In email to caucus, Liberal MP says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should step down

A Liberal MP who is not seeking re-election has sent an email to fellow caucus members calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step down as party leader. Wayne Long, MP for Saint John-Rothesay speaks during a visit by Trudeau to a new housing project in Saint John, N.B., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Hawkins
Original Publication Date June 28, 2024 - 3:31 PM

OTTAWA - One Liberal MP who is not seeking re-election has sent an email to fellow caucus members calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step down as party leader.

Another suggested it may be time to put that question to the party's membership.

But the prime minister showed no signs of blinking Friday as he was greeted by happy throngs of supporters at both a party fundraiser and a campaign-style stop at the Taste of Asia festival in a Toronto suburb.

Tension in the Liberal caucus increased since the party lost the stronghold seat of Toronto—St. Paul’s to the Conservatives by about 600 votes on Monday.

Liberals had claimed the urban riding as theirs for about 30 years, even during their worst electoral showing ever in 2011. Some Liberal MPs attribute the loss to the choice of candidate and insufficient campaigning, while others point to Trudeau as the problem.

Public support for the prime minister has tanked since 2021, amid high inflation, soaring housing costs and immigration levels which have outpaced Canada's plan for accommodating that many more newcomers.

A large group of MPs, including several cabinet ministers, have backed Trudeau this week, insisting there is nobody better to try and turn things back around.

But as the byelection loss sunk in, and many Liberal MPs look ahead to what it meant for their own future prospects, there are also several who are manoeuvring behind the scenes to push Trudeau out.

Wayne Long, elected to represent Saint John — Rothesay in New Brunswick since 2015, wrote in an email to his caucus mates Friday that it's time for Trudeau to go.

"After reflecting on this week’s defeat in Toronto—St Paul’s and then seeing the response, I want you to know clearly and directly where I stand," Long wrote in the email, obtained by The Canadian Press.

"For the future of our party and for the good of our country we need new leadership and a new direction. The voters have spoken loud and clear they want change. I agree."

Long, who announced last year he won't seek a fourth term, did not respond to a request for comment.

According to a media report by Global News, Newfoundland and Labrador MP Ken McDonald responded to the email by writing "well said."

McDonald publicly called for a leadership review in January, but later walked those comments back.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who said in January he wouldn't run a fourth time in his Toronto riding of Beaches — East York, posted a four-minute long video to X late Friday afternoon, saying he doesn't know if Trudeau should stay or go but also said it shouldn't be up to him.

"It seems to me there is one way to answer the question," Erskine-Smith said. "And that's to put it to the Liberal membership. Forget the anonymous Liberal MP quotes in the media, of which I will never be one. Let's have members, activists, organizers and grassroots donors across this country decide. That's what I would do if I was the Prime Minister. Rally the troops. Tell us why you want it and what comes next. Put it to the members."

Erskine-Smith said Trudeau deserves a chance to make his case, noting his success reviving the Liberals after 2011, and his success implementing progressive polices on climate change, child poverty, child care and social housing.

Questions about Trudeau's future have swirled around the Ottawa bubble for months, as his party fell further and further behind Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives. Trudeau has always said he will continue to lead until voters say otherwise.

His message on that front has not changed since Monday, though he has not answered any questions since then about the loss or what it means.

On Friday, during a speech to a crowded room at a party fundraiser in Markham, Ont., he didn't speak of the byelection but did look ahead to the next election.

He reiterated his common refrain that the vote, which has to take place by early fall 2025, will be a serious choice between his party and all it stands for, and Poilievre, who he says will tear all that down.

"That's the heart of the choice that Canadians are going to get to make. In the next election," Trudeau said.

"Do we continue to build a forward, ambitious optimist country or do we go back on the fight against climate, on women's rights, on stronger communities, on support for the most vulnerable. All the things that make us the very best country in the world."

Earlier Friday, the Toronto Star reported that Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault was overheard in a train station this week discussing the situation and the unrest among the caucus.

Guilbeault responded to the story by issuing a statement that reiterated his loyalty to Trudeau and the party.

"One-sided conversations taken out of context do not reflect the open and honest exchanges that I routinely have with my caucus colleagues," Guilbeault said in the statement Friday.

"As I have said publicly many times, Prime Minister Trudeau has my full support, and I will continue to work to support Canadians."

The Prime Minister's Office declined to comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2024.

— with files from Sharif Hassan in Markham, Ont.

iN RESPONSE: Readers have their say
Following are emailed reader responses to stories or letters to the editor for the third week of July 2024. They have been edited slightly for readability.  Got something you want to add? Send an email to editor Marshall Jones at mjon
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