Yesterday we saw the last by-election of the 42nd Parliament take place on Vancouver Island in the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. This seat became open when New Democrat Sheila Malcolmson stepped down to run to become MLA, to replace Leonard Krog who stepped down as MLA to become the Mayor of Nanaimo. So, for the good folks of this riding, this was a third vote in a span of six months. Also, this by-election vote came with a few months left in the life of this Parliament, which made it a unique situation for sure. And with a unique situation, we ended up with a unique result:
For the Greens, this marks the second Federal seat they have ever one and despite that, it’s not a huge shock. For a few years now the Greens strongest region anywhere has bee Vancouver Island and after Elizabeth May’s seat and Victoria, Nanaimo-Ladysmith was surely their next target. In the 2015 campaign, the Greens came fourth with close to 20% of the vote, the strongest fourth place result in the country and one of the Greens best results period. So, when this seat came open, it stood to reason that they would pour everything they had into it.
Another factor in this Green win, the largest factor I would argue, was the candidate himself. Paul Manly ran here in 2015 for the Greens after being rejected as an NDP candidate. Paul is also the son of former NDP MP Jim Manly, so the Manly name does hold some power in that area. When Manly jumped to the Greens, this riding rose up their target list because of that factor so I would argue that this is just as much a “Manly” win as it is a Green win.
For the New Democrats, I would keep that last piece in mind; this wasn’t a Green wave sweeping the country so there is no need to overreact to this result. Finishing third is a difficult pill to swallow, but this wasn’t some massive repudiation of the New Democrats. If anything, this was the result you get in a by-election where the voters have gone to the polls a lot lately and there is a full-on general election coming a few months away. If you told me that this seat flipped back into the NDP column in the Fall, I wouldn’t be the least bit shocked.
For the Liberals, while their expectations for the riding weren’t that great, but to finish a distance fourth is never good for a government at any time, especially when that fourth place is a worse result when compared the last fourth place finishers in 2015. But for them too, this is not the result to panic over; the Liberals were not going to win this riding, so this wasn’t the referendum on the government that some would want it to be.
And for the Conservatives, they must be happy with the percentage of their vote, which rose from 2015, but also seeing the splintering of the other parties. One of the hallmarks that I will believe you will see in the 2019 election is crazy vote splits and three, four and in Quebec, five-way races. That will make for some crazy, unpredictable results that will have a big effect on the formation of the next government. We can’t point to an example of that in the past where we’ve seen so many ridings that could have that experience, which will make for a very competitive race on many levels.
Finally though, if I was to put on my most partisan hat, I’m happy to see that the second Green to ever be elected in Paul Manly. Elizabeth May is the Green Party and with her hard work and approach, she’s built a solid reputation and name for herself, one that has become the Green Party’s reputation. Paul Manly isn’t as known for being calm, level-headed on many issues. Remember this is the guy who attacked Paul Dewar of all people for not being strong enough on Israel. There weren’t many tears shed when he was rejected from the NDP nomination in 2015 and now that he’ll be in Ottawa, Elizabeth May will likely have her first caucus management issues to deal with, especially if he lasts beyond the next few months. As I said a while ago about the Greens on PEI, now they are building a track record, with warts and all. If I was being uber partisan and had to choose the next person to be in the Green caucus, he would be straight from central casting.
But in the end, this by-election will be noted for the second Green win ever on the Federal scene, but that will be about it. This by-election result is much more about local situations and characters than it is about any national trend, no matter how much anyone wants to try to spin it to their advantage as such. The most important thing about this by-election is that it’s now over and done; that means the next time that Canadians cast a vote in a federal riding it will be in the Fall for the big one. And there are many more things that will happen between now and then that will affect that Fall vote than this by-election result will.