by elections

By-Election Live Blog

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics | 9 Comments

“Harvey’s a great guy – for an Albertan”

Voters in Durham, Victoria, and Calgary Centre head to the polls tonight in what were originally pegged as three “safe” by-elections. The story appears to be following the script in Durham and Victoria but, unexpectedly, Calgary Centre has become the riding to watch. When Lee Richardson resigned from Parliament last spring, no one could have fathomed the type of bizarro world we’d find ourselves in, with the Tories on the ropes, the Greens attacking the Liberals, and two-year old comments by Justin Trudeau becoming the defining issue of the campaign.

While it seems likely the Conservatives will hold the riding, I don’t have a lot of confidence in any of the polls we’ve seen, and there remains a small chance the Liberals or Greens could break through. Since it would be a shame for a blog titled “Calgary Grit” to miss the first win by the Liberal Party of Canada in Calgary since 1968, I’ll be live-blogging the results here as soon as the polls close at 7:30 Mountain Time.

7:57 pm (Mountain Time): You can find live results from all three by-elections here.

8:01 pm: The Elections Canada blackout has been lifted (since, you know, voters in Durham would be affected by how well the Green Party does in Calgary) and, with 15 polls reporting, we have a race in Calgary. Still extremely early, but Crockatt leads Locke by just 9 votes.

8:04 pm: I’m skeptical this will last, but with 20 polls reporting, the Liberals now lead in Calgary by 10 votes. The Conservatives look safe in Durham, but the NDP are running a surprisingly strong second there.

8:12 pm: While I’m glad to see Locke up, we should all be concerned that a Liberal win in Calgary was part of the ancient Mayans’ “end of the world in 2012″ prophecy.

8:17 pm: With 45 of 262 polls reporting, the Libs and Tories are now tied at 990 votes, with the Greens only 200 behind.

8:37 pm: As Crockatt begins to pull away, everyone will be blaming this one on the vote split, bringing on another round of “merger/single candidate” talk. My view? Just go to the preferential ballot. It would solve the vote split issue.

8:52 pm: Elections Canada has Crockatt up by 334 votes with over a third of the polls reporting, but tweets coming from (supposedly) Liberal HQ show the Grits in front.

9:06 pm: And the Greens now lead in Victoria! What a fun day for political junkies.

9:47 pm: Both the Elections Canada data and the on-the-ground reports appear to be converging to the same conclusion – a slim victory for Joan Crockatt.

10:02 pm: Before I sign off for the night, let me add a bit of historical context. Since 1968, there have been many instances of Liberal candidates earning around 30% of the vote in Calgary ridings – heck, Cam Stewart picked up 27.7% during the Ignatieff flame out election last year. But Bev Longstaff’s “record” of 32.6% could very well fall tonight, with Locke sitting at 33.2% right now.

Role Reversal

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections | 19 Comments

Now I know how Conservative candidates running in tight Ontario races must feel whenever Rob Anders opens his mouth during a federal election campaign:

Rae forced to apologize after David McGuinty says Alberta Tories should ‘go home’

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has apologized for a colleague who suggested Alberta Conservative MPs are shills for the oil industry and should “go home.”

Rae says Ottawa MP David McGuinty’s comments were a mistake and certainly not helpful, coming less than a week before a Calgary byelection in which the Liberals have high hopes of an upset.

Yeah, “certainly not helpful” is an understatement.

For anyone who might be wondering why the Liberal Party hasn’t won a seat in Calgary in over 40 years, David McGuinty has just answered that question for you.

UPDATE: David McGuinty has resigned as Resources and Energy critic. Clearly, the Liberals are taking the Calgary Center by-election seriously, because there’s no way this would have been a firing offense one year ago.

Liberal Heartland Calgary

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, by elections, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 7 Comments

Like most Liberal campaigns launched in Calgary, Martha Hall Findlay’s leadership bid is a longshot.

Wednesday was not a typical day for Calgary Grits.

While leadership candidates must all fly into town, knowing the party’s weighted-by-riding leadership system makes a vote there far more valuable than a vote in Toronto, I have never seen a serious candidate launch their leadership campaign from the heart of Conservative country. But there was Martha Hall Findlay at the Stampede grounds, declaring her intentions to run for Liberal leader.

It’s tempting to write off the Calgary launch as a meaningless prop, but politics is all about symbolism and Hall Findlay may very well be the closest thing to a “Calgary candidate” to ever run for Liberal leader. She’s an executive fellow at the University of Calgary, once lived in the city for a few years, has family in the area, and employs a Calgary-centric campaign team. Yes, she might very well get steamrolled by Justin Trudeau, but what says you’re the Liberal Party’s “Calgary candidate” more than crushing defeat? Or having your hopes dashed by a Trudeau, for that matter?

