Justin Trudeau stood before the cameras on Tuesday and said that the byelection result in Toronto-St. Paul’s wasn’t the result he wanted. Given that he lost a riding that had been safely in Liberal hands, that would be the political understatement of the year.
The loss on Monday — or early Tuesday morning, given how long the counting took — is a cataclysmic event for the Liberals, whether Trudeau wants to admit it or not. Given his statement, he clearly didn’t.
“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,” Trudeau said.
“My focus is on your success and that’s where it’s going to stay.”
After losing St. Paul’s and given the state of national and regional polling for the Liberals, Trudeau might want to focus on his own success, not ours.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland addresses the media during an announcement at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario office in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun
The prime minister didn’t take any questions on Tuesday as he made his statement and participated in a government announcement, but breaking with usual protocol didn’t interact with the media. The job of answering questions about the byelection fell to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was at an announcement in Toronto.
“Yes, he certainly can,” Freeland said when asked whether Trudeau could stay on as leader.
“Can you explain why?” The Globe and Mail reporter Marieke Walsh asked, “because everyone we’re hearing from behind the scenes believes that the result last (Monday) night means catastrophic losses across the country.
If you cannot win in Toronto under Justin Trudeau, why should anyone believe you can win anywhere else under him?”
“Our government is focused on working hard for Canada and Canadians,” Freeland said.
That was the first indication that the deputy prime minister was not about to give an honest answer with even a moment of self-reflection. She went on to say that Trudeau would lead the party into the next election and has the support of the country.
Freeland’s words and body language didn’t exactly match up; while her words claimed confidence in Trudeau, neither her voice nor her posture did.
Just about every Liberal MP in Toronto should be worried at this point. While not all could lose to the Conservatives, there is also the NDP to worry about. It’s worth noting that the Conservatives won Toronto-St. Paul’s when even in the 2011 federal election, as the NDP swept much of the core of the city and the
Conservatives ate at the outside by winning several suburban seats, the Liberals held St. Paul’s.
If they are losing Toronto-St. Paul’s, if the Conservatives are getting 42% of the vote in a “safe” Liberal riding, then which seat in Toronto is actually safe for a Liberal these days.
Any of the three Liberals holding the Etobicoke ridings — James Maloney, Yvan Baker, Kristy Duncan — has to worry that they are now in danger of losing. In York Centre, Willowdale, Don Valley North and across Scarborough, Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers are worried.
It’s not just Toronto, Liberals are concerned in Ottawa, Kitchener, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and across Atlantic Canada.
After watching Leslie Church, a candidate with impeccable credentials and deep party roots, lose you have to be wondering who will be next. Expect a rash of candidates to decide they need to pursue other opportunities or spend more time with their families this summer.
Trudeau himself may be among them.
I’ve been doubtful that Trudeau will leave. He has seemed to be reinvigorated since Pierre Poilievre won the Conservative leadership and desperately wants to do battle with him. Trudeau also seems to have a messianic complex about saving Canada from the “cold,” “cruel,” and “small” Conservatives and the plague of misinformation and disinformation.
That said, when you get a political earthquake of this magnitude, it’s bound to make people think.
Perhaps Trudeau will take time over the summer to reflect and question whether he should leave.
My money is still on his viewing himself as the best chance to save Canada by leading the Liberals into the 2025 election.

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