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Conservatives take Liberal stronghold in last-minute Toronto byelection victory

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Hours after Canadians went to bed disappointed by a Stanley Cup loss Monday night, the Conservatives scored a stunning byelection upset to win in the longtime Liberal stronghold of Toronto-St. Paul’s.

Conservative candidate Don Stewart eked out the win by just 590 votes over Liberal Leslie Church in an early morning upset, yanking away a riding the governing Liberals have held for more than 30 years.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre demanded the prime minister call a snap election after what he described as a “shocking upset” on social media Tuesday morning.

“Here is the verdict: Trudeau can’t go on like this. He must call a carbon tax election now,” Poilievre said on X.

Stewart trailed Church for hours overnight as poll workers slowly counted ballots that were stacked with independent candidates, thanks to a protest group trying to make a point about the first-past-the-post system.

Stewart tried to sound upbeat when he visited his campaign office at around 11:30 p.m., but he didn’t quite succeed as the polls showed his opponent in a steady lead.

“Let’s not give it up,” he said.

Both Stewart and Church had closed up their campaign parties hours before the final results, when it became clear the vote count was going to extend into the early morning hours.

The results flipped just before 4 a.m. when Tories jumped into the lead with just three polls left to be counted.

The results represent a massive victory for Pierre Poilievre and his Conservatives, who haven’t won a single seat in Toronto proper since 2011.

Church said she plans to run again as the Liberal candidate in the next general election.

“Yesterday voters in Toronto-St. Paul’s sent us a clear message, that they want us to re-earn their trust,” Church said in a statement posted to X Tuesday morning.

“They want a government that fulfils its promise to be there for them.”

The race was considered a must-win for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the loss is a massive blow that could trigger calls for him to step down after 11 years as Liberal leader.

The crushing defeat for the Liberals is a kick to a party that is already down in the polls. The vote proves the polls reflect reality, said Scott Reid, who worked as the director of communications for former prime minister Paul Martin.

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how consequential this byelection loss is,” said Reid, who woke to the news Tuesday morning.

“Its implications could be vast for the government, for the prime minister, for the timing of the next election. I mean, this is a Yahtzee.”

Typically, when Conservatives do well in urban ridings, it’s because the New Democrats have siphoned off support from left-wing voters, said Ginny Roth, a Conservative strategist who served as Poilievre’s director of communications during his leadership race.

That wasn’t true for Monday’s byelection, when the Liberals and Conservatives went head-to-head and the NDP candidate garnered only 11 per cent of the votes.

But if the same holds true for other seats across the country, it could change the strategic dynamics of the next election, Roth said Tuesday.

“It’s a really buoyant, exciting prospect for Conservatives who, I think, now can point to a very broad coalition of support,” she said.

The contest was Stewart’s first election. The financial executive has close ties to the Conservative party as a longtime organizer and a former colleague of Jenni Byrne, an informal Poilievre adviser.

Toronto-St. Paul’s, in the city’s midtown area, includes some of Toronto’s wealthiest addresses as well as an above-average number of renters, and one of the largest concentrations of Jewish voters in the country.

Carolyn Bennett, the former Liberal cabinet minister whose resignation in January triggered this byelection, won the seat nine times for the Liberals, and by more than 20 percentage points every time except once.

But the Liberal campaign was challenged by a cranky electorate that lost patience with Trudeau amid soaring inflation, unaffordable housing and a rise in hate crimes since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Conservatives appealed to the riding’s Jewish community during the race, urging them to vote for the Tory candidate to send a message to Trudeau about what they describe as silence in the face of a rise in antisemitism.

This report by The Canadian Press was first publishedJune 25, 2024.

— With files from Mia Rabson and Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa and Sheila Reid in Toronto

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Dynamo find a way to overshadow Whitecaps’ comeback with late goals

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VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps demonstrated how good they can be, but also showed they still need to be better in a 4-3 loss to the Houston Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday night that snapped their six-game unbeaten streak.

Striker Fafa Picault scored twice and assisted on a goal by defender Ranko Veselinovic as the Whitecaps battled back from a 2-0, first-half deficit to take a 3-2 lead. The Dynamo then stunned the crowd of 24,114 at BC Place Stadium by scoring twice in nine minutes for the road win.

“It’s tough when you concede two goals like that,” said Veselinovic. “They were all good goals, but we need to do better as a team not to allow them to arrive at those spots so easy.”

Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scored his second goal of the night with a shot through traffic in the 87th minute. The Dynamo’s Brad Smith tied the match 3-3 with a blast that went past Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka’s hand in the 78th minute.

