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Thoughts on the byelection results.

– Turnout for all 4 byelections was abysmal (as expected)

– I’m a tad concerned that the “stealth-Con” candidate in Vancouver Quadra who didn’t show up to a lot of the all-candidates meetings and was criticized for it still managed to come within 151 votes of winning. A lot of Liberal vote out there went to the Greens, which explains part of the reason why. I’ve heard that there was some discontent with Joyce Murray as a candidate, which may be the reason many parked their votes to the Greens. A win is still a win however. I WOULD be interested to see where those last 37 polling stations are located in the riding though, and if they have a historical trend of voting Conservative. The Liberal Joyce Murray had about a 1000 vote lead with 37 polls to go when she was declared the winner by the networks, and the Conservative managed to pick up almost 850 votes in those last 37 polls. The Liberals need to see where those are coming from and definitely work on seeing if they can get a better Liberal “get out the vote” turnout next time around to counter some heavily skewed Conservative presence from wherever these polls came from.

– Saskatchewan I’m not particularly surprised about. It’s a riding that has been won by all 3 major parties the past 10 years; it’s in a province that just recently trended to a conservative type government, and to top it off, there was a divided local Liberal Party association with Beatty being appointed over the objections of David Orchard and his supporters, who wanted to run in an open nomination. I’ve no doubt they showed their displeasure at the ballot box. Would we have won the riding with Orchard if he’d won the nomination? Possibly, though a fellow New Democrat acquaintance says the Cons and their party would have enjoyed going after Orchards positions, so who knows, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that we lost with Beatty but didn’t win with Orchard.

– Per that result, I kind of agree with Aaron that having the leadership appoint or hand-pick candidates to run in ridings should be done with a lot more discretion. It angers the local party riding association, and it has the ability to turn the electorate against you for parachuting a candidate in. I know why Dion is doing some of this (the 1/3 women candidates commitment) and I applaud that sentiment, but I think there has to be a better way to reach that goal then the heavy-handedness of party leadership appointing someone over the possible objections of the riding. I think we need to do open nomination meetings and votes as a rule, and to only use the appointment power for unique persons or ridings or situations.

– I’d like to congratulate Chris Tindal, fellow Progressive Blogger and Green candidate in Toronto-Centre for a great result. He finished 3rd – ahead of the Cons. Candidate and was only 30 votes or so behind the NDP for 2nd. The Greens overall did very well in the urban centres.

– Solid victories in Toronto for Martha and Bob. The Cons actually lost some ground here – an indication that Toronto and perhaps Ontario in general doesn’t appreciate getting neglected or bashed by the Harperites.

– The NDP cannot be happy with their results in the urban centres – finishing just ahead of or behind the Green Party (and at least 1 NDP blogger – Cam Holmstrom, who helped in the TC riding, certainly isn’t)

Where do we go from here? On the one hand, I’ve seen an assertion by one Liberal supporter that the mixed results is a rebuttal for the “doves” or the Nervous Nellies who were asserting that these byelection results would result in “momentum” for the Liberals, and it was prudent to hold off an election till after March 17. On the other hand, the defeat in Sask and the very close result in Vancouver might further entrench the Nervous Nellies that we can’t have a general election yet. However, now that we have 3 more solid MP’s – Rae and MHF in particular – able to join the fray in QP, perhaps that will change the tune of many reluctant to hold off.

In short, I’ll take the 3 of 4 results. I would assert it’s not as terrible as some who were anti-Dion before this anyhow are indicating, but I also agree it’s certainly not all roses.

I’ll also go out on a limb and make a prediction: federal election in June.

UPDATE: If you want really good impartial analysis of the results last night, check out Idealistic Pragmatist’s post – complete with bar graphs. Very good.


17 comments to Thoughts on the byelection results.

  • David Orchard would have been an even more disastrous candidate than Beatty was. Orchard is an unacceptable candidate for the Liberals period. He is just a tourist in the party. The sooner he is gone, the better.

  • Turnout for all 4 byelections was abysmal (as expected)

    Abysmal? I think the turnout is absolutely outstanding!! So many people tired of voting for the candidate who will vote (or not vote as the case may be) as the party whip (based on instructions from the party leader) tells them to instead of representing the electorate who put them in their seat…. how can that fail to bring hope to one’s heart?

