This banker who slowed down the momentum of Pierre Poilievre

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This banker who slowed down the momentum of Pierre Poilievre

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who wanted to keep the riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore, went to campaign with his candidate, Charles Sousa.

Charles Sousa is yet to be sworn in as MLA for Mississauga-Lakeshore, but his convincing victory in the Dec. 12 by-election has already earned him a triumphant welcome to the Liberal caucus. Who is this banker who deprived Pierre Poilievre of the opportunity to prove himself as a Conservative leader?

The new elected official did not fail to point out to his colleagues that the by-election in Mississauga-Lakeshore is a first failed test for Mr. Poilievre, facing the voters. This is a big victory, for me personally, but for the party too, because we have also increased our majority compared to the last election, he told them when he was invited to speak at his very first appearance before the MP caucus last week, he said in an interview with Radio-Canada.

At 64, Charles Sousa is not new to politics. He was first elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 2007. Under the government of Dalton McGuinty, he served successively as Minister of Labor and Minister of Immigration.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Charles Sousa when he was Minister of Finance, when the provincial budget was tabled in 2018.

In 2013, he tried his luck in the Ontario Liberal Party leadership race, but ended up siding with former premier Kathleen Wynne, who then named him finance minister. In 2018, he was defeated as Doug Ford's Conservative wave swept through Ontario.

He's going to be a heavyweight Ontario MP in Ottawa, and he has exactly the profile and expertise to become a federal minister, says Carlos Leitao, a former Liberal cabinet minister in Quebec.

He knows the newly elected well. Both Canadians of Portuguese descent, they met on Bay Street in the 1990s. They were colleagues at the Royal Bank of Canada and quickly became friends: There was no not many Portuguese at that time in important positions in the bank, recalls the trained economist.

And then twenty years later, in 2014, it was as counterparts as Ministers of Finance of Quebec and Ontario that they found themselves collaborating closely.

Charles Sousa and Carlos Leitao, in 2017, when they were finance ministers of Ontario and Quebec, respectively.

By then, the Liberal governments of Ontario and Quebec had created a regional partnership, even going so far as to hold joint councils of ministers to defend the interests of the provinces in the center of the country.

From then on, federal health transfers occupied the top of the list of issues for both provinces. We worked together to create a common front, says Carlos Leitao. He recalls that the provinces were already talking about a 35% increase in transfers, which is still at the heart of negotiations with the federal government.

“The difference from today was that I was ready to be accountable.

—Charles Sousa, MPP for Mississauga-Lakeshore

Charles Sousa is now part of a government that refuses to sign an unconditional transfer agreement with the provinces. Although he does not want to comment on the current negotiation, he sees a big difference with what he himself demanded from Justin Trudeau a few years ago: When I proposed it, I was prepared to be accountable and to say where this money was going to be invested, he specifies.

Charles Sousa, the new Liberal MP for Mississauga-Lakeshore, was elected on December 12.

Today, it's another battle that pushed him to jump into the political arena, according to Carlos Leitao: Charles is a longtime liberal, he says, and the arrival of Pierre Poilievre as leader of the Conservative Party would not be unrelated to his return to politics.

Mr. Poilievre's attempt to make major inroads in Ontario in the next federal election, I think that motivated Charles to return to politics to counter the Conservatives' plans, adds Mr. Leitao.

Justin Trudeau wanted a victory in Mississauga-Lakeshore to maintain his balance of power with Pierre Poilievre. He intervened personally to convince his star candidate to make the leap into politics again and he did not hesitate to go to the riding to whip Liberal troops during the campaign.

Will the Prime Minister now open the doors of his cabinet to him? For Carlos Leitao, there is no doubt: It was not his first instinct to return to politics. I think there was great interest from the federal Liberals to bring him to Ottawa and I don't think it's to keep him in a backbench position, says his old friend.

The principal responds with the wisdom of an experienced politician: I'll be where I'm needed.

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