The big news: By-elections don't matter, except this time -

The big news: By-elections don’t matter, except this time

No party will admit defeat after this evening’s votes


Photo by Cole Garside

By-elections don’t matter. They’re not significant. They’re no harbinger of the political future. Voters lash out against governments because the stakes are low, as is turnout. By-elections are isolated, local affairs that don’t have much consequence outside of the rigid borders of whichever riding is at stake. So, no, by-elections don’t matter. Except this time. Tonight, they’re significant harbingers.

Toronto Centre, Bourassa, Brandon-Souris and Provencher: the nation looks to you.

So goes the conversation every time a prime minister calls a cluster of by-elections. The Canadian Press sets the scene for a quartet of contests this evening—two in Manitoba, one in Toronto, and one in Montreal. The report declares that tonight’s fireworks are “being perceived as much more than just a litmus test for the Conservative government.” Indeed, they’re also meant to “declare which opposition party would be the best alternative” to Stephen Harper’s team.

Three party leaders have paid plenty of attention to the contests. Harper sent a letter to voters in Brandon, Man., where the Liberal candidate could win—and might even run away with what’s normally a Conservative gimme, if you trust the pollster who says so. The NDP’ Tom Mulcair and the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau have spent several days each campaigning in Toronto and Montreal. No one wants to lose. Trudeau and Mulcair thirst for upsets. Their combined ambition means that, even if by-elections don’t normally matter, CP says these four “seem to be the exception to the rule.”

Questions dog each leader: What effect will Harper’s uncertain role in the Senate expenses scandal have on his stock? How much will Trudeau’s rising star at community centres across the nation matter in the four communities that are voting tonight? Who noticed Mulcair’s thundering performance in the House of Commons?

It would be nice if voters would consider each of those questions carefully before they cast their ballots, for the benefit of the reporters who’ve assigned them such importance. Otherwise, claims that the elections “have taken on greater significance” will be all for naught. Usually, someone writes a story about high advanced poll turnout signalling some sense that voters are hungrier than ever to practice democracy. This time around, of course, someone wrote that story. Don’t disappoint those heightened expectations, voters.

Probably, every party will claim a victory of some sort tonight. The Conservatives will hold on to at least the Provencher seat, and claim any losses are restless voters sending a message to Ottawa. The Liberals could win anywhere between zero and three seats, everywhere except Provencher, but even competing means they’re back on the map. The NDP could win anywhere between zero and two seats, but they’ve made clear that zero—which is a good bet—is no loss because, hey, they’re the underdogs tonight.

And then, well, the by-elections will be over, memorable or not, and the nation will move on to other business, which it’s mostly carried on with, anyway. “Let this just be over,” writes Paul Wells, as voters get set to do their thing. Yes, please.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail PM Harper met Nigel Wright on Feb. 22 to discuss Mike Duffy’s expenses.
National Post
Israel says a nuclear deal with Iran is an historic mistake.
Toronto Star Jon Bon Jovi wants to bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto.
Ottawa Citizen John Baird is “deeply skeptical” of the nuclear deal with Iran.
CBC News A Calgary couple says their GM vehicle guzzles too much gas.
CTV News Four byelections are testing the federal leaders’ popularity.
National Newswatch The Liberals hold a 29-point lead in the by-election in Brandon, Man.


What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Seals. The World Trade Organization rules today on the validity of the European Union’s ban on imported seal products. Even though the ban specifically exempts imports that originate in aboriginal communities, Inuit leader Terry Audla called the ban “Orwellian.” Norway is also challenging the policy.
THE GLOBAL Egypt. Gatherings of more than 10 people in Egypt require government approval, thanks to a new rule dictated over the weekend by interim president Adly Mansour meant to control protest. Human rights groups say the law is too restrictive, more so than any imposed by deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.


