Politics

Trudeau says he is ‘committed’ to staying as PM after byelection loss

Justin Trudeau says Monday he is “committed” to staying on as prime minister after the Liberals’ shocking Toronto-St. Paul’s byelection loss exactly one week ago.

“There’s always going to be lots of reflection after a tough loss, but there’s also so much to do,” Trudeau told CBC’s Heather Hiscox, answering questions about his future for the first time since the upset.

Before last week’s vote, a Conservative candidate hadn’t been competitive in the federal riding of Toronto-St. Paul’s since the 1980s. The party hadn’t won a seat in urban Toronto since the 2011 federal election.

Conservative Don Stewart secured the breakthrough, beating Liberal candidate Leslie Church by 590 votes. The Liberals won the seat in the 2021 election by well over 10,000 votes.

On Monday, Trudeau remained defiant amid criticism from some in his own party, insisting he is not backing down.

“I am committed to doing the work of building a better Canada every single day, so I look forward to next year’s Canada Day and I look forward to many more Canada Days,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau spoke as part of an annual Canada Day interview with CBC News. He refused to take any questions from media at his events last week.

Calls for Trudeau to resign

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

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

WATCH | Liberal MP calls for Trudeau to go: 

Liberal backbencher, former cabinet minister call on Trudeau to go

New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long has circulated an email to caucus calling for Justin Trudeau to quit as party leader after a recent shock byelection loss in Toronto. This comes after a statement to CBC News from former cabinet minister Catherine McKenna called for “new energy and a new leader.”

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“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 the whole 155-strong Liberal caucus last week.

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

The Saint John-Rothesay MP, who has spoken out against his government in the past, is not re-offering in the next election.

Joining the ranks of former caucus members calling for a new Liberal party leader is Catherine McKenna. She is the first person who served in Trudeau’s cabinet to call on him to quit. 

“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,” said McKenna, who served as a prominent Liberal cabinet minister under Trudeau from 2015 to 2021, in a statement to CBC News. 

“The prime minister has a legacy to be proud of, but it’s time for new ideas, new energy and a new leader. There’s too much at stake in this election, especially on the economy and the climate.”

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that two additional former MPs — Wayne Easter, who served from 2000 to 2001, 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 posted on X.

WATCH | Former Liberal campaign strategist discusses the party’s next steps:

What are the next steps for Trudeau and the Liberals after byelection loss? | Power & Politics

David Herle, chief campaign strategist for the Liberals under former prime minister Paul Martin, told Power & Politics Thursday that Justin Trudeau should be asking himself, ‘What’s the risk of me leaving, what’s the risk of me staying?’ as some Liberal MPs are questioning Trudeau’s leadership following the party’s shocking byelection loss in Toronto-St. Paul’s. 

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On Saturday, Nepean MP Chandra Arya also posted on X, sharing publicly what he wrote to his caucus colleagues with respect to Trudeau’s leadership.

“In my view [Trudeau] has taken [the] party and the government too far left of centre,” wrote Arya. He went on to say the prime minister and his team “have made several wrong policy/strategic choices” over the years, without elaborating what they are.

Arya, however, ended his tweet reaffirming his support in Trudeau’s leadership: “I reaffirm my trust and confidence in [Trudeau] and look forward to fighting the next election under his leadership.”

Arya is among a large group of MPs, including several cabinet ministers, who have publicly backed Trudeau in recent days, insisting he is the one best placed to take on Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

Photos of Conservative Candidate Don Stewart in Toronto St. Paul's Federal By Election. Shortly before 2230 on Election Evening, Mr Stewart came to talk to supporters and took questions from CBC/Radio-Canada.
Conservative candidate Don Stewart hugs a supporter as the results came in during the Toronto-St. Paul’s federal byelection on June 24. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Also over the weekend, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who represents the urban Toronto riding of Beaches-East York, said in a video Trudeau should put the question of his leadership to the Liberal membership. 

“Let’s have members, activists, organizers and grassroots donors across the country decide,” he said.

MPs say Trudeau needs to meet with caucus

A growing number of Liberal MPs have also told CBC News that the national caucus needs to meet as soon as possible to discuss the fallout from the byelection loss, and are arguing the gathering can’t wait until the caucus retreat scheduled for the end of the summer.

Newfoundland and Labrador MP Ken McDonald, who has voted against his own party twice on the carbon tax, stressed the need for an urgent, in-person caucus meeting with Trudeau.

One Liberal MP, Jenica Atwin who represents Fredericton, told CBC News during a media availability Wednesday that “It’s almost a shame that we’re not gathering as a caucus until after the summer, but I think the focus right now is on our community members.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on Monday on the calls for an in-person caucus meeting. Press secretary Jenna Ghassabeh told CBC News the office had nothing to add. Liberal caucus chair Brenda Shanahan did not respond to CBC’s request for comment.

Sources told Radio-Canada that officials from Trudeau’s team started calling caucus members to get feedback on the party’s direction after Liberal candidate Leslie Church’s surprise loss to Conservative candidate Don Stewart.

The fear now that the Liberals’ Toronto fortress has been breached is that few seats can be described as safe. Multiple Liberals have pointed with dread at the soon-to-be-called byelection in LaSalle-Émard-Verdun.

WATCH | PM faces questions after Toronto byelection loss:

Conservative breakthrough in Toronto seen as message to Trudeau, Liberals

A Conservative byelection win in a Toronto stronghold is being seen by many as a message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals that it’s time for major change in the party and who leads it.

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