  • Ron

    Idealistic Pragmatist – "Um…how on earth would you know anything about what Liberals feel from reading my blog?  I’m certainly no Liberal, and the only partisan Liberal in the comments thread is Scott." — Sorry – the problem was a grammatical one – What I meant to say was that having checked out the results on your graphs on your blog, I couldn’t see how Liberals could feel good about the results – did not mean to imply it had anything to do with your comments/input.

  • <i>"I WOULD be interested to see where those last 37 polling stations….."</i>

    Well, Brian Bell made a good point at the Calgary Grit’s place…..historically, the late-reporting polls in VanQuad/Point Grey are out on the far western edge of Lotusland (ie the UBC area).

    Now, I agree with BB on this one.

    Where I disagreed with him, however, is the demos of those polls.


    Beause they have changed hugely in the last five years since the University went hog-wild and started selling off land to developers so that they can put up high density and high end condos.

    Thus, I would guess that a lot of those votes went either Blue (rich folks – there is also a solid ‘Mansion Belt’ around the University) or Green (ie. those students not consumed by apathy).

    Anyway, the possibility that those last polls would offer up such a big switch was the reason I stayed with the thing right up to the end (long after the pro-pundits had gone to bed …..CPAC switched off immediately after Joyce Murray’s ‘Victory’ speech when she was still up by almost 6% an hour and a half before the end).

    Details of all this stuff  (including the genesis of the term ‘StealthCon’ candidate) at my place if anybody’s interested…..


  • Paul

    Positive voting day for the Conservatives no matter which way you want to twist it.  Quadra is a Liberal squeaker with minimal effort on the part of the CPC.  I believe both Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieeff campaigned there?
    Toronto-centric party wins two incumbent Toronto seats.  Quelle surpris!
    Oh, by the way CPC wins with 16% shift in Saskatchewan.  Isn’t that a socialist province?  Oh yeah, I forgot it has thrown the bums out!!!

  • Ted

    Scott has good insights and links on the results, he put the best face forward with at best mixed reults. I found the link to
    idealistic pragmatist especially good, it showed that Harper is in good shape should a general be called.
    What has the by-election’s showed us so far? ..remember, historically the party in power lose seats in by-elections.
    1. Harper gaining seats in Quebec, Saskatchewan, and almost BC.
    2. Dion losing seats in Quebec, Saskatchewan, and almost in BC.

  • slg

    No one seems to be talking about St. Patrick’s Day and the low turnout. I, for one, believe Harper picked this day on purpose.  Most people were probably celebrating somewhere, local pubs, etc.  

  • Deb Prothero

    What bothers me is that there was little discussion about election finance misdealings by the Cons in 2006 election. With the amount of money that appears to have been spent in Quadra, I suspect further problems for them down the road but no media source is really keeping the electorate informed on this.

    Since these were byelections, it’s possible there was much in the way of protest votes goin’ on in the two Western ridings which may disappear in a general election. Much of Orchard’s support was aboriginal and its unlikely they would vote in a general election to support the cons given the Kelowna Accord situation and complete disrespect shown toward them. However it was safe to do so this time, ever so briefly. Beatty will need to get her name out there and smooth over the Orchard situation before a general election or this riding may stay Con.

  • mushroom


    Scott Tribe more partisan than I do?  That is a surprise!!!

  • mushroom


    Also saw Rob Newman out with Martha Hall Findlay on Saturday.
    Agree with your assessments with Orchard.  But can you see this group of Grits in Ottawa making a major issue on preserving the Wheat Board, the Security and Prosperity Pact, and the NAFTA superhighway?

  • I think the results reflect fairly well the sentiment across Canada: Toronto hates Harper, and the West tends CPC. Ignoring Toronto as it’s Liberal bent is obvious and predictable, and considering that the Sask, byelection was botched by the Liberals when they played trump on Orchard, the only byelection worth analyzing for a trend between the two big parties is in Vancouver. There, I think the Greens ate at Liberal support.

    The Liberals should pick up and start using Green policy sooner not later. Green To-Centre candidate Chris Tindal saw some signs of that in Rae’s campaign:

    I jumped ship from the Greens to the Liberals hoping to see the Liberals get smart and green shift. I’m still waiting. Hopefully, they’ll see the trend, and will work to counter it by adopting green policies. It’s not as if the Liberals haven’t been afraid to steal and implement policy before…

    (Note: Two former Greens of note, Kate Holloway and Dana Miller, were in Vancouver campaigning for the Liberals.)

