Top by-election winner: Justin Trudeau

How four contests roiled Canada’s political waters


(The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau emerged the big winner from Monday’s four federal by-elections.

At first glance, the results simply preserved the status quo: the Conservatives held on to two longtime Tory bastions in Manitoba, while the Liberals retained two traditional Grit strongholds in Toronto and Montreal.

Beneath the surface, however, the byelections have roiled Canada’s political waters, suggesting the Senate expenses scandal has badly hurt the Tory government and that Trudeau’s Liberals are the ones who stand to benefit.

The Liberals increased their share of the vote in all four ridings — dramatically so in two Manitoba ridings where they were all but invisible in the 2011 election, coming within a whisker of an upset victory in Brandon-Souris.

In Toronto Centre and Montreal’s Bourassa riding, the Liberals emerged victorious in a battle with the NDP over which opposition party is the real government-in-waiting. Despite an aggressive challenge by the NDP, the Liberal vote share increased slightly in both ridings.

Trudeau said the by-election results show Canadians are fed up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s scandal-plagued Conservative government and are looking to the Liberals, not the NDP, to replace it.

“Canadians grow weary of the deceit, the mistrust and the cover-ups of the Conservatives,” he told ecstatic Liberals at the campaign headquarters of Bourassa victor Emmanuel Dubourg.

They’re also discovering that Tom Mulcair is no Jack Layton, whose sunny optimism led the NDP to a stunning electoral breakthrough in 2011, Trudeau asserted.

“Make no mistake, the NDP is no longer the hopeful, optimistic party of Jack Layton. It is the negative, divisive party of Thomas Mulcair.”

Stealing a line from the late Layton’s famous death-bed letter to Canadians, Trudeau added: “It is the Liberal party tonight that proved hope is stronger than fear.”

By contrast to the Liberals’ momentum, Conservative support nosedived in all four ridings — likely the result of the Senate scandal that has engulfed Harper’s government for almost a year.

Even in Provencher, which Conservative Ted Falk won with a comfortable 58 per cent of the vote, the Tory share was down about 12 percentage points from 2011. The Liberal share, at 30 per cent, was up 23 points.

In Brandon-Souris, a riding that has voted Conservative in all but one election over the last 60 years, Tory Larry Maguire barely eked out a victory over Liberal Rolf Dinsdale. He captured about 44 per cent of the vote — a 20-point drop from 2011.

Dinsdale, who was only two points behind Maguire to increase the Liberal vote share by a stunning 38 points, said the fact the Liberals came so close to victory was a warning to the Conservative government.

“This didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but it turned out better than anyone thought it would, not least of all, Mr. Harper,” Dinsdale told a subdued room.

“(It’s) a shot across the bow, we’ll get you next time.”

Maguire said the Senate scandal “certainly played a role in this campaign.”

The Tory vote almost disappeared entirely in Bourassa, where the party captured less than five per cent of the vote, and in Toronto Centre, where it scored less than 10 per cent.

For Mulcair, the results were disappointing. Despite widespread praise for his prosecutorial grilling of Harper over the Senate scandal, his party increased its share of the vote only in Toronto Centre and not by enough to steal the riding from the Liberals.

Author and journalist Linda McQuaig took about 36 per cent of the vote for the NDP, up six points from 2011 but still 13 points behind Trudeau’s hand-picked star, Chrystia Freeland.

“We always knew that this was a Liberal stronghold and that it would be an uphill battle and it was,” said McQuaig.

Still, she argued it’s significant that the NDP did better in Toronto Centre this time than it did in 2011 when Layton’s so-called “orange crush” vaulted the NDP into official Opposition status for the first time in history.

Freeland had a different take.

“My message for Stephen Harper is: watch out, we’re on the rise, our party’s united,” she said. “Canadians want an alternative to the Conservatives and they have found that alternative in the Liberal party.”

The NDP share of the vote declined slightly in Bourassa, despite an aggressive campaign by a star candidate, lawyer and one-time pop singer Stephane Moraille. She wound up with about 32 per cent of the vote, compared to Dubourg’s 48 per cent.

