Candidates counting down to three federal byelections Monday
Published Saturday, November 24, 2012 10:28AM EST
The final weekend of door-knocking, hand-shaking and last-minute pleas is here.
Canadian voters in three different provinces -- Ontario, Alberta, and B.C. -- will head to the polls Monday to take part in three federal byelections. And while byelections are traditionally considered run-of-the-mill votes that garner little interest, these races are shaping up to be anything but boring.
While no major upsets are predicted for the ridings of Durham, Calgary Centre and Victoria, tongues are wagging over a two-year-old gaffe, a campaign-sign controversy and an unfortunate mascot, known as Mr. Floatie.
And with both the NDP and the Liberals undergoing major changes in leadership since the 2011 vote, some are looking to these three byelections to get a feel for how the parties' are faring in the wake of such shifts.
The following is a look at each of the ridings up for grabs, and some of the issues at stake:
The riding at the centre of Western Canada's economic powerhouse -- Alberta -- is up for grabs following former Conservative MP Lee Richardson's decision to leave the post to work for Premier Alison Redford last May.
Home to much of the city’s downtown, Calgary Centre comprises everything from office towers and urban condos, to homeless shelters and low-income housing. Roughly 127,000 residents live in the area, which is atypical due to its younger population.
The riding has remained a Conservative stronghold for four decades, since it was first created in 1968, though it has swapped hands from Progressive Conservative, Reform and Canadian Alliance candidates. Notably, the riding elected PC candidate Joe Clark in 2000, bucking the Canadian Alliance trend that was sweeping the rest of the province.
Richardson swept the 2011 election, taking 57 per cent of the vote; the Liberal runner up took only 17 per cent.
But the federal Liberals are hoping for a red revival this time around as a recent poll has shown that their candidate Harvey Locke is a mere five points behind Tory frontrunner Joan Crockatt. Crockatt has also come under fire for missing many of the riding’s debates, including one organized by Calgary’s mayor.
The riding was thrust into the spotlight at the end of the week, as well, when Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau came under fire for anti-Alberta comments he made in 2010. Trudeau apologized for the remarks Friday, suggesting they were dug up by the Conservative party and leaked to media because the Tories were concerned about losing the Calgary Centre byelection.
Issues at stake:
Issues related to the oil and energy industry are expected to play a key role in the Calgary Centre byelection, as they typically do in all of the province’s elections.
One particular area of focus with Monday’s vote is the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry Alberta crude to the B.C. Pacific coast, along with the potential sale of Calgary-based Nexen to a state-owned Chinese company.
The NDP has accused the federal government of intentionally delaying the Nexen decision until after the byelection.
- Joan Crockatt (Conservative) -- a television political commentator and journalist who once worked for Conrad Black
- Dan Meades (NDP) -- a social activist and advocate for the working poor and homeless
- Harvey Locke (Liberal) -- a lawyer and conservationist, writer and photographer
- Chris Turner (Green) -- a journalist and writer focusing on environmental issues
- Antoni Grochowski (Independent) -- a registered architect and Calgary realtor focusing on sustainability
- Tony Prashad (Libertarian) -- a former chef now working for Calgary Transit as an outside maintenance worker
Voters in the Ontario riding of Durham will soon decide whether they want to keep the district Conservative blue following the unexpected resignation of Tory MP Bev Oda last summer.
The former cabinet minister stepped down in July. Though she did not specify a reason, the move followed a flurry of criticism over her expenses, including a now-infamous $16 glass of orange juice.
Oda had held onto Durham for eight years, representing the riding after a boundary adjustment and name change from its previous designation as "Clarington-Scugog-Uxbridge." Prior to Oda's arrival, the riding had long been Liberal territory with ex-MP Alex Shepherd at the helm. The Tories finally managed to wrest the riding away in 2004, after Shepherd’s retirement.
Oda took home 54 per cent of the nearly 60,000 votes cast in 2011, while the NDP garnered 21 per cent and the Liberals, 17.
Durham’s current incarnation sits at the eastern edge of the Greater Toronto Area, blanketing several communities including the town of Clarington, Uxbridge, Port Perry, Bowmanville and Courtice. It also covers a northern edge of Oshawa, as well as Scugog First Nation.
Known as a sizable manufacturing hub, Durham has seen residential development flourish in recent years. According to Statistics Canada, the district was home to more than 126,000 people during May 2011’s federal election, an increase of more than 8,300 people since the previous vote.