“We couldn’t finish,” said Veselinovic. “I’m happy how we responded in the second half. It’s just we lack in some games this season the maturity to close out games.”

Adding to the loss, Vancouver all-star striker Ryan Gauld left the game in the 24th minute with a right knee injury.

Head coach Vanni Sartini said he didn’t know if the injury will prevent Gauld from playing in Wednesday’s MLS all-star game.

Picault’s first goal came on a header in the 48th minute. He gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead in the 66th minute when he directed in a pass from defender Sam Adekugbe. Picault has scored eight times across all competitions, and it was his third consecutive game with a goal.

Veselinovic tied the match in the 54th minute, heading in a ball sent into the box by Picault.

The Whitecaps (11-8-5) lost for the first time in six MLS games (4-1-1) and seven (5-1-1) across all competitions.

Midfielder Coco Carrasquilla also scored for the Dynamo (10-7-7) who have just one loss in their last 10 matches (5-1-4).

The loss drops Vancouver into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with 38 points while Houston climbed into sixth with 37.

Carrasquilla put Houston ahead in the 29th minute. Ibrahim Aliyu made a couple nice moves around the Whitecap defenders then fed the ball to Carrasquilla in front of the net. His shot went off Veselinovic and past goalkeeper Takaoka.

Dorsey took advantage of a broken play to put Houston up 2-0 in the 36th minute. A shot deflected off Vancouver defender Bjorn Utvik and rolled to Dorsey, who scored on a long shot that curved inside the right post.

Sartini liked the fight his team showed to get back into the game but wasn’t happy with the finish.

“It’s been an unfortunate night,” he said. “I think this game will bring us even closer (together) as a team.

“There’s a lot of positives that we can take from tonight.”

Before the game the Whitecaps announced Quinn Thompson had been named the team’s technical director. Reporting to sporting director Axel Schuster, Thompson will oversee roster construction and salary budget, player relations, plus player recruitment strategy along with senior director of analytics, insights, and research Dr. Johann Windt.

Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Vancouver, is the youngest technical director in the league.

Gauld injured himself battling for the ball in the 24th minute. He was sprawled on the field for several minutes then left the pitch under his own steam, returned to play briefly but was replaced a few minutes later by Brian Raposo.

NOTES

Vancouver had a shot on goal four minutes into the game. The Dynamo didn’t allow a shot in goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday. … The Whitecaps and Dynamo play again Sept. 18 in Houston. … Vancouver’s last loss was 2-0 in Portland on June 22. … The Whitecaps play seven of their final 11 league games at home. … Not dressed for the Whitecaps were defenders Tristan Blackmon (groin) and Mathias Laborda (ankle) plus goalkeeper Joe Bendik (back). … The Whitecaps celebrated their 11th anniversary Pride Match with a ’Caps & Queens Drag Happy Hour outside of BC Place before the game.

UP NEXT

The Whitecaps next MLS game is at home against LAFC on Aug. 24. They play Wrexham, the Welsh football club jointly owned by Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, in a friendly at BC Place Stadium on July 27, then face LAFC in a Leagues Cup match July 30 on the road. The Whitecaps host Tijuana in another Leagues Cup match Aug. 3. Houston hosts the Mexican side Atlas FC July 27, then Real Salt Lake Aug. 5 in Leagues Cup matches before playing Toronto FC Aug. 24 at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.



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The biggest of stories came to the small city of Butler. Here’s how its newspaper met the moment

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BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — When gunshots echoed at the Trump rally where she was working, Butler Eagle reporter Irina Bucur dropped to the ground just like everyone else. She was terrified.

She hardly froze, though.

Bucur tried to text her assignment editor, through spotty cell service, to tell him what was going on. She took mental notes of what the people in front and behind her were saying. She used her phone to take video of the scene. All before she felt safe standing up again.

When the world’s biggest story came to the small western Pennsylvania hamlet of Butler a week ago, it didn’t just draw media from everywhere else. Journalists at the Eagle, the community’s resource since 1870 and one that struggles to survive just like thousands of local newspapers across the country, had to make sense of chaos in their backyard — and the global scrutiny that followed.

Photographer Morgan Phillips, who stood on a riser in the middle of a field with Trump’s audience that Saturday evening, kept on her feet and kept working, documenting history. After Secret Service officers hustled the former president into a waiting car, the people around her turned to shout vitriol at the journalists.

A few days later, Phillips’ eyes welled with tears recounting the day.

“I just felt really hated,” said Phillips, who like Bucur is 25. “And I never expected that.”

Mobilizing in the most harrowing of situations

“I’m very proud of my newsroom,” said Donna Sybert, the Eagle’s managing editor.

