It's a big week for Canadians who love the thrill of victory, the scorching sting of defeat, or maybe just enjoy the competition and challenge of the game in all its facets, and no, I'm not talking about the NHL playoffs.
There are two big elections this week, literally from coast to coast. On Monday, Peter Penashue gets to find out if he's going to keep his job as MP of Labrador, while on Tuesday British Columbia voters go to the polls to decide if they want a new provincial government, or keep the one they have in Christy Clark's Liberals. Both are locally focused, but the results will likely have broader implications nationwide.
First up is the Labrador by-election, which has become the receptacle for a lot of recent Tory scandals and is considered by many to be a plebiscite on the majority government of Stephen Harper and its recent string of controversies. Penashue, who won in 2011 with a meager 79 votes, has faced an uphill battle when he resigned from his seat last month after it came to light that he received tens of thousands of dollars in improper donations in the last election.
To say that support for Penanshue's been soft is something of an understatement. A Sun News poll at the end of April suggested that the Conservative MP had only 29 per cent support, while challenger Yvonne Jones, Liberal and veteran of the Newfoundland legislature, sits at 60 per cent support. Penashue maybe the incumbent, but Labrador has been Liberal since joining Confederation in 1949 with the exception of 2011, and promises made last week that Penashue is likely to rejoin cabinet if re-elected is probably not going to do much for the fair play crowd. This should be an easy win for the red, and it will only add to the Liberal momentum that's been building since the election of Justin Trudeau as leader in April.
Meanwhile, in BC, things seem a little less rosy for the Liberals, but not as dark as they once were. When the election was called in April, it was not a question of f the NDP were going to win, but rather how badly they were going to beat the Liberals, and while that is still the question, the answer is now something more like, "maybe not as bad as you think."
In the poll of polls on the blog ThreeHundredEight.com, the once nearly 50 per cent average enjoyed by the NDP sits at 43 per cent, while the Liberals, who struggled to break the 30 per cent mark, now sits at 36.8 per cent. In terms of seats, that breaks down to 52 for the NDP and 32 for the Liberals; that's 84 out of 85 with the remaining seat going to an independent candidate. If these results stand, it will still keep the BC Conservatives and the Green Party in the wild with no seats between them.
For Clark and the Liberals, the implications of a softer beating means that the vote is less a blowout and more a natural guard change after over a decade of Liberal rule, just as the Liberals took over from 10 years of the NDP in the 90s. And the tighter the race, the better it's going to look too. On the high side, the Liberals could win as many as 43 seats, while the NDP, on the low side, could win as few as 40, which is minority government territory. That's unlikely to happen, but does signify that going into Tuesday there's a lot of wiggle room.
The broader implications are that the Liberal brand is as cooked provincially as previously led to believe. The further implication for the Ontario Liberals, who maybe facing their own election challenge soon, is that no scandal is insurmountable. Kathleen Wynne and her government have already proven that despite the increasing number of political hot potatoes, there's still tremendous doubt about potential replacements in the person of either Andrea Horwath or Tim Hudak. The BC Liberals, once reviled under Gordon Campbell just a few years ago, have managed to bounce back rather affably, and if the election were a little longer who knows how much closer they might have closed the gap.