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By-election Bombshell! Justin Trudeau’s Liberals lose safe Toronto riding


8 minute read

JUN 25, 2024

Benefit of hindsight

Feel free to start coming back any time, big guy

Well, of course I saw it coming all along. What kind of fool could have imagined the Liberal in Toronto — St. Paul’s had any chance?

Hang on. I’m just getting word that I didn’t see it coming. In fact, as recently as Monday night I wrote a post I’ll be hearing about until the cows come home. Sorry about that!

Here are the actual final results, barring any recounts, which may not happen because Conservative Don Stewart’s margin of victory, while slim, is too large to trigger an automatic recount.

Congratulations, Don Stewart! I never doubted you’d win. Hang on. I’m just getting word that I doubted you’d win as recently as last night.

Things will now start to happen quickly. Expect Liberals to work their way through four of the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief before lunch. Denial will come easily, benefiting as it does from long practice. Acceptance may take longer.

The Paul Wells newsletter is fun reading even when I’m calling the results of a by-election wrong! Imagine how much you’ll enjoy it when I’m right about something!

In part this is because on paper there isn’t that much to accept. The day’s news is not earth-shaking and, in isolation, should not be taken as definitive. It’s true that by-elections are strange events, though if you add them together they do have some predictive power. It’s true that Leslie Church’s long service as Chrystia Freeland’s chief of staff turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help, a data point whose implications the Deputy Prime Minister won’t want to think much about today. It’s true the Liberals didn’t even try all that hard, if by “didn’t try all that hard” you mean “they tried as hard as they possibly could, my God they tried so hard, my God.”

But a single off-season defeat in a riding the Liberals have, in fact, previously lost during the Paleozoic era is not a larger thing to accept than, say, a punishing loss to Ireland and Norway in a Security Council vote at the UN. Or the loss of two senior cabinet ministers in a controversy in which the ministers who quit were radiantly, obviously in the right. Don’t take my word on that, incidentally: ask David Lametti, who agreed with Jody Wilson-Raybould but managed to keep his job anyway. For a while.

A single by-election defeat is not a larger thing to accept than the prime minister’s documented history of slapping on dark makeup for social occasions, a habit that stretched from junior college to young adulthood. It’s not a bigger deal than firing your finance minister during a global fiscal calamity so you can replace him with somebody who knows less about money. It’s not evidence of poorer strategic thinking than the choice of Parliament as the venue for dismantling a new Conservative leader, given that Parliament has long been where Justin Trudeau and most of his government perform worst.

It’s not a bigger deal than mocking monetary policy during an election campaign. It’s not a big new development, compared to the Prime Minister’s reluctance to meet his own cabinet ministers to discuss business, an oddity of his management style that’s been documented in a growing number of books (look out for Marc Garneau’s this fall!).


The prime minister has been on the ropes before, so to speak, and all those trials have made him the man he is today. Or rather, I suppose, his response to them has. I have no particular advice for Justin Trudeau today, or to the party he leads with the unstinting consent of its members. I screwed up last night by sending a column before the facts were in, so I’m feeling a little sheepish this morning. I’ll let Liberals decide what to do next.

As recently as two summers ago, I used to give them advice. It amounted to this: Notice when something you’re doing isn’t working. Change it. Make sure people see you changing it, so you don’t look quite so full of yourself. Rinse and repeat.

That post from 2022 ends:

“Don’t worry. He won’t take this advice either. Whatever the Liberal leader does on his return from the sunless south, it probably won’t resemble anything we’ve mentioned today. He’ll probably keep doing what he’s been doing. With the same results.”

Let me read to you

My excellent short bestselling book, Justin Trudeau on the Ropes: Governing in Troubled Times, is now an audiobook, narrated by the author, who is me. Here it is on Audible. Other platforms soon.

Here’s the story of the book, if you’re just catching up. Here’s an episode of my podcast with guest host Vassy Kapelos interviewing me about the book. Paper and ebook editions remain easy to find and buy, for yourself or friends.

We decided to make the audiobook some time after we published the, uh, more booky formats. It’s a response to surprising and gratifying demand. It’s also a promissory note: If this belated audiobook edition finds an audience, it won’t be my last.

There’s a school of thought that says there’s not much demand for nonfiction Canadian audiobooks. Here’s your chance to confound the skeptics. Thanks as always for your support.

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Trudeau’s bureaucrat hiring spree is out of control

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano

Bureaucrats love to think of themselves as “public servants,” but who is really serving who around here?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added another 10,525 bureaucrats to the taxpayer payroll last year. Since becoming prime minister, Trudeau has added more than 108,000 new federal bureaucrats.

That’s a 42 per cent increase in the federal bureaucracy in less than a decade.

Ask yourself, are you getting 42 per cent better services from the federal government? Unless your paycheque comes from taxpayers, the answer is a big fat NO.

While Trudeau’s bureaucracy grew by 42 per cent, Canada’s population grew by 14 per cent.

That means there would be 72,491 fewer federal paper pushers had Trudeau kept growth in the bureaucracy in line with population growth.

It’s not just the size of the bureaucracy that’s ballooning – the cost is too.

The total cost of the federal payroll hit $67 billion last year, a record high. That’s a 68 per cent increase over 2016.

