Monday, November 29, 2010

By-Elections: Tories Win, Liberals save face, NDP loses

As many expected, Conservative "star candidate" Julian Fantino has won the seat of Vaughan, held by Liberals for 22 years. He defeated Liberal Tony Genco by 997 votes, or just 2.5%.

Some in the media have been speculating that if the Liberals lose Vaughan, they would refrain from defeating the Tories and provoking an election this coming Spring, or even through 2011. However, the situation is murkier due to the unexpected Liberal win in Winnipeg North, where Kevin Lamoureux beat Kevin Chief, who was trying to hold the seat for the NDP, by 795 votes, or 5.1%. This win will prevent Liberal morale from sagging due to the loss in Vaughan, but the worry remains that the Conservatives have made significant inroads in the inner portions of the 905.

Finally, as expected, the Tories carried Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette in Manitoba by over 30%.

Turnout was 32.4% in Vaughan, 30.8% in Winnipeg North, and 26.9% in Dauphin-blah-blah. Low, but not disastrously so.

I would refrain from reading too much into these results. Certainly, this was a good night for the Conservatives, and a bad one for the NDP. However, the electors that voted today will only form about half of the electorate for the next general election. Because of the close margins in Vaughan and Winnipeg North, it is difficult to tell who would would have carried those ridings had the general election voters turned out.

Still, given Peter Kent's fairly narrow win (9.6%) in Thornhill in 2008, it's plausible to venture that:
- In 416-adjacent seats, Tories can win by a small margin with a star candidate. But this means that such seats would probably remain Liberal in a neutral match-up.
- There has been no great change in the 905 political landscape since 2008. Of course, this is unsurprising, since recent Ontario poll numbers are very similar to the 2008 election results.

Finally, an interesting fact: due to Vaughan's fast growth and Manitoba's over-representation in the House, there are more registered electors in Vaughan (120,864) than in Winnipeg North and in Dauphin-etc. combined (104,747). In fact, there were more votes cast for Tony Genco (18,263), the losing candidate in Vaughan, than for all candidates combined in Winnipeg North (15,780) or Dauphin-SW-M (14,411).

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