Calgary Centre, Victoria and Durham up for grabs in federal byelections

Voters from Victoria to central Ontario vote in three federal byelections today

OTTAWA – Three federal byelections that will be settled tonight have created a lot more heat and noise than midterm votes usually do.

The seats in Calgary Centre, Victoria and central Ontario’s Durham were all vacated by resigning MPs — and polls indicate they’ll send parliamentarians wearing the same partisan sweaters back to Ottawa.

That suggests two more Conservatives and one New Democrat in the House of Commons, an outcome that will alter neither the party standings nor the political dynamic.

Voters can be forgiven for wondering, then, what all the hollering has been about.

Calgary Centre caused the biggest fuss after polling showed the Tory stronghold under an unprecedented threat from a Liberal contender — and sparked a full-force Conservative response to some regionally divisive comments by a couple of Liberals, including leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau.

Victoria and Durham have also been hard-fought affairs as every party tests the electoral waters for the general election of 2015, when the Conservatives will have been in power for nine years.

Joan Crockatt, a favourite of the Conservative party establishment, may face some questions if she fails to cruise to victory in the Calgary Tory stronghold that sits next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s riding.

The seat was made vacant when veteran MP Lee Richardson resigned to take a post as chief of staff to Alberta Premier Alison Redford.

In Victoria, Murray Rankin is in a four-way race to replace fellow New Democrat Denise Savoie, who resigned due to health issues.

And in Durham, where former Conservative cabinet minister Bev Oda resigned after a series of controversies, polls suggest Tory Erin O’Toole has the edge.

New Democrats, at a minimum, hope to cement their party’s position as the principal contender in Durham, muscling into the traditional Conservative-Liberal horse race that has marked the Ontario riding for decades.