What is surprising is the collapse of the Liberal support during this by-election. When this by-election was called the Liberals had a 43-point lead in the polls. Since electing Justin Trudeau as leader and having him personally campaign there, they have dropped 20 points in Labrador. That’s a significant drop in only a few weeks. Labradorians were able to see firsthand how Justin Trudeau is in over his head.Objectively, this claim is utter nonsense. Frankly, this is typical of the Karl Rove-inspired politics that Harper has been importing into Canada. It boils down to taking anything that happens and trying to spin it into an attack on your adversaries. The attempt to use it as an attack on Justin Trudeau smacks more of desperation to me.
A closer look at the numbers over the last couple of elections is much more instructive:
[hide]Canadian federal election, 2008 Party Candidate Votes % ±pp Expenditures Liberal Todd Russell 5,426 70.28 +19.75 $26,887 New Democratic Phyllis Artiss 1,378 17.85 +8.77 $5,886 Conservative Lacey Lewis 615 7.97 -31.70 $15,728 Green Nyssa Christine McLeod 302 3.91 +3.19 Total valid votes/Expense limit 7,721 99.15 $81,667 Total rejected ballots 66 0.85 +0.40 Turnout 7,787 38.60 -19.8 Eligible voters 20,175 – – Liberal hold Swing +5.49
[hide] Canadian federal election, 2011: Labrador Party Candidate Votes % ±pp Conservative Peter Penashue 4,256 39.81 +31.84 Liberal Todd Russell 4,177 39.07 -31.21 New Democratic Jacob Larkin 2,120 19.83 +1.98 Green George C.R. Barrett 139 1.30 -2.61 Total valid votes 10,692 100.00 Total rejected ballots 52 0.48 -0.37 Turnout 10,744 53.44 +14.84 Eligible voters 20,104 Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +31.5%
[hide] Canadian federal by-election, May 13, 2013: Labrador Party Candidate Votes % ±pp Liberal Yvonne Jones 5,814 48.21 +9.14% Conservative Peter Penashue 3,922 32.52 -7.29% New Democratic Harry Borlase 2,273 18.85 -0.98% Libertarian Norman Andrews 50 0.41 - Total valid votes/Expense limit 12,059 100.00 Total rejected ballots Turnout 12,059 59.55 +6.11% Eligible voters 20,251 Called on the resignation of Peter Penashue, March 14, 2013 Liberal gain from Conservative Swing +9.14%
What we really see in these numbers is a collapse in the voter turnout in 2008, with it dropping to 38.6%, followed by a gradual recovery to 59.55% turnout in yesterday's byelection.
Penashue barely won in the 2011 election, winning on a margin of less than 100 ballots. Hardly a ringing endorsement of support for Penashue in the first place.
Yvonne Jones took the riding in the by-election with a 5,814 votes - slightly more than the 5,426 votes Todd Russell won with in 2008. In comparison, Penashue took the riding in 2011 with 4,256 votes and went down to defeat with 3,922 votes last night.
Practically speaking, this sounds to me more like a greater level of voter engagement took place, and a lot of people who sat on their thumbs in either 2008 or 2011 came out and voted.
Given that this by-election was already underway when Justin Trudeau became the Liberal leader, and the lavish promises made on Penashue's behalf by the Conservatives during the latter half of the campaign, it seems to me that the Conservatives are reaching pretty far to try and spin this as some kind of voter comment on Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader.
In fact, since this is the first time that the Harper Conservatives have lost a seat on a by-election, I would say that it seems to me much more of a condemnation of the Conservative party which keeps on playing by its own arbitrary rulebook.