Despite Toronto-St. Paul’s loss, Freeland says Trudeau should stay as leader

Click to play video: 'St. Paul’s byelection: Freeland calls Liberals’ loss to Conservatives ‘disappointing’'
St. Paul’s byelection: Freeland calls Liberals’ loss to Conservatives ‘disappointing’
WATCH: Freeland calls Liberal loss to Conservatives 'disappointing.' – Jun 25, 2024

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she still has faith in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership, after the party lost what was once considered one of the safest Liberal seats in the country.

“The prime minister is committed to leading us into the next election and he has our support,” said Freeland at a news conference, following the Liberals’ stunning defeat to the Conservatives in the Toronto-St. Paul’s byelection.

“The result in [Toronto] St. Paul’s is certainly disappointing. We knew it was going to be a hard fight,” Freeland said.
Click to play video: 'Conservatives win by-election in Toronto-St. Paul’s'
Conservatives win by-election in Toronto-St. Paul’s

The Conservatives won a surprise victory Monday night, swiping the seat from the Liberals for the first time in three decades.

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Conservative candidate and financial professional Don Stewart won 42.1 per cent of the vote, beating longtime Liberal staffer Leslie Church, who received 40.5 per cent.

Freeland, who represents the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale and campaigned alongside Church, said the party takes the loss “seriously.”

Click to play video: 'Implications of Conservative Byelection Win'
Implications of Conservative Byelection Win

How Trudeau is responding

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Trudeau also addressed the defeat at a news conference in Vancouver, but did not take questions.

This was obviously not the result we wanted. But I want to be clear that I hear people’s concerns and frustrations. These are not easy times, and it’s clear that I and my entire Liberal team have much more work to do to deliver tangible, real progress that Canadians across the country can see and feel,” said the prime minister.

Political experts say the loss deals a crushing blow to the party, and could spell catastrophic losses in the next general election for the Liberals, which must be called by October 2025.

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I don’t think that anybody realistically thought that the Liberals would actually lose,” Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker told Global News Tuesday.

“This byelection really does raise, I would say, questions about [Trudeau’s] future with the Liberal Party and what his plans are to a fever pitch,” he added.

How significant is the loss?

The riding has remained Liberal since 1993, and even stayed red when the party hit “rock bottom” in 2011, Bricker said.

The party has not lost in the so-called Toronto Liberal fortress since that same year.

Former Liberal staffer and current TACT public relations director Jeremy Ghio says the results show Canadian voters are growing increasingly tired of Trudeau who has been in power for eight years, and says he will try to secure a fourth term.

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Click to play video: 'St. Paul’s byelection: ‘I hear people’s concerns and frustrations,’ Trudeau says'
St. Paul’s byelection: ‘I hear people’s concerns and frustrations,’ Trudeau says
This riding survived a sponsorship scandal in the beginning of the 2000. [It] survived the Stephen Harper government. It survived Michael Ignatieff’s disastrous result. And it did not survive Justin Trudeau this time,” said Ghio.

For more than a year, the Liberals have trailed in nationwide polls, and that waning popularity translated into votes for the Conservatives in Toronto-St.Paul’s.

Canadians are struggling, economically speaking and Pierre Poilievre is very popular,” said Ghio. “So rather than supporting Justin Trudeau, we’re seeing more and more Canadians [saying] ‘you know what, we’ll try it with the other guy.‘”

How tight was the race?

Voter turnout in Toronto-St Paul’s was 43.5 per cent, and is particularly high for a summer byelection, which Bricker says reflects a “huge desire” for change in the country.

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“And there’s one party that has identified itself on the ballot as being the most likely to change the direction of the country, and that’s the Conservatives,” Bricker said.

Ipsos polling done exclusively for Global News and released last week shows 68 per cent of Canadians say it’s time for Trudeau to step aside.

“Justin Trudeau was the thing that won them the election in 2015. What makes you strong makes you weak. And that’s what they’re really facing at the moment,” Bricker said.

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