By Election Numbers II

Even though everyone (myself included) loves to compare by election results to the last election, by elections are not general elections. As such, the more useful comparison is to other by elections.

With that in mind, let’s dive in to the numbers from this last round of by elections.


Turnout was 32.4% in Vaughan, 30.8% in Winnipeg North, and 26.9% in Dauphin, for an overall average of 30%. This is comparable to the 31.1% we saw in the last round of by elections and slughtly below the average of 34.2% we’ve seen since 1998 – 34.2% is also the average by election turnout in the Harper era so, despite lackluster excitement in the last two rounds of by elections, there’s not strong evidence of a long term decline in by election turnout.

Party Performances

Looking specifically at the 17 by elections during the Harper era, here’s how the parties have performed, on average, relative to the previous election:

CPC: +5.5% (+3.6% if you exlude the Bill Casey by election)
NDP: +0.6%
Lib: -0.1%
Bloc: -2.9%
Green: +1.1% (due almost exclusively to London North Centre)

So, the Bloc have had a rough ride, and the Tories have tended to over perform their previous election results. Feel free to toss out your own theory why that is.

I think a lot of it comes down to the Tories’ superior ground game but, above all else, it’s likely due to the fact that every by election, except Dauphin, has been in an opposition-held riding. Since 2004, the “incumbent” party has dropped an average of 5.3% in by elections. Which makes sense, given they’re the ones losing the incumbent…and quite often, a long serving or popular incumbent.

A good test to this theory will be in the next round of by elections, when Jim Prentice’s and Jay Hill’s seats open up. I’d expect the Tory vote to drop noticeably in both these ridings should they go to by election.

Vaughan & Winnipeg North

The Conservatives picked up 15 points in Vaughan – no small feat, but far from extra ordinary. It’s the 7th biggest jump in a Harper era by election…and we’re only talking about 17 in total.

Winnipeg North has been overshadowed by Vaughan in the post-election media reaction, despite it being a far more remarkable story. Kevin Lamoureux saw a 5-fold increase in his share of the popular vote, for an increase of over 37 percentage points. That breaks (by a fraction of a percentage) the Harper era record – but that was in Cumberland Colchester after Bill Casey resigned, hardly a fair comparison. The next highest gain had been 30 points, by Thomas Mulcair in Outremont.

So what does the future holds for Misters Fantino and Lamoureux? Well, as fun as last night was, they might want to hold off on calling an Ottawa-area real estate agent. In by elections held between the 2006 and 2008 elections, five candidate saw a double digit gain in their vote. In these 5 instances, the average by election gain was 20 points – but they lost an average of 10 points in the next election. Even Mulcair saw his vote share fall 8 points in the general election.

Lamoureux and Fantino both squeaked in by slim margins – if they wind up giving back half their gains the next time we go to the polls, they’ll both be out of work.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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