In the two Manitoba ridings, the NDP vote share plunged to less than 10 per cent. The party went from a respectable second in 2011 in both ridings to a distant third.

The byelections are the first concrete measure of the Senate expenses scandal’s impact on Stephen Harper’s government, the depth of Trudeau’s popular appeal and the durability of the NDP’s 2011 electoral breakthrough.


Top by-election winner: Justin Trudeau

  1. A

    • I think what the bi-elections have shown us is the general lack of confidence that Canadians have in our leadership. The Harper government has been one cover up after the next from the real cost of the F-35 procurement program to the Senate scandal this government has proven that it has no transparency. However, on the other hand. Justin Trudeau is just a young man riding the coattails of his father and the NDP party without Jack Layton are just a bunch of lost sheep without a platform or a solid plan to implement what little platform they do have. The status quo didn’t change because people are happy with the conservative government. It didn’t change because Canadians are scared that making a change could result in something worse. It is a very dreary day in Canadian politics and as a citizen of this country I am very concerned about the future of the leadership of this country!

      • Things change and you have to go with the flow. Instead of bemoaning the leaders, and I don’t think things are as bad as you seem to think, pick a party you can support and get out and help. You will feel better because you are doing something, and if you believe there’s no great leaders at this time, help one to become great leader. Becoming more involved with the process will make you feel more empowered.

        • Normally I support the conservative party. However I cannot do that at this time. As I said before, the liberals and the NDP are not ready to lead the country. I am not just going to pick a party and get involved for some sense of empowerment. When somebody comes along that I want to jump behind and support I will do that. As far as bemoaning the leaders…. I have every right to criticise them. This is a democracy, I voted and I am not happy with the direction that our main political parties have taken. You can choose to go with the flow if you want, that is your right. However, I choose not to go with the flow when the direction of the flow goes against my principles, and that my right!

      • No , obama jr didn’t win any new seats

  2. Although it must be said that these bi-elections were not a ringing endorsement for this government the results do not signal a sea change in Canadian sentiment. Given how badly the Liberals performed in 2011 they could have run Luc Magnotta and saw big gains this time around. Combine that with the media’s preoccupation with the Senate “scandal” and Tomas Mulcair’s unelectability the fact that the Libs only retained the two seats they already had looks more like a failure to this observer.

    They did get a good share of the popular vote but 2015 will be a very different story. Canadians will have had an opportunity to witness just how flawed is the Libs shiny new pony, the economy and the deficit will be great news for the Conservatives and the Senate “scandal will be ancient history.

    • I certainly expected to be entertained by the the excuses and spin we were going to see from conservatives this morning, and I have not been disappointed.

      • Just as I certainly expected to be entertained by the (the) excuses and spin we were going to get from liberals this morning, and I have not been disappointed.

        The liberals managed to lose a riding in which the pollsters had them consistently ahead – by 29 points in the last poll. Against the backdrop of a conservative riding association engaged in open warfare and a scandal you would undoubtedly like us all to believe is the worst since Watergate. Try spinning that Gayle. Entertain me.

        • AND…tantrum Tom’s cadre of socialists took a pounding on all four ridings!

          • Not much bluster from the socialists this morning, is there?

          • yet not the headline – Mulcair sinks in flat orange pop – why not – Justin did nothing but what he should have done, nothing new the next day, but then the media would have nothing to talk about – its not like the Liberals have their own Senate scandal going on or something…

        • So your theory is what? That the polls were right and the liberals realm did have that huge lead until people suddenly remembered that Trudeau is the leader?

          Thanks for not disappointing me.

          • No Gayle. My theory is that in spite of all of the disasters which have befallen the Conservatives in the last year or so, the lousy campaign they ran in Brandon, dating right back to their nomination process in that riding, and the consensus among the pundits and pollsters that Harper was going to lose, the Liberals still couldn’t do better than the status quo. If anything would disappoint you, it should be that, but keep spinning.

          • I really hope the CPC election strategists agree with you, but something tells me they are smarter than that.

          • My theory has nothing to do with the CPC, and everything to do with their opponents. All of that bad news for the Conservatives, and the Libs and Dippers still lost. You should really be hoping things get even worse.