Even more surprising on Wednesday, was a poll showing Liberals on the cusp of history in the Calgary Centre by-election:

Joan Crockatt (CPC) 32%
Harvey Locke (Lib) 30%
Chris Turner (Green) 23%
Dan Meades (NDP) 12%

Now before we all get visions of Calgary’s first Liberal seat since Trudeaumania (the first Trudeaumania, that is), it’s worth considering Forum’s shaky reputation and the small sample size (n = 376). I don’t think anyone believes this poll is accurate, but the question is how inaccurate it actually is.

After all, parts of this riding are red provincially (or green now, thanks to the ALP’s rebranding), and Naheed Nenshi won over 50% of the votes in the riding during the last municipal election. It’s a downtown riding, and although they’d never admit it, downtown Calgarians have a lot more in common with downtown Torontonians than with Nanton ranchers.

So even though the Tories got 57% the last election, by-elections are strange animals and Crockatt is a divisive figure – I would not be surprised to see her at 40-45% on by-election night. And that puts us squarely in Linda Duncan territory, where a coalition of progressives could actually win.

Of course, Alberta progressives have a habit of tripping over their feet anytime they get remotely close to power. So we’ve got the Greens attacking the Liberal candidate for “just visiting”, and the Liberal candidate calling the Green candidate “a twerp”. While there are coalitions calling for strategic voting, this poll paints a picture of the Greens pulling away enough vote to let Crockatt hold on – even though the Liberal candidate is an environmentalist who founded the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

So, in all likelihood, it will still be a few years before the Liberals actually win a seat in Calgary. Or until we get a real Calgary leadership candidate. But Calgary Liberals were closer to both those accomplishments Wednesday than they’ve been in a long time. It was a good day to be a Calgary Grit.

A Reminder of the Unpredictable Nature of By-Elections

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Ontario Politics | 17 Comments

Just 17% of Kitchener-Waterlooians voted NDP provincially last fall – nearly the same number who voted NDP federally last spring, in the midst of the orange wave. They hadn’t won the riding since 1943, when they were known as the CCF.

So this isn’t a riding with deep NDP roots. And it’s not like the other parties rolled over – Liberal Eric Davis ran an impressive campaign in 2011 and the PC’s Tracey Weiler is a fine candidate.

Yet last night, NDP candidate Catherine Fife not only won – she steamrolled the competition, and more than doubled the NDP vote in the process.

In Vaughan, meanwhile, support levels barely budged. Of course, that could be a surprise in and of itself, given how suddenly the riding swung conservative federally in a 2010 by-election.

Not that we needed the reminder, but this just goes to show how by-elections can take on a life of their own. Threehundredandeight offered a 25-point wide confidence interval for his K-W NDP vote projection, and they still inched above it.

So given the unpredictable nature of by-elections, it’s probably best not to extrapolate any greater meaning from last night’s results – other than Tony Genco’s complete and utter failure as a politician, of course.

That’s not to say what happened in Kitchener-Waterloo won’t change things. McGuinty was denied his majority, leaving the fate of his government in limbo. Because people do read too much into by-elections, Tim Hudak’s leadership will once again be questioned and the NDP will be emboldened to bring down the government.

Before they do, they might want to consider another by-election that occurred the same night Vaughan went blue in 2010. At the exact same time voters in Vaughan were rejecting the Liberals, the Liberal vote in Winnipeg North quintupled, and Kevin Lamoureux won a riding the NDP had taken by over 40 points the previous election. A rather ominous sign for the fourth place party, heading into an election just 5 months later, n’est-ce pas?

Sometimes a by-election is just a by-election.

The Dog Days of Summer

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics, Ontario Politics, Quebec Politics | 1 Comment

Pauline Marois will make Quebecers long for the tolerant Premiership of Jacques Parizeau

With politicians away from Ottawa and politics the last thing on the minds of Canadians, the summer news cycle usually slows to a crawl. Short of extraordinary events – war, disaster, or the great Census crisis of 2010 – politicians are content to stay on the back pages of the newspaper, and Canadians are more than happy to keep them there.

At least normal Canadians are. Those of us with an unhealthy addiction to politics need something to talk about at BBQs, now that the Jays have fallen out of contention. During the minority years, you could count on an interesting poll and a fresh round of election speculation every week. Now that we’re in a majority, the best we can do is work ourselves into a lather over Harper’s “monumental” Cabinet shuffle, then act surprised when, as has been the case with every single Cabinet shuffle Harper has ever done, it failed to live up to the hype.

