Toronto-St. Paul

Toronto-St. Paul, the UK, and Justin Trudeau

There was a federal by-election in Toronto-St. Paul on Monday. The Conservative Party won the seat in what is considered a significant upset. The riding has been represented by the Liberals for 50 of the last 62 years, the Conservatives for 12. In fact, the last time a Conservative held the riding ended with their near-complete wipe out in the 1993 election.

At the same time, there’s an election underway in the UK and the Conservatives appear to be on the way to a pretty epic defeat. Here and abroad, folks are looking to the 1993 Canadian federal election as a potential parallel for who may end up on Downing Street when the dust settles on the 4th of July.

Meanwhile here in Canada, we’re not too far from a federal election ourselves and depending on how you look at it, there may be a stronger parallel right here at home than across the pond.

Canada vs the UK

When you dig in to the 1993 Canadian election, you may not find as much in common with the UK as you think. Are the UK Tories on the way to a major defeat? Sure, that looks pretty much guaranteed. Will they be reduced to a rump caucus of just a few? That is not so clear.

In the ’93 federal election, the polls were tight walking into the campaign and as the campaign wore on the Liberal lead grew. One notable faux-pas that hindered the PC campaign was an attack ad that mocked Liberal leader, Jean Chrétien’s Bell’s Palsy – a low blow that Canadians at the time had to tolerance for.

By the end of the campaign the polls reflected what was about to happen in terms of vote share though no one was willing to predict the epic collapse from 156 seats to a mere two (Jean Charest in Québec and Else Wayne in New Brunswick, both of whom overcame the brand and won on their own merit.).

In the UK right now, the polls aren’t really looking much like they did in Canada in 1993.

Toronto-St. Paul

Let’s return to Canada where the political fortunes for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives resemble Jean Chretien’s with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals failing to overcome a year of declining fortunes in the polls.

This by-election was viewed as an indicator of what is to come and while it has been called a “shock” anyone who has been watching may have anticipated a slightly different outcome but I doubt many were actually surprised. Whether you like him or not, Justin Trudeau is past his best before date.

Almost anyone watching the by-election knew it was going to be tight, I hoped for a Liberal win. I expected it to be a razor thin Liberal win. I was wrong. Sadly, as far as I can see it, it looks like hope is on the way out.

Credible analysis is consistently showing pundits and pollsters unable to find a path back for Trudeau. According to the Globe and Mail this morning, two former Liberal cabinet ministers have said Trudeau must go. At this point, it may even be too late to turn around party fortunes even with a new leader.

The NDP split the vote!

I’ve already heard people blaming “progressive vote splitting,” for what happened here. The 4,044 NDP votes are not to blame for the collapse of the Liberal vote (a 50% drop from 30,000+ votes in 2021 to 14,965 on Monday).

Were that the case, it would have been a problem in each of the past four votes in this district where the NDP vote was consistently double this result.

When considering that NDP vote, if anything, the Singh-Trudeau confidence and supply agreement might be to blame for the Dipper’s decline in support.

This is not a time to be in denial

For those comparing the UK election to 1993, turn your focus back home because all indications are there might be a near-future repeat of 1993 but it is looking more and more like it will be a flip with the Liberals wiped out.

I found Erin O’Toole to be a big tent Conservative who was a palatable opposition leader. I can not say the same for Pierre Poilievre. I fear his style of politics.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the 2019 graduating class at Harvard. As a steadfast opponent of Donald Trump, she called upon the graduates to “…discuss the issues of our time under the maxim of truth. That requires us not to describe lies as truth and truth as lies.”

Like Trump, Poilievre is happy to describe lies as truth. We should all fear that distinction.

Reality check: Canadians are looking for change. Change is coming and, currently, Poilievre is viewed as the only option.

We can to try to explain away the polls, the Toronto-St. Paul result, and, perhaps most importantly, the ‘feeling on the ground’ across the country but that is nothing shy of fool hardy.

If the Liberals are to turn around this potential wipe out, something’s gotta give.

It is time to stop trying to explain it all away and look at what changes are required to save the party from complete collapse.

And yes, that should include looking at the leadership.

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