to mind: In hockey a win is a win – when your team wins no one asks: “By how much?”.

However, in politics reading the tea leaves is a sport and trying to pull good news out of any debacle is the norm. Liberals will try to comfort themselves by saying: “Well, it was close. They only won by about 500 votes”. Or: “The Conservatives received 42.1 percent of the vote, but we were close behind at 40.5 percent.”  Or: “By-elections are weird”. All well and good; but stepping back, this Liberal (first elected in Toronto-St. Paul’s in 1993) has to say this was a sad loss in what should be a safe seat. No question that last night was another dispiriting moment for the Liberals.

Even the Conservatives didn’t expect to win it and perhaps hoped not to (more about that below). The loss played out in an intense media glare, not because the election last night was the only game in town (it clearly wasn’t), but the media love to focus on Toronto – St. Paul’s because they live there and it’s easy to cover.

The takeaways: since the 1993 General Election, Liberals have consistently garnered about 50 per cent of the vote in St. Paul’s, sometimes even more. At just over 40 percent yesterday this is like the wheels falling off the election bus. Leslie Church was a good candidate; but the local candidate never counts for more than about 10 per cent of the vote. This outcome was an indictment not of her, but of the Liberal Party: Its policies? Its leader? Its fatigue?  What lessons will the Leader draw?  Punditry aside, the way forward is a decision to be taken by Justin Trudeau, his Caucus and the Liberal Party membership. Stay tuned. Trudeau senior took a “walk in the snow” once and decided to leave. It’s summer. If a new Leader is to revitalize, reinvigorate and redirect the Liberal Party, they have to be in place before there is any snow on the ground or the Liberals are facing grim prospects.

The Conservatives may have had a secret hope that their candidate in St. Paul’s would lose so Justin would have no pressure to move on. Poilievre wants to go up against Trudeau (and not someone else) as much as Trudeau relishes taking the fight to Poilievre. But it may be Trump who will determine who Canadians are comfortable voting for in the next Federal Election. A Trump win in November in the US may turn the “ballot question” in our next Federal Election into this one: who can defend Canada in the face of Trump?  Trudeau and his team have a track record in that. The Conservative Leader is a Trump-light figure who may be perceived as too fawning of Trump and his policies to stand up for Canada. You can be certain that is what the Liberals will be saying.

Barry Campbell

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