The big news: By-elections don’t matter, except this time

  1. What is this new fashion of damning people who write about story X by doing another story about story X?

  2. Harper may have had a hand in paying back tax-payers’ money to make up for the transgressions of a Conservative Senator. I am far less concerned about that (in fact, I applaud it) than I am about Trudeau’s apparent sociopathy. Someone that charges charities tens of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements while collecting an MP salary demonstrates a pathological sense of entitlement. Most Canadians and particularly politicians give to charity not take from them…..

    • They sell tickets for the speech. Justin gets a percentage of the sales. Kindly stop repeating a falsehood.

      • So the media reports that Justin charged not-for-profit groups from $10 to 20 thousand are incorrect?
        Have you seen the contracts to which you refer? Are all – as you allege – based on a percentage of the take?
        Justin steps in so many cow pies that it must be tiring trying to clean up after he returns from playing in the field.

        • There were no such media reports….that was Con spin.

          And Justin publically offered to give the money back….but no one took him up on it. In fact the only person who had ever complained about it turned out to be a Con party member.

          The Speaker’s Bureau is a standard business here in Canada, and many people use it as a way to raise money for their group.

          Harper is the poster boy for cow pies….Justin is doing fine.

          • Emily, denying that he charged flat rates plus expenses for his speaking engagements doesn’t make it so. In any case we know that he charged tens of thousands to charities for speaking. This is a fact. The is also reason to believe that some of it was done when he should have been in the HOC doing the job Canadians both elected him to do and pay him to do.

            The man is a sociopath.

          • Rubbish. Don’t post on here if you can’t keep up.

          • OK, I see what you are now; an idiot that has no use for truth. Worse than most Liberals that love Trudeau for all the wrong reasons none of them having anything to do with his policies (whatever they are) or his leadership skills.

            You’re done.

          • I’m not a Lib. You however are a Con.


      • He could do it for free Emily. Those are $2/3 donated by ordinary people who work to put bread on the table or kids who saved from pocket money. How sick you have to be to take money like that ?

        • Why should he do it for free? We have MPs who work at lots of other jobs.

          And the groups sell tickets to hear him speak….people willingly buy the tickets to hear him. It’s not a donation……. and spare me the Tiny Tim nonsense.

          • Name one that charges charities for speaking engagements.

            P.S. Those tens of thousands going into your shiny pony’s bank account were all deducted from donators’ income tax. Did you also know that he also charged them for limousines to drive him from Ottawa to Kinston and back.

            Like I said, he is a sociopath.

          • Hogwash.

            If you’re auditioning as the Xmas temp…..Major Fail

          • “Hogwash”-great debating technique…

          • Conservative senator Pamela Wallin charged for speeches. As did three other Conservative senators, Jacques Demers, Larry Smith and Mike Duffy. No big deal though right since otherwise they were as clean as the driven snow. Whew, dodged a bullet there didn’t you?

          • How very disingenious of you. I said name one other that charged CHARITIES for speaking. Charging corporate or for-profit entities don’t count. Nobody cares about that (unless of corse, they skip off their HOC duties to do so).

            Try again, Sport.

          • Jacques Demers charged charities so no need to try again…sport. Pamela Wallin charged a city so taxpayers were on the hook for that but I’m sure you’re OK with sticking it to taxpayers as you’re a Conservative supporter.

    • I don’t believe you for a second.

      • What don’t you believe? That Turdeau stands alone among MPs or politicians of any kind that makes a good living charging charities to speak?

        Trust me. This will be one of many personal failings that will sink him. It is not trifling.

  3. The Green Party of Canada fared poorly, but then again, so did Reform in the past until it took government a decade ago as the new Conservatives, and the Liberals went from the party of power to the garbage dump and still hasn’t really emerged. The NDP, well Orange Crush never was a favorite drink of many and is doomed for oblivion, leaving the Green Party to fill the NDP/Liberal gap and, when that happens, turning the Tories into the rotting rubbish they are.
    Elizabeth May is great.