This coming Monday, four ridings go to the polls to find a replacement for their recently departed Members of Parliament. From Montral's Bourassa and Toronto-Centre to Brandon-Souris and Provencher in Manitoba, voters will determine if it's time for change, or if they will stay the course and stick with the party that's represented them thus far. The NDP is looking to make gains in Quebec and Ontario, while the Conservatives hope that the senate scandal will not affect their chances in Manitoba. But what are the polls saying? Forum Research might have the answer.
First of all, for the most part, it looks like nothing much is going to change on Monday. As it sits, the Liberal candidates are leading in Toronto and Montreal, and the Conservative candidate in Provencher is leading handily. In Vic Toews' old seat his heir apparent is Conservative candidate Ted Falk, who has the support of just over half the electorate versus Liberal Terry Hayward who has less than a third of popular support. Unfortunately for the current governing party, that's were the good news ends.
The real race, according to Forum, is in Brandon, which is currently poised to be the major upset of this by-election cycle. It turns out that Merv Tweed's old seat might be going red with Liberal Rolf Dinsdale currently leading in the polls with 44 per cent support over Conservative Larry Maguire at 36 per cent. There was some controversy over the Conservative's selection of Maguire, a number of local members of the riding association feeling slighted having Maguire dropped in on them. Meanwhile, Dinsdale himself is the son of a former Progress Conservative MP, so he's got cache on his side. If the Liberals win Brandon it would be a huge loss for the Conservatives, a rare chink in the armour of the party's westward base that begins at the Ontario/Manitoba border.
As for the other two ridings in play, the Conservatives never had much of a chance there. In Montreal and Toronto, the race is between the Liberals and the NDP, and things have been getting nasty. In Bourassa, the NDP have accused the Liberals of binning their signs, while the NDP have been sticking the Liberal candidate with the "Just Visiting" label that the Conservatives used to sink Michael Ignatieff in 2011. Still, despite the mudslinging, it seems that the seats that once belonged to Denis Coderre and Bob Rae respectively will stay safely in Liberal hands.
In Bourassa, former MLA Emmanuel Dubourg is leading with 51 per cent of the vote while Bran Van 3000 singer Stéphane Moraille for the NDP and Daniel Duranleau for the Bloc are in a statistical dead heat for second at 21 and 20 per cent. The Conservative candidate Rida Mahmoud, meanwhile, is running a distant fifth with a measly three per cent of the vote, two points behind the Green candidate. In Toronto, the story is the same. Liberal Chrystia Freeland is beating NDP Linda McQuaig 47 per cent to 32, while Conservative Geoff Pollock brings up third with 16 per cent.
"The leaders in all these races appear to be solidifying their positions, and the challengers appear to be falling back slightly. Our results in these by-elections have been very consistent, so I don't think we're looking at any surprises," said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.
But surprises are what people were wanting. The NDP wanted an upset in former Liberal strongholds to solidify their place as the first, best alternative to the Conservatives, and the Conservatives, having abandoned Toronto and Montreal for practical reasons, are looking to merely hold on to their seats in Manitoba. If the Liberals can secure a win in Brandon, that would be a big checkmark in their column and big boost to the ego of a party that was written off for dead after the last general election. The NDP will be caught in electoral limbo, losing all four primaries is not entirely defeating, but it's not exactly good PR either. The Conservatives though have the most to lose. If the Liberals can take Brandon, what else can they take? What impact do the various scandals have on the government, and can the tight control the national party's enjoyed continue to serve its best interest or help to spur on insurrection in the local ranks?
I guess we'll start getting answers to those questions Monday night.