Four federal byelections to be held in March
Published Friday, December 21, 2007 4:25PM EST
Four federal byelections will be held in Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia early next year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday.
The ridings -- Ontario's Toronto Centre and Willowdale, B.C.'s Vancouver Quadra and Saskatchewan's Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River -- will hold their byelections on Monday, March 17.
The Liberal party currently holds all four seats, and experts say they have a good chance at keeping at least three of them.
The two Ontario seats, both longtime Liberal ridings, will see high-profile Grit candidates campaigning for them.
Martha Hall Findlay, a former leadership candidate, will seek election in Willowdale.
Bob Rae, a one-time Ontario NDP premier and Liberal leadership hopeful, will be the Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre. The riding has not been represented in Parliament since Bill Graham stepped down on July 2.
On Friday, Rae welcomed Harper's announcement and said he was ready to accept the challenge.
"I have been talking to constituents about the issues that matter. I will be working to earn the confidence of voters in Toronto Centre and hope to take their concerns to Ottawa as their MP," he said in a press release.
A strong showing in the byelection is considered vital for the Liberal party, after a poor result in three Quebec byelections in September.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion has been criticized for the Liberal party's failure after it lost the riding of Outremont to NDP candidate Thomas Mulcair.
A seat held by the Bloc Quebecois was won by the Conservatives, while another was retained by the Bloc.
Dion took responsibility for the poor showing in Quebec and promised success in future elections.
"We may have a national election -- a general election, or a byelection in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and British Columbia. We intend to win these byelections or a general election," he told a press conference in September.
Of the four March byelections, the Liberals could find the northern Saskatchewan riding the most difficult to hold. The Liberal's Gary Merasty officially beat the Tory candidate by 67 votes during the 2006 election.
The Liberals are still deciding who will represent them in the byelection. One of Dion's key leadership organizers, David Orchard, is openly campaigning for the position, but has not officially received the nod.
Saskatchewan NDP MLA, Joan Beatty, the first aboriginal woman elected to the province's legislature, said she has been approached by both the Liberal and NDP parties to run in the federal election.