Trudeau gave federal bureaucrats more than one million pay raises in the last four years alone.

Since taking office, Trudeau also rubberstamped about $1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded bonuses to bureaucrats working in federal departments.

The bonuses were paid out despite the Parliamentary Budget Officer finding “less than 50 per cent of [performance] targets are consistently met.”

Then there’s the bonuses at failing Crown corporations.

CBC dished out $15 million in bonuses last year, while their President and CEO Catherine Tait whined about “chronic underfunding” and begged the government for more taxpayer cash. The CBC takes more than $1 billion from taxpayers every year.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation dished out $102 million in bonuses over the last four years, while Canadians couldn’t afford to buy a home. The bonuses rained down, despite the CMHC repeatedly claiming it’s “driven by one goal: housing affordability for all.”

The Bank of Canada dished out more than $60 million in bonuses over the last three years, even though it failed to do its one and only job: keep inflation low and around two per cent.

The average annual compensation for a full-time federal bureaucrat is $125,300, when pay, pension and perks are accounted for, according to the PBO.

There are now more than 110,000 federal bureaucrats taking home a six-figure base salary – an increase of 154 per cent since Trudeau took power.

Meanwhile, data from Statistics Canada suggests the average annual salary among all full-time workers in Canada was less than $70,000 in 2023.

Here’s why all this matters:

First, it’s an issue of fairness. The last few years have spelled hardship for Canadians who don’t work for the government, but do pay the bills.

Countless Canadians were sent to the ranks of the unemployed, lost their business and struggled to afford rising rents and costly grocery trips.

They’re paying higher taxes so more highly-paid bureaucrats can take bigger paycheques.

Second, more than half of the federal government’s day-to-day spending is consumed by the bureaucracy. That means any government that wants to fix the budget dumpster fire must shrink the bureaucracy.

Let’s recap:

Taxpayers paid for 108,000 new federal bureaucrats. Taxpayers paid for more than one million pay raises over the last four years. Taxpayers paid for more than $1 billion in bonuses.

And bureaucrats barely meet even half of their performance targets – targets they set for themselves.

It’s clear Trudeau’s bureaucratic bloat isn’t serving taxpayers. It’s time to find a pin and pop Ottawa’s ballooning bureaucracy.

This column was first published in the Western Standard on July 202, 2024.

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We’re Getting Poorer: GDP per Capita in Canada and the OECD

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From the Fraser Institute

By Alex Whalen and Milagros Palacios and Lawrence Schembri

Canada lost ground compared to key allies and trading partners such as the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia between 2014 and 2022.

Canada had the third-lowest growth in GDP per person from 2014 to 2022 among 30 advanced economies, finds a new study published by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“In terms of GDP per person, a broad measure of living standards, Canada’s performance has weakened substantially in recent years,” said Alex Whalen, director of the Fraser Institute’s Atlantic Canada Prosperity Initiative and co-author of We’re Getting Poorer: GDP per Capita in Canada and the OECD, 2002–2060.

The study, which examines Canada’s historic and projected GDP per capita growth compared to similar OECD countries, finds that from 2002 to 2014, Canadian income growth as measured by GDP per person roughly kept pace with the rest of the OECD, but from 2014 to 2022 Canada’s growth rate stagnated.

In 2002, Canada’s GDP per capita was higher than the OECD average by US$3,141. By 2022, it had fallen well below the OECD average by US$231. Canada lost ground compared to key allies and trading partners such as the United
States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia between 2014 and 2022.

For example, Canadian GDP per person in 2014 was $44,710 (80.4 per cent of the US total of $55,605) but by 2022, Canada was only at $46,035 versus $63,685 in the US. In other words, the gap had grown from $10,895 to $17,649 by 2022 (all measures in inflation-adjusted US dollars).

“Canada has been experiencing a collapse in investment, low productivity growth, and a large and growing government sector, all of which contribute to reduced growth in living standards compared to our peer countries in the OECD,” said Lawrence Schembri, a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and co-author.

  • This research bulletin examines historical and projected trends in the growth of Canada’s GDP per capita, and compares these trends to those in peer countries in the OECD.
  • Canadians have been getting poorer relative to residents of other countries in the OECD. From 2002 to 2014, Canadian income growth as measured by GDP per capita roughly kept pace with the rest of the OECD. From 2014 to 2022, however, Canada’s position declined sharply, ranking third-lowest among 30 countries for average growth over the period.
  • Between 2012 and 2022, Canada lost ground compared to key allies and trading partners such as the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, with Canadian GDP per capita declining from 80.4% of the US level in 2012 to 72.3% in 2022.
  • Looking forward to 2060, Canada’s projected average annual growth rate for GDP per capita (0.78%) is the lowest among 30 OECD countries.
  • Canada’s GDP per capita (after adjusting by inflation), which exceeded the OECD average by US$3,141 in 2002 and was roughly equivalent to the OECD average in 2022, is projected to fall below the OECD average by US$8,617 in 2060.
  • The root cause of Canada’s declining long-term growth in GDP per capita—recent and projected—is very low or negative growth in labour productivity reflecting weak investment in physical and human capital per worker.
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