Well the votes are counted, and we wake up this morning to a few more questions answered in the #cdnpoli scene then we went into yesterday with. Coming out of these results, this has all the feels of what I’d call an “Oprah result”, in that almost everyone who participated got something they wanted. But each party also had the opposite, so it was a mixed bag. The results in the three by-elections in York-Simcoe, Outremont and Burnaby South brought big results and have added fuel to what the Falls election might look like.
The biggest story being followed into yesterday was the NDP, and arguably for all the wrong reasons. The narrative that this campaign started with was simple; NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was fighting for his political life in Burnaby South. Well if that was the biggest story going into yesterday, you can claim that Jagmeet was the biggest winner of all last night. He won the seat, he won it with a solid margin of 13% over the second place Liberals and he was able to quiet a lot of doubters. But while the news in Burnaby was good, the news in Outremont was not as good. Losing Outremont was a symbolic blow, even if it was one that many saw coming. It was in 2007 where Tom Mulcair’s win helped to start the momentum towards the Orange Wave of 2011 with his gutsy by-election win there. So, to see the seat fall back into the Liberal fold does hurt. Some solace can be taken by the fact that the NDP came a very solid second place, but as many pundits have noted, Outremont is very different from the rest of Quebec. While the result there could have been much worse for the NDP, it doesn’t change the greater narrative about the receding Orange Wave in Quebec.
For the government Liberals, the good news was winning in Outremont. It wasn’t as sweeping a victory as many thought might come there, but it’s another win in Quebec for the government and the third seat they have picked up in a by-election so far in this Parliament. That’s quite a feat for any government, especially one that’s now going on it’s fifth ethics investigation. This result speaks well to their chances to make more gains in Quebec, where there are many favourable ridings still out there to be had. But while the news was good in Quebec, the result from Burnaby should be worrying. The government saw their share of vote drop by over 5% and all of the extra headaches that came in that race did their damage. For a government who thought they might be able to make gains in the Lower mainland of BC, this result doesn’t help, and I believe would make a few sitting area Liberals a bit more nervous.
For the Conservatives, the good news is quick and simple; they held York-Simcoe. That’s where the good news ends for the Tories though. They only held this with around the same margin of last time; in an environment where they should have been able to grow their vote, in a part of the country where they need to in order to catch the Liberals, they didn’t. That’s not a good sign. Further to that, the Conservatives fell to third in Burnaby with only 22.5% of the vote, getting a big chunk of their support eaten up by Max Bernier’s party (more on that in a bit). And to top it all off, they came fifth in Outremont. Fifth!!! The Official Opposition came fifth behind the Greens and Bloc in a largely anglophone Montreal riding; that’s bad. They were never expected to win there, but the fact that they couldn’t even get enough vote to get their refunds from Elections Canada is just terrible.
For the Greens, last night was a bit easier to watch, only having two by-elections to follow as they didn’t run anyone in Burnaby South. Their night was surprisingly better than most expected, as their Deputy Leader Daniel Green came third in Outremont with 12.5% of the vote. They finished ahead of the Bloc and will get their refund in the riding too. Not too shabby, but a result that will be hard to see translate beyond the unique riding that is Outremont. But on the bad side for the Greens, their result in York-Simcoe was just rough; they came in fifth finishing even behind the Progressive Canadian Party’s Dorian Baxter, who is best known for being an Anglican minister and an Elvis impersonator. Ouch.
But beyond the NDP, everyone’s eyes were also on Max Bernier’s Peoples Party of Canada. This was their first foray onto the scene and the first time they found their way onto a ballot, running candidates in all three ridings. Everyone has wondered what their effect on the electorate would be and last night gave us more clues. For the bad for Max’s crew, you can point to York-Simcoe and Outremont where they ran a distant sixth in each seat, barely cracking 2% in both. You could point to that and say this is a failed experiment, which many Conservatives are hoping is the case. But then that brings you to the good news for Max from Burnaby South. In that riding, they came a solid fourth, getting almost 11% of the vote and eating into the Conservatives chances there. It should be noted that the People’s Party really only seemed to put a lot of resources into one of these three ridings, and in that one riding they kneecapped the Conservatives and got their refund in the process. I said on CFRA yesterday that if the PPC got over 5%, it would hurt the Conservatives. If Max Bernier is capable of getting over 10% in a few dozen ridings across the country (which I think is a very low bar for them to meet), that could seriously hurt Andrew Scheer’s chances and may tip some seats away from the Conservatives and towards the Liberals or NDP. That would be the Conservative worst nightmare, and it seems it’s a plausible possibility.
So, all tolled, yesterdays by-elections have not just brought three new faces to the new chamber in the West Block, they have brought a lot of light and information to our current electoral situation. Heading into the election this Fall, we now have a better idea of who the combatants will be and the position of relative strength they will be coming from. There is still much out there to be determined but after last night, every party has some equally good reason for hope and dread for the Fall ahead.