Progressive views: Federal By-elections

Tristan cropby Tristan Turner

Most Canadians probably weren’t aware, but there were federal elections held on the 26th. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss a general election, but there were four seats up for grabs in by-elections that were held in Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. In the fervor following the Grey Cup its difficult to get people interested in political matters, however they may prove to be an essential litmus test leading into the next federal election.

By the end of the night there was no changes in respective party affiliations, but there were telling numbers on how the public are responding to key national issues in different areas across the country.

The Conservatives were successful in electing Ted Falk in the Southern Manitoba riding of Provencher with nearly 60 per cent of the vote, something that came as a surprise to no one. The riding has been a Conservative stronghold for decades, and Ted was likely expecting to win by a large margin in the seat that was formerly held by the Cabinet Minister Vic Toews. That being said, in the last general election the Tories received nearly 80 per cent of the vote in Provencher, showing that their grasp is weakening in the rural riding.

The Conservatives narrowly won against the Liberals in their stronghold of Brandon-Souris. All evening the riding was going back and forth between Liberal Rolf Dinsdale and Tory Larry Maguire, but late into the evening it became clear that the Conservatives would narrowly hold onto the Manitoba riding that they had expected to win handily.

In Montreal, the Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg confidently won the solid red riding of Bourassa, beating out the NDP candidate and former rock star Stéphan Moraille with 48 per cent of the vote to his 32.

However, those ridings were foregone conclusions, the real story last night was in the urban riding of Toronto Centre.

The riding was contested by two journalists; the Liberal’s former Reuters executive Chrystia Freeland and the NDP’s Toronto Star columnist, Linda McQuaig. In the end, the Liberals took the seat, even though at the outset of the evening it appeared there would be a narrow NDP victory. The Liberals trounced McQuaig with nearly 50 per cent of the vote to their 36. This came as a surprise to many pundits, because even though the riding has a history of electing Liberals, the NDP seemed to have ran a much stronger campaign, and polls showed that most personally preferred McQuaig to Freeland in the riding. More than the other seats, Toronto Centre is a riding that is less influenced by local issues and more by national brands, and here it is clear that the Trudeau brand won out. This is unfortunate for Canadians across all party lines, not only those in the Toronto Centre, as McQuaig seemed as though she would prove to be a thoughtful and pragmatic parliamentarian.

Regardless of how much stock you put in by-election results, its hard to dispute how important of a message these elections are to national parties. Internal party strategists will be pouring over these numbers for years to come and they may very well play a significant role in 2015. For now, there are four new faces in Ottawa, but the party status quo remains the same.

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