Liberals and Conservatives Both Win in Federal Byelections
This past Monday was election day for three federal ridings in Canada. As discussed in an earlier post, vacancies in the House of Commons made the byelections a necessity. Interestingly, each riding was previously held by a different party. The Liberals held Vaughn in Ontario, the Conservatives Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette in Manitoba and the NDP held Winnipeg North. Vaughn and Winnipeg North were the two ridings of interest in this contest. Not to anybody’s surprise, Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette was returned to the Conservatives. The contests of significance were Vaughn, where the Conservatives desperately wanted to send a message and steal the Liberal stronghold and Winnipeg North, where the Conservatives ran a lame duck candidate in hopes that the NDP could hold the seat.
In Vaughn, the race was close, but the Conservatives managed to squeeze out a win. The high profile of Julian Fantino was no doubt helpful to the party. The fact that they took a riding that has been Liberal for 22 years is very significant, and there is no way to deny this is a huge loss for the Liberals. Michael Ignatieff needed to retain this seat in order to strengthen his leadership. In the aftermath, the Liberals have stated they will win the seat back once a general election is called. I feel this is the optimistic answer any party would give after losing an important race. It will be significant however, if the Conservatives retain the seat.
In Winnipeg North, it was again a close race. This time the race was between the NDP and Liberals. The Conservative candidate was intentionally chosen to be a weak addition. The party did this in hopes of seeing the NDP candidate hold the riding, preventing a Liberal victory. The logic is somewhat flawed, as voters are more likely to support a strong Liberal candidate if they perceive the Conservative candidate to be weak. However, the party was desperate to keep the riding out of the hands of the Liberals. Liberal Kevin Lamoureux narrowly won, and thus prevented what would have been an utter disaster for the Liberals had they lost all three.
So here we stand, asking ourselves what impact this has. Obviously, no matter what the outcome of these contests, the balance of power in the House of Commons was not going to be dramatically shifted. In the end, the Liberals broke even, while the Conservatives gained a seat and the NDP lost one. Michael Ignatieff tweeted after the Lamoureux victory that “tonight shows the LPC is the only party that can replace the Harper gov’t and deliver real, progressive change for Canadians.” Yes, this is true of Winnipeg North, but in Vaughn, the Liberals themselves were replaced. Recent polls have shown the Conservatives to once again be opening up a lead on the Liberals. Ignatieff has so far been unable to deliver the necessary boost the party so desperately desires. With talk of a spring federal election on the horizon, there needs to be a major momentum boost for the Liberal party which was not created by their performance on Monday night.