Toronto byelection: Polls close in Toronto-St. Paul's byelection that&#...

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Published Time: 24.06.2024 - 23:14:59 Modified Time: 24.06.2024 - 23:14:59

Former Liberal staffer Leslie Church is running to replace former Liberal MP and cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett, who retired from after representing the riding for 26 years.  Toronto byelection, Toronto byelection, toronto st paul, toronto st pauls

The voting agency also said it erroneously sent out voting information cards to 2,250 voters with the wrong poll location.

The riding is a Liberal stronghold — the midtown seat has been solidly held by the Liberals for more than 30 years

But national polls suggest the Liberals are facing some of their worst levels of support in more than eight years of power. An aggregate of polling shows Conservatives leading by double digits.

Former Liberal staffer Leslie Church is running to replace former Liberal MP and cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett, who retired from after representing the riding for 26 years. 

Church is up against Conservative candidate Don Stewart, a former Bay Street worker whose first foray into could be both dramatic and memorable if he flips the riding blue.

Jenni Byrne, a senior adviser to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, said the party is expecting a loss in the riding.

Speaking to CBC News from Stewart's election night party before any results were released, Byrne said Toronto-St. Paul's "will probably stay on the Liberal side of things."

"This is an extremely safe Liberal seat. Sometimes, this is a Liberal seat, and that's what we're going to see tonight," she said.

But she said the Conservatives are "going to see we've done better than we have in the past." 

Byrne said there are questions for the Liberal team if Church's results are much less than what Bennett posted in the last election.

A strong Conservative performance suggests some other supposedly safe Liberal seats like neighbouring Eglinton-Lawrence and Willowdale, and seats in Etobicoke and North York could be in play, Byrne said. 

Many pollsters and pundits say a Conservative victory will put pressure on Trudeau to step down as Liberal leader. Even a Conservative loss — if marginal — could be problematic for him.

"If we do end up on Monday night with a two, three, four, five-point win for the Liberals, the Liberals will be happy to have a win, but that still means that the country is going toward a big majority government for Pierre Poilievre," polls analyst Éric Grenier, who runs thewrit.ca, said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.

Toronto-St. Paul's is seen as one of the safest ridings in the country for the Liberals. Even in 2011, when the party suffered its worst-ever result and was reduced to third-party status in Parliament, the Liberals took the riding by more than eight points.

David Coletto, chair and CEO of Abacus Data, said he believes the Liberals need to win by 10 points or more to give Trudeau a credible path forward.

"I think then the prime minister can probably say, 'Look, we can come back from this. We can convince , persuade to vote Liberal,'" Coletto said on Rosemary Barton Live. "If it is much closer, then I think there's going to be a lot more doubt whether he and the current team are able to achieve some of those things."

The revolving door of prominent Liberals in the riding underscores just how seriously the Liberals are taking this race. Trudeau and at least 13 of his cabinet ministers have campaigned there on behalf of Church ahead of Monday's vote.

"We are taking nothing for granted. The whole team is there with her ... and we're going to keep on working until the last minute," Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Sunday.

Also on the ballot is NDP candidate Amrit Parhar, Christian Cullis for the Greens, 's Party of Canada candidate Dennis Wilson and a flood of candidates unaffiliated with any party.

Dozens of independents have entered the race as part of an organized protest against Canada's first-past-the-post voting system. A record 84 candidates are on the federal ballot, making it almost a metre long, according to Elections Canada. 

Already more than 10,000 ballots have been cast during the four-day advance poll two weekends ago — an estimated 12.7 per cent of the riding's 84,668 registered voters.

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & . He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at jp.tasker@cbc.ca

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