Having put a coverage plan in place, she had escaped for a fishing trip nearby with her family. A colleague, Jamie Kelly, called to tell her something had gone terribly wrong and Sybert rushed back to the newsroom, helping to update the Eagle’s website until 2 a.m. Sunday.

Bucur’s assignment had been to talk to community members attending the rally, along with those who set up a lemonade stand on the hot day and people who parked cars. She’d done her reporting and settled in to text updates of what Trump was saying for the website.

The shooting changed everything. Bucur tried to interview as many people as she could. Slightly dazed after authorities cleared the grounds, she forgot where she had parked. That gave her more time for reporting.

“Going into reporter mode allowed me to distract myself from the situation a little bit,” Bucur said. “Once I got up, I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just thinking I needed to interview people and get the story out because I was on deadline.”

She and colleagues Steve Ferris and Paula Grubbs were asked to collect their reporting and impressions for a story in the Eagle’s special, eight-page wraparound printed edition on Monday.

“The first few gunshots rang out like fireworks,” they wrote. “But when they continued, people in the crowd at the Butler Farm Show venue dropped to the ground: a mother and father told their children to crouch down. A young man hunched over in the grass. Behind him, a woman started to pray.”

The special edition clearly resonated in Butler and beyond. Extra copies are being offered for sale for $5 in the Eagle’s lobby. That’s already a bargain. On eBay, Sybert said, she’s seen them going for up to $125.

A small newspaper struggling to endure

Beyond its status as a local newspaper, the Eagle is an endangered species.

It has resisted ownership by a large chain, which have often stripped news outlets bare. The Eagle has been owned by the same family since 1903; its patriarch, Vernon Wise, is now 95. Fifth-generation family member Jamie Wise Lanier drove up from Cincinnati this week to congratulate the staff on a job well done, general manager Tammy Schuey said.

Six editions are printed each week, and a digital site has a paywall that was lowered for some of the shooting stories. The Eagle’s circulation is 18,000, Schuey said, with about 3,000 of that digital.

The United States has lost one-third of its newspapers since 2005 as the Internet chews away at once-robust advertising revenue. An average of 2.5 newspapers closed each week in 2023, according to a study by Northwestern University. The majority were in small communities like Butler.

The Eagle abandoned a newsroom across town in 2019, consolidating space in the building where its printing press is housed. It has diversified, starting a billboard company and taking on extra printing jobs. It even stores the remnants of a long-shuttered local circus and allows residents to visit.

The Eagle has about 30 employees, although it’s now short two reporters and a photographer. Cabinets housing old photographs lie among the clutter of desks in the newsroom, with a whiteboard that lists which staff members will be on weekend call.

Its staff is a mix of young people like Bucur and Phillips, who tend to move on to larger institutions, and those who put down roots in Butler. Sybert has worked at the Eagle since 1982. Schuey was initially hired in 1991 to teach composing room employees how to use Macs.

“This is a challenging business,” Schuey said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Local understanding makes a huge difference

When a big story comes to town, with the national and international journalists that follow it, local news outlets are still a precious and valued resource.

The Eagle knows the terrain. It knows the local officials. Smart national reporters who “parachute” into a small community that suddenly makes news know to seek out local journalists. Several have reached out to the Eagle, Schuey said.

Familiarity helps in other ways. Bucur found people at the rally who were suspicious of national reporters but answered questions from her, and the same is true for some authorities. She has tapped her network of Facebook friends for reporting help.

Such foundational trust is common. Many people in small towns have more faith in their community newspapers, said Rick Edmonds, the media business analyst at the Poynter Institute.

“It’s just nice to support the locals,” said Jeff Ruhaak, a trucking company supervisor who paused during a meal at the Monroe Hotel to discuss the Eagle’s coverage. “I think they did a pretty good job covering it for their size.”

The Eagle has another advantage as well: It isn’t going anywhere when the national reporters leave. The story won’t end. Hurt people need to recover and investigations will determine who is responsible for a would-be assassin being able to get a shot at Trump.

In short: responsible journalism as civic leadership in harrowing moments.

“Our community went through a traumatic experience,” Schuey said. “I was there. We have some healing to do, and I think the newspaper is a critical piece in helping guide the community through this.”

So, too, must people at the Eagle heal, as Phillips’ raw emotions attest. Management is trying to give staff members some days off, perhaps with the help of journalists in surrounding communities.

Bucur said she would hate to see Butler turned into a political prop, with the assassination being used as some sort of rallying cry. The divisiveness of national politics had already seeped into local meetings and staff members have felt the tension.

