Politics

As Trudeau insists he’s staying on, one MP says some incumbents could sit out the next election

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to say he means to stay on as Liberal leader after last week’s surprise Conservative win in the Toronto-St. Paul’s byelection, one Liberal MP is telling CBC News some caucus members are thinking about calling it quits if he stays.

The Liberal MP — who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly about caucus dynamics — said a number of Liberal MPs are considering not running again if Trudeau remains leader.

The MP said some caucus colleagues believe Trudeau is too unpopular with Canadians and his continued leadership would result in a major loss for the party in the next federal election, expected in 2025. 

“The prime minister’s leadership is damaged beyond repair at this point and the population just doesn’t have time for him anymore,” said the MP.

In his first press conference since the byelection, Prime Minister Trudeau said Wednesday he’s “engaging” with MPs individually but stopped short of committing to an in-person meeting with his entire caucus.

“Last week’s byelection loss, not to sugarcoat it, was challenging, was something we need to take seriously, and we’ve been engaged in lots of important conversations,” Trudeau said in Montréal.

“I’ve had lots of calls with different members of caucus from across the country, not just in the GTA, to talk about how we make sure we’re continuing our work connecting with Canadians, to make sure we’re continuing to deliver for people.”

Trudeau said Wednesday he has spoken by phone with multiple members of caucus from across the country since the byelection loss.

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The unnamed Liberal MP who spoke to CBC News said some caucus members want Trudeau to call every caucus member individually — not just a select few — because many of them are alarmed after losing Toronto-St.Paul’s.

“My view is the prime minister has to begin seriously engaging caucus, something that hasn’t been done since 2015,” the MP said.

“Any good general makes sure his soldiers are appreciated. And caucus members who are soldiers in all this, they’re not feeling that.”

WATCH: Trudeau dodges questions about meeting MPs after Toronto by-election loss

Trudeau dodges questions about meeting MPs after Toronto byelection loss

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Toronto-St. Paul’s byelection loss was “challenging” when asked by reporters if he will hold a national caucus meeting with Liberal MPs to discuss his leadership.

Conservative Don Stewart won Toronto-St. Paul’s with 42.1 per cent of the vote to Liberal candidate Leslie Church’s 40.4 per cent. Prior to that result, conservative candidates hadn’t been competitive in the riding since the 1980s.

Since that loss, Trudeau has faced a backlash from some party members. George Chahal, a Liberal MP for Calgary Skyview, informed colleagues on Friday by email that he had co-signed a letter to Liberal national caucus chair Brenda Shanahan requesting an in-person meeting in Ottawa.

Chahal said eight other MPs co-signed the letter. He said he would leave it to them to identify themselves.

Trudeau said he is giving MPs the opportunity to speak with him individually about their concerns but sidestepped questions about holding a full, in-person caucus meeting.

Trudeau argued Wednesday that he is the right leader to fight back against rising populism in Canada and elsewhere.

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“There is a challenge faced by democracies all around the world right now, whether we look at what’s going on in France, whether we look at the election in the United States,” he said.

Democracies are being challenged, Trudeau said, by an “erosion of democratic principles and rights.”

The unnamed MP who spoke to CBC News said major policy changes won’t be enough to revive the party’s fortunes.

Instead, the MP said Trudeau should seriously consider stepping down to make way for a leader who isn’t closely associated with him — someone like former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.

In the week since the byelection loss, current and former Liberal MPs have called for Trudeau to resign as party leader — at first privately with journalists, and now publicly. 

Catherine McKenna, Trudeau’s former environment minister, became the first person who served in his cabinet to call on him to step down.

The chair of the United Nations Secretary-General's High-level Expert Group on Net-Zero Commitments, Catherine McKenna, delivers a speech during a UN expert panel at the COP27 climate conference at the Sharm el-Sheikh International Convention Centre, in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of the same name, on November 8, 2022.
Former environment minister Catherine McKenna last week became the first former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet to call on him to step down. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Liberal Party isn’t about one person. It’s about the values it stands for and it’s about improving the lives of Canadians,” she said in a media statement. 

“The prime minister has a legacy to be proud of, but it’s time for new ideas, new energy and a new leader.”

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that two additional former MPs — Wayne Easter, who served in the House of Commons from 1993 to 2021, and John Manley, who served from 1988 to 2004 — also feel that Trudeau must resign as party leader. Former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould added her “+1” to the Globe’s story when it was posted on X.

On Friday, Liberal backbencher Wayne Long became the first Liberal caucus member to openly call for Trudeau’s resignation.

“For the future of our party and for the good of our country, we need new leadership and a new direction,” the New Brunswick MP wrote in an email to all 155 Liberal MPs last week.

“The voters have spoken loud and clear they want change. I agree.”

The Liberal MP who spoke to CBC News confidentially said some caucus members aren’t calling publicly for Trudeau’s resignation because they don’t want to be taken off committees, lose out on parliamentary secretary positions or fail to get their nomination papers signed as a consequence of speaking out.

‘Prime Minister Trudeau is our leader,’ Champagne says

The prime minister said Liberal MPs and party members who have asked for him to step down are part of the “range of perspectives and voices within the Liberal Party” that give the party its strength.

Other voices within the party are publicly backing Trudeau, including Nepean MP Chandra Arya, who publicly criticized the prime minister for dragging the “government too far left of centre.”

“I reaffirm my trust and confidence in PMJT and look forward to fighting the next election under his leadership,” he said in a social media post over the weekend.

WATCH: Cabinet ministers say they still support Justin Trudeau after Toronto byelection loss 

Cabinet ministers say they still support Justin Trudeau after Toronto byelection loss

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Karina Gould, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson respond to reporter questions about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership and whether he should meet with caucus before September to discuss last week’s poor byelection result.

Speaking at a separate event in Montréal Wednesday, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters he still backs Trudeau to lead the party.

“I have been, again, very clear that Prime Minister Trudeau is our leader and he’s been able to bring a team around him to make sure that we delivered for Canadians,” Champagne said.

“The best way to win is to focus on Canadians. This has always been the recipe for success and it will always be the recipe.”

Government House leader Karina Gould told reporters in Burlington, Ont. on Wednesday that “Justin Trudeau is the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.”

“I support him obviously and I think the thing we need to do as a team is to focus on issues that matter for Canadians and go and win the election,” she said.

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