Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On By-Election Results

There were four by-elections in Canada yesterday.  One in Quebec, one in Ontario and two in Manitoba.

Nobody expected Vic Toews' riding, Provencher, to change hands and it didn't even twitch that way all evening.

Similarly, the Quebec riding of Bourassa was expected to remain a Liberal safe seat, and was similarly clear all night.  It started off with the Liberal candidate holding 48% of the vote, and stayed that way.

Toronto-Centre was a more up in the air.  It could easily have gone either to the Liberals or the NDP.  It pivoted between Liberal and an NDP lead a couple of times over the course of results coming.

The nail-biter all night was Brandon-Souris.  It flipped between Conservative and Liberal candidates leading all night.  In fact, it was the last flip with 20 polls still to come in that set the Conservative lead and held it for the remainder of the results.

Of the four by-elections, Brandon-Souris had by far the best voter turnout - at 44.7%.  All the rest of the ridings were well below 40% voter turnout.

What I do note is that in the two Conservative "stronghold" seats, repeating what we saw in the Calgary Centre by-election of 2012, the margin of victory was narrowed measurably.  Brandon-Souris was a gap of 1.4% (or approximately 400 votes).  Both of these ridings are typically considered "safe" for Conservative candidates, and in both by-elections, the margin of victory was around 20% less than the previous general election.

When seats that were typically considered "safe" for Conservatives are being won by margins 10-20% narrower than the previous election, that's a potentially serious problem for the Conservatives.

I will differ with Maclean's writer Paul Wells on his analysis of the results.  I think that this has bought Harper a little bit of time before the looming "night of the long knives" that has been brewing ever since the Senate Expenses scandal blew up in the PMO's collective face.  Had the Conservatives lost Brandon-Souris, I think Harper's career in the party would have been toast.  They didn't, and that buys him some time.

Will he last until 2015 or until spring of 2016 when an election must be called?  That is much harder to tell.  I suspect that the longer that the Senate mess remains in the headlines, the less time Harper will have before being forced out.

Is this good news?  Yes, it is.  The longer Harper holds on, the less time any potential successor will have to put the scandals behind the party.

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