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Trudeau holds cabinet retreat in London, Ont., as Liberals seek further gains in 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal front bench will spend the next two days in the Forest City, where the party won two out of four seats in the 2015 election, after being completely shut out in 2011.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured last month on the Hill, is leading a two-day cabinet retreat in London, Ont., beginning on Thursday. Hill Times file photograph

PUBLISHED :Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 10:09 AM

The federal cabinet is in London, Ont., on Thursday for the start of its traditional winter retreat, hinting that the Liberals are eyeing further gains in southwestern Ontario’s largest city come 2019.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and the Liberal front bench will spend today and tomorrow in the Forest City, where the party won two out of four seats in the 2015 election, after being completely shut out in 2011.

The NDP and the Conservatives split the other two seats in the last election, while another riding that partly encircles London but doesn’t cross into city boundaries was won by the Tories.

The Hill Times asked the Prime Minister’s Office why London was selected as the host for the cabinet retreat, and the PMO responded with an excerpt of a local radio interview with Mr. Trudeau on Thursday.

  

In the interview, Mr. Trudeau called London a “great place,” and credited residents for providing valuable insight during a Liberal Party caucus retreat held in the city prior to the 2015 election.

He said there were many “important discussions” to have on the challenges facing residents when it comes to growing the economy and creating jobs that the “federal government needs to be more aware of than we already are.”

The retreat is taking place at the Hilton Doubletree hotel in downtown London.

Liberal Peter Fragiskatos, a political science professor, comfortably won election in London North Centre in 2015, winning just over 50 per cent of the vote. Conservative incumbent Susan Truppe finished a distant second with 31 per cent, despite winning slightly more votes than she did in 2011, when she narrowly bested Liberal Glen Pearson.

  

Former local television anchor Kate Young was the other Liberal elected in London in 2015,  unseating Conservative incumbent Ed Holder in London West by more than 10 percentage points. 

Unlike the rest of the province, the Liberals failed to translate increased voter support into many seat pickups in southwestern Ontario in 2015, with London providing the party its sole foothold in the region.

The NDP swept all three seats in the Windsor area, with the Conservatives winning a neighbouring rural riding and Sarnia-Lambton, a traditional bellwether that wasn’t won by the party forming government for the first time since 1962, when it was known as Lambton West.

With the Liberals winning 80 of Ontario’s 121 seats in 2015, London looks to offer one of the party’s best opportunity for new pickups in the vote-rich province.  

  

Veteran NDP MP Irene Mathyssen narrowly won re-election in London Fanshawe with less than 38 per cent of the vote in the last election, fending off a resurgent Liberal vote to win her fourth term in Ottawa.

Former provincial Liberal legislator Khalil Ramal was the candidate for the federal Grits, finishing a strong second with 31 per cent, a nearly 20 point increase from the party’s 2011 result.

Finally, Karen Vecchio kept Elgin-Middlesex-London in the Conservative camp, winning the expansive riding, a good chunk of which is located outside of London’s city limits, with just shy of 50 per cent of the vote.

Liberal candidate Lori Baldwin-Sands finished second with roughly 31 per cent of all ballots cast, a significant jump from the meagre 13 per cent won by the party in 2011.

On the other side of the aisle, the federal Conservatives are holding their winter caucus meetings in Victoria, B.C. from Jan. 23-25. The Hill Times reached out to the NDP for the date and location of the party’s winter caucus retreat but has yet to receive a response.

The House resumes sitting Jan. 29 after adjourning in late December for the traditional holiday break.

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times