Four federal by-elections will test Trudeau and Mulcair’s vote-pulling power
Bourassa, in Montréal. Toronto-Centre. Brandon-Souris and Provencher in Manitoba.
November 25 will see by-elections in all four of these places — and with it, a test of strength, primarily for Justin Trudeau, and secondarily for Tom Mulcair.
Bourassa and Toronto-Centre were Liberal before Denis Coderre and Bob Rae stepped down. Both Manitoba seats were Conservative.
Riding-level polls suggest three Liberal wins, with only Provencher (Vic Towes’ old seat) remaining in Conservative hands. But the polls are also in flux in all three.
For Justin Trudeau, who has raised his party up to a leadership position in national opinion polling, three out of four next week is his test. He has to hold both seats his party held previously, and add one on the Prairies to prove the Liberal upswing isn’t just temporary.
Bourassa is likely to remain Liberal. The riding is dominated by the Haïtian community, and the candidate is a well known Haîtian-Canadian (Emmanuel Dubourg). Although the NDP candidate, Stéphane Moraille, has been gaining in recent days, Dubourg’s lead should be sufficient to keep the riding Liberal.
On election night, watch to see if Daniel Duranleau, the Bloc Québécois candidate, improves on the Bloc’s vote — and how close Moraille comes. These will be indicators of how Québec may unfold in the general election.
In Provencher, Ted Falk, the Conservative, is likely to have an easy time of it over Liberal Terry Hayward and NDP candidate Natalie Courcelles Beaudry. (In all the ridings voting next week, the Green Party is running a candidate, but no major effort is being made by that party in any of them — as was done in the Calgary-Centre and Victoria by-elections previously.)
Brandon-Souris is a riding the Liberals need to win. Justin Trudeau has invested time and energy into its capture, campaigning with candidate Rolf Dinsdale. Dinsdale, at the moment, is polling ahead of Conservative Larry Maguire (both are well ahead of NDPer Cory Szczepanski). The Conservatives continuing to hold Brandon-Souris will prick the air out of the Trudeau balloon.
None of the Conservative candidates have received a campaign stop by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has stuck to his policy of not involving himself in by-elections.
Alice Funke, at Pundit’s Guide, wrote about how Trudeau, at least in Brandon-Souris, is doing his best to position his Liberal party as the Progressive Conservatives reborn. (Dinsdale is the son of a former PC politician.) The goal is to position the party as moderately fiscal-right with a social conscience.
That may work in Manitoba, but, as Funke pointed out, it leaves the party open to losing in Toronto-Centre — and a loss in Toronto-Centre will hurt Trudeau just as much as failing to make a gain in Manitoba will. Perhaps more.
In Toronto-Centre, all the guns have been brought out. Trudeau has been to the riding more than once, and will be again. But so has Tom Mulcair.
Toronto-Centre is a riding that will have its boundaries changed as the House expands from 308 to 338 seats next year. For the NDP, the revised Toronto-Centre is likely to be an easier target. For the Liberals, therefore, holding this seat (which they’ve held since the free trade election of 1988) matters: it would be much harder to win back after those changes take place.
Trudeau’s very public support for Keystone XL in Washington, DC, has turned into a subject that his candidate, Chrystia Freeland, doesn’t want to talk about — along with a whole lot more. Freeland, a financial journalist, is up against Linda McQuaig, also a journalist and author. (Freeland has also recently returned to Canada from New York — evidently one Michael Ignatieff wasn’t enough.)
Oh, and Freeland is Trudeau’s personal pick to be the candidate, as became clear during the nomination process — and has already been announced as, win or lose, building the Liberals’ policies for the general election.
At the moment, Toronto-Centre is too close to call, but both the Liberals and NDP have saturated the riding with workers, many leader visits, and using MPs from surrounding ridings to support their candidate.
This column’s prediction? The Liberals will take two: Brandon-Souris and Bourassa. The Conservatives will take Provencher. It’ll be a late-night nail-biter in Toronto-Centre, but Linda McQuaig will eke out a win for the NDP there. (As well, the NDP will make a strong showing in Bourassa — stronger than the Bloc.)
One new seat will give Mulcair and the NDP a boost. Losing one will deflate Trudeau.
Expect to see the coal poured on and all sorts of surprise leader moments in the week that’s left.