Companies such as Pine Valley Packaging, the Ontario chapter of Koch-Glitsch Canada and Hela Spice Canada are among the many manufacturers that call the riding of Durham home.
But perhaps surprisingly, it’s a campaign sign that’s been heating up this race. Red-and-white signs featuring the outline of a soldier are emblazoned with a Liberal logo, directing residents to a veterans-focused website www.Durham4vets.org.
That site ultimately links back to the official website of Liberal contender Grant Humes, and his fellow candidates have accused him of using a serious issue for political gain. They’ve also suggested he was trying to capitalize Remembrance Day, since the byelection was called just three weeks before that date, on Oct. 21.
Tory candidate Erin O’Toole also has strong ties to the military, having previously served for both the Air Force and the Navy.
Issues at stake:
Because of the strong influence manufacturing has on the local economy, jobs and lower taxes top the list of concerns for Durham voters. Particularly, the refurbishment of the Darlington nuclear station will be important to job sustainability over the long-term in the region, as will the proposed construction of four new nuclear units at the same site. Agriculture also plays an important economic role in the riding.
- Erin O’Toole (Conservative) – lawyer and retired Canadian Forces officer
- Larry O’Connor (NDP) – former MPP Durham-York, former mayor of Brock, Ont.
- Grant Humes (Liberal) – businessman, former vice-president of the Toronto Board of Trade
- Virginia Mae Ervin (Green) – field technician at a fitness company, CEO of the Durham Federal Green Party Association
- Andrew Moriarty (Christian Heritage) – has run for CHP in previous years
- Michael Nicula (Online Party) – founder of the Online Party of Canada, educated as a Certified Management Accountant
The riding of Victoria became vacant in August after NDP MP Denise Savoie announced she was leaving politics due to health reasons. Savoie had held the seat since 2006, when it was taken away from four-term Liberal David Anderson, who had held it since the early 90s.
The smallest of the six federal ridings on Vancouver Island, Victoria is also the most densely populated. Residents span the spectrum, from the poor and homeless in Victoria, to its middle-and working-class suburban neighbourhoods, and the more affluent in Uplands in Oak Bay.
Approximately 111,000 people call the riding home, and it proved to be a more politically engaged district in the 2011 election, with voter turnout being 7 per cent higher than the national average.
Victoria actually has a long political history dating back to 1871, when it was originally chartered as Victoria District following the province's entry into Confederation. Canada's first prime minister, John A. MacDonald, was elected to represent the riding in 1878 despite never having stepped foot there.
In the 2011 vote, Savoie more than doubled the votes of her closest competitor, Conservative Patrick Hunt. But this time around the race is shaping up to be a slightly different battle, between the incumbent NDP and the Green Party.
In the last election, the neighbouring riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands sent Green Leader Elizabeth May to the House of Commons, making her the first elected MP from that party to join the lower chamber. Hoping to capitalize on that momentum, the Green Party is said to be running a fierce campaign in Victoria, which has a couple of environmental issues front and centre.
A recent poll shows Murray Rankin is on track to keep the seat for the NDP, far ahead of his closest rival, Green candidate Donald Galloway, but with low voter turnout to the advance polls, it’s too early to tell.
Issue at stake:
Victoria voters share many of the concerns common to residents across Vancouver Island: principally the environment and the economy. But given its urban setting, voters there also have homelessness and safe streets on their radar.
This time round, a secondary sewage treatment plant proposed for the region has been a focus of debate, bringing back an unfortunate mascot known as “Mr. Floatie.” At issue: whether the city should go ahead with the McLoughlin Point wastewater treatment plant in Esquimalt, B.C., or carry on with the current practice of releasing screened sewage directly into the sea. The proposed plant has already seen funding commitments from the federal and provincial governments.
Of the four major party candidates, the NDP's Murray Rankin is the only one in favour of the proposed treatment plan.
- Dale Gann (Conservative) -- President of the University of Victoria's Vancouver Island Technology Park and the Marine Technology Centre, 18 years as high-tech sector executive
- Murray Rankin (NDP) -- environmental lawyer, professor, campaigning against Enbridge pipeline
- Paul Summerville (Liberal) -- University of Victoria business professor, former RBC chief economist focused on income inequality
- Donald Galloway (Green) -- Scottish-born environmental lawyer, professor, expert on refugee, immigration and citizenship law
- Art Lowe (Libertarian) -- Victoria native focused on government corruption
- Philip Ney (Christian Heritage) -- a psychiatrist and academic, advocate for restoring "respect for our Christian roots and culture"