Editorial — Liberals fare well in federal byelections

The prime minister chose an odd day for four federal byelections — Monday, June 30. Voting day came in the midst of what was, for many people, a four-day long weekend. It also occurred on the eve of Canada Day.

Two of the byelections were in the Toronto area, and two were in Alberta. Turnout in all four was very low,  much lower than in a federal election. One race in Alberta attracted just a 15 percent turnout — lower than in Langley municipal elections.

The highest turnout, about 33 per cent, was in downtown Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina byelection, where Liberal Adam Vaughan handily won the seat that had been held by Olivia Chow of the NDP, widow of the late Jack Layton. Chow is running for mayor of Toronto.

A better turnout there isn’t surprising. The seat was competitive and is considered a bellwether for the Liberals in urban Ontario. Justin Trudeau’s leadership of the federal Liberals clearly resonates with the downtown Toronto mood.

One should not read too much into the byelection results, considering the low voter turnout. However, the Liberals fared very well, winning the two Toronto seats comfortably and placing second in the two Alberta races behind the Conservatives.

Trudeau’s leadership has clearly helped keep Liberal supporters within the fold, and the party should do well in Ontario in the next federal election. That province may in fact be its strongest area of support, given that the provincial Liberals, who are much more closely allied to their federal namesakes in Ontario than in B.C., recently won a majority government there.

The Liberals will name their candidate in the new federal riding of Cloverdale-Langley City this week, and given that they will be the first on the ground with a nominated candidate, that should help them here as well. It will be a tough row to how though, given the strong traditional support in both Langley and Cloverdale for the federal Conservatives. That party has not yet set a nomination meeting date, but there are five candidates seeking the nomination, so it will be a closely-watched event.

The Conservatives have a good chance to retain government in the October, 2015 federal election — if the Liberal and NDP vote remains split. The NDP should do well in Quebec, but their ability to retain status as the official opposition may be in question, given that the Liberals seem to be building a significant amount of momentum.

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