Still, there are some news stories floating around as the summer comes to close. Among them:

1. Quebecers will head to the polls in under 2 weeks, and there are still three candidates with a legitimate chance at being Premier when the dust settles. The most likely, despite what today’s bizarre Forum poll suggests, is Pauline Marois, who is catering to the rawest, most hateful forms of human emotion to get herself elected. She would prevent francophones from attending English CEGEPs. She would forbid employees in public institutions from wearing religious symbols, hijabs, and turbans (but not crucifixes). She would ban anyone who does not pass a French test from running for office. While I agree not being able to speak French is a liability for an elected official in Quebec, so is being a racist, and there’s (obviously) no law against them running for office.

2. Two days after the Quebec election, voters in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan will decide whether or not to hand Dalton McGuinty his third majority government, after a year of minority probation. Given Tim Hudak shows no interest in keeping the government afloat, and the Liberal-NDP marriage seems about as solid as a typical Kardashian marriage, it likely won’t be long before all Ontarians head back to the polls if the Liberals don’t sweep these two by-elections.

3. In slightly less exciting by-election news, the next Conservative MP for Calgary Centre will be chosen this Sunday. Daveberta provides the low-down on the candidates.

4. Today marks the one year anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. At the Globe, Brian Topp weighs in on what the NDP have done right (not being Conservatives) and what they’ve done wrong (not choosing Brian Topp as their leader) over the past year. Actually, Topp is quite gracious towards his former leadership rivals, but it is interesting to see him raise the issue of re-opening the constitution. In the midst of a Quebec election, no less.

Also marking the anniversary is a Harris-Decima poll, under the headline “New-look NDP not that different from the house that Jack built“. Of course, the poll says the exact opposite of that – for better or worse, only 8% of Canadians say the NDP of today is “very similar” to the Layton-led Party.

Oda Out

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics | 5 Comments

Newspapers across the country must now retire the most unflattering stock photo ever

While most will toast Bev Oda’s departure with a $16 glass of orange juice, to me, she’ll always be the Cabinet Minister who doctored government files and got away with it. In some respects Harper oews his majority government to Oda, as her “not” problem last winter emboldened the opposition to bring down his government. Maybe that’s why he stuck by her as long as he did.

Either way, Oda did Harper another favour yesterday by announcing she is resigning as an MP. This will allow her boss to bring someone who almost has to be more competent into Cabinet during his summer cabinet shuffle (which everyone is frantically speculating about now but, if history is any indication, won’t live up to the hype).

While there is no rush to call a by-election, one assumes Durham will get bundled up with by-elections in Calgary Centre and, barring a change of heart by the Supreme Court, Etobicoke Centre – most likely this fall.

In addition to opening up a Cabinet spot, Oda’s departure will therefore let Harper claim a “two out of three ain’t bad” night when the by-elections roll around, even if he loses Etobicoke Centre. That’s because, like the Calgary by-election, it would take an act of Higgs boson for this riding to change hands.

The Conservatives took Durham by over 33 percentage points last election (CPC 55%, NDP 21%, LPC 18%, Green 5%), making it the 16th “safest” Tory seat in Ontario. Using census demographics, a regression analysis, and other yucky statistical models, the ridings comes out as the 8th most “Conservative” riding in Ontario, so it seems unlikely their vote total was being drive by a love of Bev Oda.

Sure, it will be interesting to see if Tory support shifts and who finishes second. But truth be told, this by election may be even less competitive than Calgary Centre – and that’s saying something.

Calgary Centre By-Election

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics | 13 Comments

As David Wilks reminded us last week, Conservative backbenchers are “not going to make a difference”. So it’s not at all surprising that Lee Richardson has turned his back on Ottawa to take a job as Alison Redford’s principal secretary.

This gives Stephen Harper six months to call a by-election in Calgary Centre, and one assumes it will get rolled up with the Etobicoke Centre re-vote, should the Supreme Court uphold the original ruling. In some respects, Richardson’s resignation is actually good news for Harper – even if the Tories fall in Etobicoke Centre, they’ll be able to cushion the impact with a win in Calgary Centre.

Because win they will.

Although Liberal candidate Julia Turnbull put up a good fight back when Richardson first won the riding in 2004, he took it by 40 points last spring.

Admittedly, we’ve seen some dramatic by-elections over the years, but there are no local dynamics in play here that suggest the Conservatives have anything to worry about.

That leaves us with two races to watch. The first will be the Conservative nomination – assuming they don’t just appoint a candidate, as they did when Jim Prentice’s seat opened up. Daveberta has run down the list of possible candidates including, John Mar, Jeremy Nixon, Paul Hinman, and Ezra Levant. Although a Levant candidacy would be entertaining, I’m fairly sure the powers-that-be will find a way to make sure someone better than Ezra gets the nod.

