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Byelection Upset: Conservatives Seize Liberal Stronghold in Toronto, Dealing Blow to Trudeau

In a stunning upset that reverberated through the political sphere, Conservative candidate Don Stewart clinched victory in a tightly contested byelection that extended into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The race in the fiercely contested Toronto byelection transformed a traditionally secure Liberal stronghold into a battleground, causing significant concern among Liberals as a seat the party had previously won with a 24-point margin in the 2021 federal election became fiercely contested.

A loss in this riding raises new uncertainties about the future of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose approval ratings have recently reached historic lows. The NDP secured third place with 11 percent of the vote.

The prolonged counting process was attributed to an unusually extensive ballot featuring 84 names, each receiving minimal votes, which delayed results well beyond the poll closing time.

The downtown Toronto constituency had long been considered a Liberal fortress, held by the party since 1993. Former MP and cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett represented the riding from 1997 until earlier this year when she retired. Bennett had secured a 24-point victory in 2021 and a more than 30-point margin in 2019. Even during the Liberals’ reduced seat count in 2011, they maintained a comfortable eight-point lead in St. Paul’s.

Vying to succeed Bennett was Liberal candidate Church, formerly Chief of Staff to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. She faced stiff competition from Conservative contender Stewart, with additional candidates including Amrit Parhar for the NDP, Christian Cullis for the Greens, and Dennis Wilson for the People’s Party.

The extensive ballot list was largely a strategy by the activist group, the Longest Ballot Committee, aimed at highlighting Trudeau’s unfulfilled promise on electoral reform. Elections Canada noted the potential for delayed results due to the ballot’s size but anticipated final counts by the evening; however, results continued to trickle in more than six hours after polls closed.

Recent polls indicated a substantial 20-point lead for the Conservatives nationwide and significant advantages in Ontario, although the Liberals were expected to retain the riding. A Liberal defeat in such a secure seat would constitute a significant setback for the government, potentially prompting internal pressure on Trudeau to resign.

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