Super Thursday in Ontario was yesterday.
In the middle of summer, difficult to see good conclusions.
As excepted (and this was the point of calling these by-elections a Thursday before a long week-end) turnout was low, but it was quite good in Ottawa South.
And yet, three trends come from these by-elections:
1)Liberals are becoming a third party in South Western Ontario. In 1999, 2003 and 2007, party had done very well in this region almost winning every seat, but now, party is close to be a marginal party. NDP are doing well in inner cities and PC had a breakthrough in 2011 in almost every rural area in Ontario. Next general election, it’s quite possible that the Liberals win no rural constituencies.
2)For the Tories, it was a mixed night. Party finished first in the by-election votes total and it did better than 2011 in all ridings. Also, no doubt that Etobicoke-Lakeshore was a good victory and was the party highest score since 2003 in a riding in the city of Toronto. But the party should have won Ottawa South and London West. Their work was not enough and the PC as a party is still more popular than their leader. Possibly that having a municipal councilor for the Tories in Ottawa South would have been a win for the PC as the score was close and a good indicator of what the riding is without a McGuinty there. But then, I would be not surprised if Matt Young become a MPP in the future. Being quite unknown only a month ago he did well all things considered. If no polls were made putting him with 50% of the vote, pundits would probably say that Young is a rising star.
3)Nobody should underestimate the Liberal machine in some places. I said yesterday afternoon that Tories were overpolled in Ottawa South as I know the riding. However, what we don’t know is that if the 905 (the Toronto suburbs outside the proper city) fell, could it bring the Tories a lot of seats as it is the region where governements are made in Ontario since 1995. Based on the swing in Etobicoke and Scarborough, could the Tories also win seats like Scarborough-Agincourt, Etobicoke Centre, Willowdale, York Centre or Eglinton-Lawrence in Toronto? Add also that it will still be very difficult for the Liberals to keep Ottawa-West-Nepean and Ottawa-Orléans. They are both federal Tory seats, while Ottawa South had only went Tory federally during the 1984 landslide.
But yes, there is a sense that by-elections tend to bring a plus to parties who are able to have a ground game for a few ridings. People must remember that federally, the NDP once won Peterborough in the 60’s, Chambly in 1990 and it did win provincially Carleton East (now Ottawa-Vanier and Ottawa-Orléans) in the 1970’s where the party is a weak third today. I do think that both Kitchener-Waterloo, London West and this Windsor riding will stay NDP but no doubt that except in a 1990-like scenario the NDP cannot have 60 London West or 100 candidates like their star radio host turned candidate in Windsor. The party will also win seats which were formerly safe seats. If you take Sudbury, Scarborough-Rouge River, Windsor West, York South-Weston and the two Thunder Bay ridings except in a massive landslide, the Tories are not doing well in those seats.
What is also worrying for the Ontario NDP is that their two most well known candidates locally (in Ottawa South and Scarborough-Guildwood) had very lukewarm scores.
In conclusion, all parties could say that had won something in these five by-elections. But what is worrying is that the real loser are Ontarians. The Ontario NDP had perhaps won two seats from the Liberals, but the party is very shaky on what they will prop up the Liberals except for a few gimmicks that the Liberals don’t seems to mind giving. Also, it’s clear that no party leader right now have a clear understanding of the current seriousness of the situation in Ontario. If things continue to go this way, the province will remains a have-not province which is leaded by people who think they can get away with anything because they have a party machine.