Justin, the byelection disaster is about you

On Tuesday the voters in Toronto St-Paul’s did a favour for the Liberal party and the country. The party should accept the gift. The Conservative win this week was unexpected. The riding had been represented since 1997 by Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett, who won the last election by 24%.

Leading up to Tuesday’s vote pundits were saying that any win by less than 10% this time would be a serious negative message for the Liberals. Lots of ministers, MP’s, and staffers knocked on doors for their candidate. Losing the seat was a shock.

Acknowledging that it was not the result he hoped for, Trudeau said, “I want to be clear that I hear Canadians 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.”

He seems immune to the possibility that Canadians who are having hard times blame his policies and programs for their situation, and that the prospect of him and his team working hard to provide more of the same is not what they want.

For this result to occur, a lot of voters who support the Liberals as a matter of habit must have seen this as a chance to send a message of dissatisfaction. Many diehard Liberal supporters will have concluded that their party has no chance for success in the 2025 general election with Trudeau as leader.

Some of them will be affected by the capital gains tax and notice that a number of their friends and neighbours expect to be likewise impacted. They rightly conclude that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s assertion that only 1.3 in a thousand people will be affected is hugely understated.

In an Angus Reid poll, one in five Canadians say the tax increase will cost them more over the next five years. Those opposing the increase outnumber those supporting it, in total and for every age group.

It may not have occurred to the Liberals that the increased tax will diminish the estates of many households whose income is far below that of the 0.13%. Perhaps they have owned and rented a condo or two for a decade, or have gradually accumulated a significant long-term holding of non-registered investments.

The added tax will take a big bite out of many family inheritances. Both the parents and the beneficiaries will resent it.

As was documented in this space in May, Canadians have learned that the impact of the carbon tax goes well beyond what they might expect from the carbon tax rebate.

They resent being misled as much as they resent the consequences. Unsurprisingly, they doubt the advocacy for the new capital gains tax.

Many taxpayers may be wondering why the Liberals are launching dental and pharmacare programs when the performance of the existing health care programs is clearly inadequate.

In a scathing Globe and Mail commentary Andrew Coyne says the Trudeau Liberals have achieved “a rare trifecta of cynicism, ideology and incompetence.”

The Conservatives are already enjoying a resilient18% lead in the polls. Yet there is no evidence that Trudeau will step down after this repudiation.

And if he did, who would replace him? Whether they were her ideas or not, Minster Freeland owns the deceptions on the carbon tax and the capital gains tax increase.

Ministers currently or recently involved in Defence (Blair, Anand), Housing (Fraser, Hussen), and Immigration (Fraser, Miller) own some of the big issues that have been mismanaged.

Dominic LeBlanc helms the ministry of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions, and Intergovernmental Affairs, which should be dealing with foreign interference in elections. He let it be known that he would run for the leadership if there was a contest but then denied it when asked by reporters.

Some Liberal members of Parliament are telling reporters anonymously that they need a change but there are no evident leaders. The caucus needs to show courage.

Canadians have a dim view of Trudeau, and nothing he can do or say at this point will make a difference. Poll aggregator 338Canada shows the Conservatives winning three times as many seats as the Liberals on present form. More than half of the Liberal incumbents would lose their seats.

A new leader from within the caucus would still be unlikely to win the October 2025 election, but the damage might be reduced.

A credible new leader from outside caucus (former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney is often mentioned) would be much better because they would not own the history and could undo some of the poor choices under Trudeau. They are unlikely to win in 2025, but could substantially reduce the damage and credibly begin the rebuilding process.

The startling outcome in the by-election was a needed trigger. The caucus can and should make the most of the opportunity.


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