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A seat the Liberals once considered secure is now up for grabs in a hotly contested byelection.

The upcoming byelection in Toronto—St. Paul’s is set to be a closer affair if recent polls are to be believed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the byelection after longtime Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett announced she would be resigning the seat she had held for 26 years straight. 

In the past 30 years, winning Toronto—St. Paul’s has become a foregone conclusion for the Liberal Party, as the party has won the riding every single time since the Progressive Conservatives lost the seat in a landslide defeat in 1993.

However, the byelection is now a tight race between the Liberal candidate Leslie Church and the Conservative candidate Don Stewart. 

Church is a long-time Liberal operative, serving as the communications director for Michael Ignatiff’s ill-fated run for the Liberal leadership in 2006. 

After a stint in the private sector working at Google, Church returned to working for the Liberals after they had formed government in 2015, serving as the chief of staff for several cabinet ministers.

Most recently, Church had been Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s chief of staff, serving in the role for two years.

Church claims to have roots in the Toronto—St. Paul’s riding, saying she attended the University of Toronto and worked in the city.

Church has received notable endorsements from local city councillor Josh Matlow, deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie and former deputy mayor Ana Bailão,  

Church is expected to win the riding for the Liberals as her predecessor had, as the party had won Toronto St. Paul’s with 49.2% of the vote, far ahead of the Conservative candidate who garnered 25.6% and the NDP’s 16.8%.

However, Conservative candidate Don Stewart is seeking to flip the seat for the first time since the Progressive Conservatives won the riding in 1988. 

Before getting into politics, Stewart worked as a financial analyst on Bay. St, working for the Bank of Montreal before joining the investment bank Morgan Stanley. 

Notably, Stewart had worked as a managing director for Jenni Bryne + Associates, the self-titled consulting company of Pierre Poilievre’s campaign manager.

In his most recent role, Stewart served as a director for the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization.

While the Conservatives had lost by a large margin in the previous election, polls show that the party has made significant progress in attracting support in the downtown Toronto riding.

Observers have noted that the area’s sizeable Jewish community have expressed disappointment with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war while the Conservatives have staked out a strong pro-Israel position. 

Ahead of the byelection, the Trudeau government listed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity in Canada, after several years of demands for them to do so.

According to the polling aggregation site 338Canada, the Conservatives are polling within five points of the Liberals, with the NDP’s Amrit Parhar projected to finish a distant third. 

While Toronto—St. Paul’s has gone for the Liberals in the past 30 years, prior to the 1993 election, the riding had been won by the governing party in every election since 1935. 

Right now, the Conservatives are the most popular party in the country, projected to win 42% of the vote to the Liberals’ 21% according to a recent Angus Reid poll.