Date set for four federal byelections
OTTAWA—The federal Conservatives are keeping expectations modest for their prospects in four byelections—two in Alberta, two in Ontario—set for the end of June.
“We all know majority governments don’t typically fare well in byelections, the opposition parties do,” said Cory Hann, communications director of the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives anticipate hanging on to the two Alberta ridings but do not expect to win more than 10 percent of the vote in each of two Toronto-area contests, said one senior Tory insider, who spoke on condition they not be named.
“The two Ontario ridings, I think the writing’s on the wall on those,” said the source, who picked Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to win both fights.
“If there’s a race, the two horses in that race are going to be the NDP and Liberals.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced yesterday that voters in the four ridings would go to the polls Monday, June 30—in the middle of what for many will be the four-day Canada Day weekend.
The timing—and unusually long seven-week campaign period—were intended to steer completely clear of the June 12 Ontario election, the Conservative insider said.
The byelections will provide a glimpse of the fevered political jostling well underway in the run-up to a general election next year.
The Alberta constituency of Fort McMurray-Athabasca was vacated by Conservative MP Brian Jean, who stepped down in January, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.
Conservative MP Ted Menzies resigned his southern Alberta seat in the riding of Macleod in November to become president and CEO of CropLife Canada, a trade association for plant-life technologies.
“We’ll likely hang on to those,” the Conservative source said.
“That said, we’re obviously not going to take them for granted,” the source stressed.
“It being a byelection, it’s always a different beast.”
Trudeau, meanwhile, is working to prove the Tories wrong—campaigning in Fort McMurray-Athabasca during the weekend with candidate Kyle Harrietha and tweeting that there’s an “appetite for change” in the region.
In Ontario, the byelections will unfold against the backdrop of the hotly-contested provincial election and a high-profile mayoralty race featuring troubled incumbent Rob Ford, who has forged close ties to senior federal Conservatives.
Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina became vacant when New Democrat Olivia Chow—widow of former party leader Jack Layton—resigned to challenge Ford for the mayor’s job.
In suburban Scarborough-Agincourt, Liberal stalwart Jim Karygiannis stepped down to run for a seat on Toronto city council in a ward that overlaps much of the federal riding.
It’s turf the Liberals have held for a quarter-century, making it Grit candidate Arnold Chan’s to lose.
Harper did not call a byelection for the Ontario riding of Whitby-Oshawa, left without an MP upon the recent death of Conservative Jim Flaherty, the former finance minister.
The riding was not part of the mix this time out of respect for both the family and the parties since none has yet nominated a candidate, the senior Conservative said.