The other race to watch will be the battle for second – in 2011, the NDP came within 1,400 votes of the Liberals, and in 2008 the Greens came within 600. In recent years, we’ve seen the NDP supplant the Liberals as the second place party in most of Edmonton’s progressive ridings, so they’d no doubt love to do the same in Calgary. Mind you, that task becomes more and more difficult each and every time Thomas Mulcair opens his mouth.

Rematch in Etobicoke Centre

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics | 1 Comment

Despite all the close votes over the years, this is a first:

Election result in Toronto riding thrown out by judge

Conservative MP Ted Opitz’s 2011 federal election win last year in Etobicoke Centre was declared null and void today in a challenge by former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Opitz won the May 2011 election by 26 votes, but Wrzesnewskyj challenged the results over voting irregularities.

Justice Thomas Lederer’s decision Friday in Toronto, if appealed, would be immediately heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Wrzesnewskyj’s lawyer argued up to 181 ballots were in dispute.

We can safely assume this will be appealed, but if the ruling is upheld, Harper would have 6 months to call a by-election – and you can make the case he’d be morally obliged to call it ASAP, given the circumstances. While the stakes won’t be as high as in Kitchener-Waterloo, a WrzesnewskyjOpitz rematch would still be must-see TV.

McGuinty’s Majority Move

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Ontario Politics | Leave a comment

As I wrote on election night last fall, the line between majority and minority isn’t as rigid as it’s often made out to be. When the margin is this thin, one case of appendicitis can tip the scales and change the course of history.

On Friday, Dalton McGuinty proved how fluid that majority line is, by appointing veteran PC MLA Elizabeth Witmer as the chair of the WSIB, setting the stage for an “all in” by election in Kitchener-Waterloo, and hundreds of “battle of Waterloo” metaphors.

It’s hard to see this move as anything other than a minority masterstroke by McGuinty. Witmer is respected and more than qualified for the position he is appointing her to, so there’s little risk of  backlash. It undermines Hudak’s leadership and, most importantly, opens up a winnable by election seat for the Liberals. Here’s the KW vote totals from October:

Elizabeth Witmer (PC)  43%
Eric Davis (Lib)  36%
Isabel Cisterna (NDP)  17%
 JD McGuire (Green)  3%

An MPP with over 20 years in office has to be worth at least 5 points at the ballot box, making Witmer’s old seat very much a toss up. It’s a riding Andrew Telegdi won handily for the federal Liberals as recently as 2006, before razor-thin losses in 2008 and 2011.

While there’s no doubt a temptation to strike early and call a snap by election, McGuinty has the cover of the NDP budget deal to get him through the spring session, so there’s no immediate rush. After all, it’s a student riding, so there’s something to be said for a fall by election, when thousands Waterloo and Laurier students notice a cool 30% reduction on their tuition bills.

Regardless on timing, the election is going to be all about whether voters want a majority or a minority government. For the next few months, the eyes of the province will be on Kitchener-Waterloo.

In the news

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections | Leave a comment

No, I haven’t joined Gordon Campbell, Jim Prentice, Danny Williams, and Carole James in retirement. Rather, I’ve been off on vacation for the past week, so here’s a few quick hits on what I’ve missed:

1) On my by election numbers post, I said there’s no evidence of a long term decline in by election turnout. Turns out that’s not really true.

2) Welcome to the circus otherwise known as Rob Ford’s mayoralty.

Newly elected politicians will often try to expand their tent, moderate their message, and reach out to those who voted against them. Not Rob Ford.

But hey, Ford was elected with 50% of the vote. Those who dislike him, dislike him a lot. So why change? Expect Ford to be Ford for the next four years – and if he keeps his base happy, he should be able to pick up a second term.

3) Julian Fantino’s muzzle has been removed…and the first thing out of his mouth is comparing the Liberal Party to Hitler.

On their first day in Ottawa, all new MPs should be given an instruction booklet that tells them where the bathrooms are, reminds them not to lose their briefing books when sleeping over at residences frequented by the Hells Angels, and implores them to not compare their opponents to Hitler.

4) Speaking of Fantino, Ottawa is abuzz over Cabinet shuffle speculation. My sense is Fantino will get a spot – he’s a star candidate in a riding the Tories want desperately to hold, after all. But given his raw and untested political skills (see above), I predict he’ll get eased into a junior portfolio.

5) With a flury of polls out, I’ll be sure to update my Poll Soup and Seat Projections sometime over the next week. For now, I’ll say that the “shocking” Star headline of “Liberals need a new leader, poll suggests” is rather un-shocking when you get down to it. These sort of polls come out all the time – there was a Decima survey last month that showed half of Canadians want Stephen Harper replaced as Conservative leader.

If Liberal members want Ignatieff gone, that’s a problem. If his MPs do, that’s a problem. But when people who won’t vote for him or his replacement want something new…that’s just politics.

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