Source: Facebook

In a remarkable upset for a traditionally Liberal stronghold, Conservative candidate Don Stewart has won the federal byelection for Toronto–St. Paul’s.

Stewart was elected with 42.1% of the vote, narrowly edging out Liberal candidate Leslie Church. Stewart had a 590-vote lead over Church by the time all ballots were counted in the early hours of Tuesday morning. NDP candidate Amrit Parhar finished in a distant third with 10.9% of the vote.

Stewart’s election victory marks a huge shift in support in what was once considered a safe riding for the Liberals, who’ve won the seat in every election since 1993. In the 2021 general election, Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett was re-elected with 49.2% of the vote, compared to only 25.6% for the Conservative candidate.

Polls closed Monday at 8:30 p.m. Church was leading for most of the evening as ballots were slow to be counted and reported by Elections Canada. The last numbers did not come until 4:44 a.m. Tuesday morning, by which point Stewart had managed to overtake Church.

The last time a non-Liberal was elected in the riding was in 1988, when Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney won his second majority government. 

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre congratulated Stewart Tuesday morning and called the result proof that Justin Trudeau has to go.

“Congratulations to Common Sense Conservative candidate Don Stewart on a shocking upset in Toronto–St. Paul’s, where people voted to axe the tax, build the homes, fix the budget and stop the crime,” Poilievre wrote on social media. “Here’s the verdict: Trudeau can’t go on like this. He must call a carbon tax election now.”

Both Liberal and Conservative insiders worked to lower expectations for their respective chances in the lead up to Monday’s vote. While the Conservatives are enjoying a massive lead in national polls, that was not expected to hold in the midtown Toronto riding that the Liberals managed to hold onto during their blowout in 2011.

This marks the first byelection in which the Conservatives had gained a seat from the Liberals since the 2021 general election.

Church congratulated Stewart Tuesday morning and said she looked forward to “the rematch.”

“This morning’s close result is disappointing, but it is a beginning, not an end,” Church wrote. “Yesterday voters in Toronto–St. Paul’s sent us a clear message, that they want us to re-earn their trust. I hear that message loud and clear, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”

MP-elected Stewart is an engineer and businessman with years of Bay St. experience. He previously worked as the managing director for Jenni Byrne and Associates, a firm founded by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s chief adviser, Jenni Byrne.

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

Church was a longtime Liberal staffer who previously served as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s chief of staff. She had received significant campaign support from Liberal cabinet ministers and endorsements from a range of local politicians, including Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow, deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie, and former deputy mayor Ana Bailão.