Women and giant-killers: 5 takeaways from Monday's byelections
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, April 4, 2017 6:35AM EDT
OTTAWA -- The final outcomes of Monday's federal byelections might appear to do little to change the political landscape in the House of Commons, since no seats changed hands among the parties. In fact, the opposite may well be true.
Here are just five headlines from Monday's vote that could prove to be significant developments as the 2019 federal election rapidly approaches:
1. The New Democrats showed signs of life in Ottawa-Vanier. The riding, a politically savvy region adjacent to Parliament Hill, played host to an aggressive push by the advocacy group Fair Vote Canada to punish the Liberals for abandoning their commitment to electoral reform. In response to media reports suggesting the group colluded with the NDP, a statement Monday insisted the campaign was theirs and theirs alone. "Fair Vote Canada's approach in these byelections has been to ask citizens to vote for candidates who have shown consistent support for electoral reform," including the NDP, the statement said. The fact the riding also includes the University of Ottawa, as well as many student residences, suggests the issue of electoral reform was a major motivator for a segment of voters said to have supported the Liberals for precisely that reason.
2. Four out of five of the newest MPs are women. At a time when talk of gender-based analysis, gender equity in cabinet, Canada's self-proclaimed feminist prime minister and the need for more female representation in the House of Commons, the fact that four out of five of Monday's victors are women can only be seen as good news. However, women still only comprise 27 per cent of all MPs, the group Equal Voice said in a statement. "We are hopeful that tonight's results will inspire even more women to seriously consider running for political office," the statement said. "Canada needs them."
3. The showing of hand-picked Liberal candidate Mary Ng. Ng, formerly the director of appointments in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office, didn't overpower her Conservative rival in Markham-Thornhill to quite the degree that some expected. The riding is one that longtime Liberal MP and former cabinet minister John McCallum won with nearly 56 per cent of the vote in 2015; on Monday, it was just 51.3 per cent. Those votes went to the Conservatives. Possible motivations: Blowback from widespread unhappiness with Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government in Ontario, or Conservative efforts to exploit apprehension in the riding about the federal Liberal plan to legalize marijuana.
4. Conservatives utterly dominated the Calgary ridings, despite concerted Liberal efforts to make inroads. A bit of a dog-bites-man headline, this one, but illustrative nonetheless of the fact that Fortress Alberta -- or Fortress Calgary, at least -- is as strong as ever. Anger over the Liberal plan to price carbon, as well as Justin Trudeau's town-hall musings about the eventual phase-out of the oilsands, surely helped to fortify Conservative support. Following in the footsteps of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney couldn't have hurt, either.
5. Upstart Liberal giant-killer going to the House of Commons. The fact the Liberals won the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent is no surprise. What is a surprise is who will be taking the seat that Stephane Dion previously occupied: Emmanuella Lambropoulos. The 26-year-old school teacher came out of nowhere to beat former Quebec minister Yolande James for the Liberal nomination last month, and hasn't looked back, even though James was widely seen as the Liberal establishment's preferred candidate. "I'm sure it will hit me a little later," Lambropoulos said after a victory speech at an Italian restaurant in the riding.