Editorial: Lessons learned from yesterday’s by-elections


With the final votes counted in yesterday’s two federal by-elections, some sanity can now be applied to the results versus the spin provided by party insiders on the panelist shows over the past week.

First and foremost, with a by-election, any government’s popular vote percentage generally will be lower than a general election as the by-election becomes a referendum on the government in the absence of a local issue.  This trend is true in most cases whether it be a provincial or federal by-election.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the governing party will lose the by-election as seen yesterday.

Add to the fact that the prime minister typically doesn’t campaign in by-elections while the opposition party leaders do, and in this case, the opposition leaders have changed since the last general election.

Regardless of the percentages, it is a waste of time to compare the by-election party results with the last general election.  The bottom line is that the Conservatives convincingly won both by-elections.

Secondly, despite what I just said, Thomas Mulcair and the NDP cannot be happy with yesterday’s results.  In the past two general elections, the NDP has benefited by a weak Liberal party led by Abbott and Costello.  What has become clear since Justin Trudeau’s ascension to party leader, is that at least outside of Quebec, the Liberals have become the opposition party of choice.  This must be disconcerting to Mulcair’s team regardless of the spin.  A few more kilometres and Mulcair would have been outside of the country for yesterday’s by-election.

Thirdly, what is up with the anemic voter turnout?  I get that the voters in Yellowhead didn’t have the enthusiasm as there was no doubt in the outcome.  Why bother?  But the same cannot be said about Whitby-Oshawa.  Trudeau’s Liberals, while publicly claiming this is typical for by-elections, must privately be concerned about the constituencies he has been working with over the past year showing up to vote in a general election.

And lastly, Wolf Blitzer would be proud if he was watching the talking panel shows over the past week.  So much air time dedicated to the by-elections while talking about very little of importance or substance.  With the 2015 general election campaign unofficially underway, we can only look forward to more Blitzer-like conversations appearing on our televisions.

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