          • Seriously, your argument is not getting better with each point.

            Just sayin’

          • Gayle, seriously, you are wrong. Think about it.

          • Yes, you conservatives desperately trying to spin this into a big win for your guy are just so convincing…

          • Who’s saying this was a big win, Gayle? You should re-read the posts you’re responding to. Fourthought’s original post said the by-elections “were not a ringing endorsement of the government”, and my point is that the Conservatives held their ground when, under the circumstances, a stronger opponent might have blown them out of the water. You’re arguing against straw men you’ve conjured out of thin air, which is exactly the sort of spin tactic you’re accusing others of.

          • good comment…

          • Well, Gayle, at least I have one. All you’ve managed to come up with is a juvenile talk-to-the-hand game, which isn’t the sort of thing that topples governments. Your boy JT hasn’t come up with much more than that, come to think of it, although I have to admit that hijacking Smilin’ Jack’s kumbaya rhetoric and making all the socialists’ heads explode made me smile.

          • Exactly – This was a loss for Trudeau despite what the liberal media would like us to believe

          • show 30 points ahead during a by-election should be considered election fraud – how many decided not to vote that night because its a landslide for the other side – but I guess someone telling you the wrong place to vote is different…

      • actually its the spin by the left that is fun – Justin is the big winner, why because he kept two seats he had – conservatives kept two seats they had – headline should be Mulcair sinks in flat orange pop.

        % won by parties in a by-election are typical low for the ruling party as they most always get a slap by its constituents half way through a term, this is not new – so for the left to spin it like Justin is the second coming, get serious… Lets talk after the 2015 showing, then you can spin the heck out of it, or not….

  3. Zee Dauphin is ready for his coronation.

  4. I agree with Joan Bryden’s analysis in this article. Justin Trudeau did the best job of getting his message and platform out, and the best job of connecting with voters on the campaign trail. All while raising little kids at home too! Kudos.

    • What platform? “I’m not them but I agree with most of their policies.”

    • Yeah, Rebecca, he’s awesome. He did such a good job that he held two solid Liberal ridings, and failed to make any gains in byelections with the government mired in scandal. All while maintaining that great hairdo! Kudos.

    • Aw, Becky, you didn’t.. did you? You be teasing those Cons.. bringing up home life and marital situations..

    • to begin with – he has no platform, period nothing – other than pot and maybe mandatory sentences which he voted for in the first place – second, I will give you the connecting with voters – I am sure all the Liberals like him – lastly, “raising little kids at home too”, really – he’s a millionaire on the road but he’s raising the kids, serious, is that a joke or are you just pulling a leg or two?

  5. Canada, as predicted, is splitting along the Manitoba border.

  6. B.S.

    • I’d say that sums things up nicely. Must be tough to be Joan this morning. Had her column all ready to go before heading to bed last night, then the Conservatives held Brandon. If Joan had been writing this column in 2005, with the parties’ roles reversed, do you think Joan would be telling us how last night signalled a major victory for Harper? Me neither.

  7. Hilarious….the media is in full meltdown, tantrum mode this morning…losers.

  8. What a load of bull. No seats changed hands and this is a victory for Trudeau how?

    • Because, Ken. Just because.

    • Maybe read the analysis.

      • We both read it. It’s a load of bull. Or, as you like to say Gayle, spin.

  9. What some may not realize, is that Brandon-Souris and Provencher are both rural predominantly redneck areas, with a good dose right-wing Christians, so I’d be surprised if the Cons didn’t win these seats.

  10. It’s amazing how the Liberals keep pounding the pavement with Justin and think they have something spectacular here. I remind everyone that Pierre Trudeau passed away in 2000, and Justin is not his father. Liberals…. keep looking at that shiny new nickel and smiling, 2015 ain’t going to be pretty.

    • Everybody isn’t paying attention to Trudeau. They’re paying attention to Harper and into corner he’s painted himself. It’s surprising he hasn’t locked himself in the can lately. Who knows, he probably has but there was no foreign leader around to appease his hissy fit!!

  11. “Top By-election Winner”??? That’s a stretch.

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