Sybert and Schuey look at each other to try and remember what was the biggest story that Butler Eagle journalists have worked on. Was it a tornado that killed nine back in the 1980s? Some particularly bad traffic accident? Trump paid an uneventful campaign visit in 2020. But there’s no question what tops the list now.

Despite the stress of the assassination attempt, covering it has been a personal revelation for the soft-spoken Bucur, who grew up 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) south in Pittsburgh and studied psychology in college. Her plans changed when she took a communications course and loved it.

“This,” she said, “was a moment I told myself that I think I’m cut out for journalism.”

___

David Bauder writes about media for the AP. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.



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Dynamo finds a way to beat, frustrate Whitecaps with late comeback

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VANCOUVER – After battling back from a two-goal deficit in the first half, the Vancouver Whitecaps allowed goals nine minutes apart late in the second half in a wild 4-3 setback to the Houston Dynamo in a Major League Soccer match Saturday night that snapped their six-game unbeaten streak.

Striker Fafa Picault scored twice and assisted on a goal by defender Ranko Veselinovic for the Whitecaps.

Houston’s Griffin Dorsey scored his second goal of the night with a shot through traffic in the 87th minute. The Dynamo’s Brad Smith tied the match 3-3 with a blast that went past Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka’s hand in the 78th minute.

Vancouver all-star striker Ryan Gauld left the game in the 24th minute with a right knee injury.

Picault’s first goal came on a header in the 48th minute. He gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead when he directed in a pass from defender Sam Adekugbe. Picault has scored eight times across all competitions and it was his third consecutive game with a goal.

Veselinovic tied the match in the 54th minute, heading in a ball sent into the box by Picault.

A crowd of 24,114 at BC Place Stadium saw the Whitecaps (11-8-5) lose for the first time in six MLS games (4-1-1) and seven (5-1-1) across all competitions.

Midfielder Coco Carrasquilla and defender Griffin Dorsey also scored for the Dynamo (10-7-7) who have just one loss in their last 10 matches (5-1-4).

The loss drops Vancouver into fifth place in the MLS Western Conference with 38 points while Houston climbed into sixth with 37.

Carrasquilla put Houston ahead in the 29th minute. Ibrahim Aliyu made a couple nice moves around the Whitecap defenders then fed the ball to Carrasquilla in front of the net. His shot went off Veselinovic and past goalkeeper Takaoka.

Dorsey took advantage of a broken play to put Houston up 2-0 in the 36th minute. A shot deflected off Vancouver defender Bjorn Utvik and rolled to Dorsey, who scored on a long shot that curved inside the right post.

Before the game the Whitecaps announced Quinn Thompson had been named the team’s technical director. Reporting to sporting director Axel Schuster, Thompson will oversee roster construction and salary budget, player relations, plus player recruitment strategy along with senior director of analytics, insights, and research Dr. Johann Windt.

Thompson, a 28-year-old native of Vancouver, is the youngest technical director in the league.

Brian White had a good scoring chance in the fourth minute directing a pass from Gauld just wide of the net. White argued he was fouled on the play but there was no call.

The Whitecaps got a nice defensive play in the 18th minute from Veselinovic when he made a diving block on midfielder Amine Bassi’s shot on a dangerous looking play.

Gauld injured himself battling for the ball in the 24th minute. He was sprawled on the field for several minutes then left the pitch under his own steam, returned to play briefly but was replaced a few minutes later by Brian Raposo.

NOTES

Vancouver had a shot on goal four minutes into the game. The Dynamo didn’t allow a shot in goal in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Wednesday night. … The Whitecaps and Dynamo play again Sept. 18 in Houston. … Vancouver’s last loss was 2-0 in Portland on June 22. … The Whitecaps play seven of their final 11 league games at home. … Not dressed for the Whitecaps were defenders Tristan Blackmon (groin) and Mathias Laborda (ankle) plus goalkeeper Joe Bendik (back). … The Whitecaps celebrated their 11th anniversary Pride Match with a ’Caps & Queens Drag Happy Hour outside of BC Place before the game.

UP NEXT

The Whitecaps next MLS game is at home against LAFC on Aug. 24. They play Wrexham, the Welsh football club jointly owned by Vancouver native Ryan Reynolds, in a friendly at BC Place Stadium on July 27, then face LAFC in a Leagues Cup match July 30 on the road. The Whitecaps host Tijuana in another Leagues Cup match Aug. 3. Houston hosts the Mexican side Atlas FC July 27, then Real Salt Lake Aug. 5 in Leagues Cup matches before playing Toronto FC Aug. 24 at home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 20, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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