  • <i>I checked out "Idealistic Pragmatist" and am quite amazed at how many Liberals can feel any good about the results last night.</i>

    Um…how on earth would you know anything about what Liberals feel from reading my blog?  I’m certainly no Liberal, and the only partisan Liberal in the comments thread is Scott.

  • Ron

    I checked out "Idealistic Pragmatist" and am quite amazed at how many Liberals can feel any good about the results last night. Remembering these were by-elections where history has shown the governing party usally fares worse, we have the Conservatives actually gaining significant in two out of four and minor support in a third while the Liberals loosing significant support in two out of the four. Commentaors keep pointing to Toronto as if that is the slightest bit relevant to the future of Liberal fortunes – Liberals already have most of those seats so increasing support there does nothing to advance the party’s goal of becoming government. The loss (by a significant vote) of the Sask riding and the near total disaster in Vancouver Quadra (from a 12,000 vote win two years ago to a 154 vote win last night can not be spun as anything but a near disaster) is cause for great concern. The pundits keep asking why the Conservatives can’t win in the major centres – I wonder why the Liberals are having increasing problems winning outside downtown cores. In Quebec, the Liberal party has nearly dissappeared from all ridings off the island of Montreal (single digit popularity in many places). Should they follow that trend in the rest of Canada, they will be masters of small pockets of large city ridings but absent throughout the rest of the country. The Conservatives have to find policies and practices that can aid in building their support in cities but the Liberals have as big a task finding policies and practices that won’t see them dissappear from the suburban and rural areas of the country. The press is frequently accused of being Tronto centric – with the current face of the Liberal party, the same could be said of them. A one city party. 

  • ALW

    -Your party eked out a win by 154 votes and 0.5% of the vote in a riding you already held by a 12,000 vote margin and a 20% plurality – against a government that is supposedly the agent of Satan – and you’re a tad concerned?  What on earth would cause you to be "very" concerned?  If the Tories won, say, Medicine Hat by 154 votes I know I’d be pretty damn concerned.  

    -The Tory vote in Willowdale went up, not down. Toronto Centre – well, given the Mark Warner dustup, is it really a surprise?  And I mean, Scott, it’s friggin’ Bob Rae.  In Toronto Centre.  Should such a result ever have been in doubt? 

    -Setting aside the normal conflation of "Toronto" with "Ontario" that you and pretty much all Liberals tend to perpetually make, my question is: how do these results prove Torontonians are any more "angry" with the Harper government than they were before?  These Toronto ridings voted the same way in these byelections that they did in the 2006 general election.  So, it’s fair to suggest that people in these ridings feel similar to the way they did in the 2006 general election.  But they’ve always been opposed to the Tories.  You and others seem to be suggesting that something has changed.  But nothing has!  These were never Tory seats, we never had much support there, and we still don’t.  So how does that in any way translate into some sort of "gain" for the Liberals? 

    -No election this spring.  These byelections point to major trouble for the Grits, not for the Tories. 

  • mushroom


    This is how I see things in Quadra.
    Cons did not pick up much there.  Both the Grits and Cons stuck in the 30s.  I suspect the Granville polls were the ones in which the Grit margin got whittled away.

    How did we lose the margin in Quadra?  The urban progressive liberals who we took for granted went to the Greens big time.  When you have the NDP doing 14 and the Greens doing 13, we let the Cons get into the game.  This is five to ten per cent of the vote that we lost right there. 
    In a way these by-elections proved one thing.  Dion’s political instincts were right all along.  He knew one thing.  The only way we can get the urban progressive liberals to swing to the Grits is through an electoral alliance with the Greens.  Failure to expand on further co-operation by not supporting proportional representation will lead to more results similar to Quadra in Vancouver Island come election time.  The result might be Gary Lunn picking up the crumbs and winning once again.         

  • MississaugaJoan

    33.9% turnout in Vancouver Quadra is not that low (compared to other by-elections and Alberta’s 41% last month).

    I disagree, the results outside the GTA continue to be disastrous. Recent by-elections reveal that Dion can’t win in his home province and is pulling the Liberals down out West.

    The results would have been even worse if Dion had not been handed during the past few weeks both Naftagate and the Cadman revelations.

  • Cool Blue

    "I WOULD be interested to see where those last 37 polling stations are located in the riding though."

    The last polls to be counted are usually the advance polls.

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