This week there have been by-elections in three separate locations so lets dive into what happened and what they mean.
Canada on December 11th
Here are my thoughts on each one
Bonavista-Burin-Trinity: Liberals win it easily in a landslide as expected although not quite as big a blowout margin as in 2015. But to be fair, I don’t think it was very realistic for them to maintain their 80% support and likewise not surprised the Conservatives rebounded a bit.
Scarborough-Agincourt: Liberals hold this traditional stronghold, but not by their usual large margins. Also the Conservatives crack the 40% mark for the first time in nearly 30 years so this suggests they have potential to win back some of the 905 ridings further afield.
Battlefords-Lloydminster: Conservatives win in a landslide as expected. Nonetheless running up big margins in rural Prairie ridings may increase their vote share nationally, but won’t make a difference in seat count.
South Surrey-White Rock: This was probably the most competitive of them all and a Liberal pick-up in a traditionally safe Conservative seat is great news for the Liberals and bad news for the Tories. Although to be fair I suspect if Diane Watts wasn’t the Conservative candidate, the Liberals would have won this in 2015 and likewise some of the Liberal votes were personal ones for Gordon Hogg who is former mayor of White Rock and former BC Liberal cabinet minister. I am no fan of Trudeau, but I do like Hogg so happy about Hogg winning personally, not so happy about the Trudeau Liberals getting an additional seat. The two by-election results suggest Scheer needs to up his game.
Liberals: With their second by-election pick up, definitely a huge morale booster for the Liberals and no doubt will probably shut up many critics in the caucus. But the Liberals need to be careful still as despite picking up two new seats, they have seen their share of the popular vote fall in 9 of the 12 by-elections since 2015. That being said Trudeau’s moving leftward seems to be keeping the NDP down so working for now, but if the Tories can pick up more centrist votes it could be problematic.
Conservatives: A bad but not disatrous night. Bad in that they suffered their second by-election loss; not disastrous in that their share of the popular vote still went up in 3 of the 4 by-elections and they cracked the 40% mark in 3 of the 4. So the Conservatives seem to be up overall but in all the wrong places (winning bigger margins in strongholds, or gaining in no hope ones but not enough to win). The Tories need to do better in BC and Quebec and likewise Scheer needs to do a better job of making himself known to Canadians. I don’t think switching leaders makes sense as most Canadians still don’t know whom he is and besides with 22 months left until the election, probably time is a bit tight to change leaders anyways. Also Trudeau has largely united the left thus the Tories cannot rely on the NDP to split the progressive vote, so Scheer needs to do a better job of picking up some Blue Liberals and Red Tories to compensate for this.
NDP: If a bad night for the Tories even worse for the NDP. Yes none of these they were realistically going to win, but they got clobbered. More importantly they have seen their share of the popular vote go down in 11 of 12 by-elections so not a good record. The bounce many thought Singh would provide the NDP hasn’t yet materialized. Still it is early going and once on the campaign trail I suspect the opposition leaders will get more attention whereas now Trudeau is the centre of attention.
Alabama Special Election
Doug Jones of the Democrats pulled off a narrow win in one of the reddest states in the union which Trump won by 28 points and hasn’t elected a Democrat in over a quarter of the century. As a normally very red state, the GOP loss was likely not attributable to one thing, but a combination of three factors. Unpopularity of Trump, Roy Moore’s extreme views, and Moore’s sexual assault allegations with a minor. Anyone of those on their own or even two of the three would have not been enough to sink him, but all three combined was enough to allow the Democrats to pull off a narrow victory in a state that they would normally have no hope in. The bigger news here is the Democrats now have a shot at re-taking the senate in 2018 which they didn’t before. There are only 8 Republicans up for re-election in 2018 and realistically Arizona and Nevada are the only two the Democrats have a shot at flipping so if they can flip those two and hold onto all 25 they have up for re-election, they have a shot at taking the senate. It will be an uphill battle, but the climb is that much easier now.
Tonight Jason Kenney will face his first test in the Calgary-Lougheed by-election. As a very safe conservative riding, I suspect he will easily win. What will be interesting is to look at the shifts.
UCP: The Combined PC + WRP vote was 63% in 2015 and provincewide 52% so if Kenney can match or exceed this, good news for him. But if he falls well short of it, could mean merging alone was not sufficient and that he could face difficulties in 2019.
NDP: They got 30% last time around here and got 33% in Calgary while 41% provincewide. With a merged right, it will be very difficult for the NDP to win if they cannot at least match or exceed their share of the popular vote they got in 2015. As such if they exceed 30%, they are still in the game, come close to it they have work, but at least a fighting chance. While if they finish well short of it then bad news, but still time to recover.
Liberals: With David Khan who is the leader running here, this is a chance for him to make the Liberals the main centrist alternative for those who find the UCP too right wing, but NDP too left wing. A strong showing by him improves the chances the Liberals will become the centrist alternative, while a poor showing means the Alberta Party is more likely to emerge as the centrist alternative.
If not too tired this evening will comment on the results.
Jason Kenney wins in a landslide getting nearly 72% of the popular vote which is more than 8 points above the combined PC + Wildrose vote in 2015. NDP crashes from 32% to 17%. While the election is still another 17 months away, I would be very worried about these results if the NDP. They will need to see major improvements in poll numbers to even be competitive. Yes this is a safe Conservative riding but usually conservative support is only around 10% more than what it is provincewide so if the UCP is getting 72% here, then that would be more than enough to win overall.