Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – For Whom the Bell Tolls – November 30, 2010 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – The by-election win in Vaughan will give the Conservatives some momentum going into the spring campaign season. It should also put a few people on notice that change must come in the days ahead.

For Ignatieff, his days are numbered. If he hasn’t yet realized that he can’t cut it on the federal political scene, his caucus certainly knows it. Today there should be a lot of very nervous Liberal MPs as the loss in Vaughan puts them all on notice that not a single seat in Metro Toronto is a safe bet for them.

Today, Ignatieff is trying to make the best of what is really a bad day for him. He is stubbornly insisting that hard work will turn things around before the next election- how much more does he think he can do? He has done everything possible to win public support, from bus tours to constituency visits. It just isn’t working for him.

The big question remains, how much longer will these now endangered Liberal MPs be willing to wait and have their seats remain at risk? When will the caucus fracture as they search for a new leader to lead them back into power? Caucus revolts have happened before in federal politics, the one against Stockwell Day being an example. Watch for a negative whisper campaign to ramp up from within the Liberal caucus.

The saving grace for Ignatieff is that there is no obvious successor waiting in the wings. Bob Rae was well positioned before he agreed to the extension of the Afghanistan mission, but his acceptance of the government position has not gone over well with caucus. Perhaps Ignatieff will take a walk in the snow, see the light and return to a university career, one for which he is very well suited. If not, he will be in for a rough ride from both the Tories and his own caucus.

For the Tories, they have shown that they can win in Toronto. The pressure will now be on Harper to deliver more seats in the Metro area. They have set a high bar for themselves, having won one of the strongest Liberal seats in Ontario. Vaughan fuels Tory expectations of an urban breakthrough and Harper needs to expand in not only Toronto but other urban centres if he hopes to win a majority. Failure to do so will be a major disappointment both to the party and to the caucus.

Layton remains silent today and for good reason. His party’s vote collapsed. If as some are suggesting, the NDP were caught in a squeeze play between the Liberals and Conservatives, what does this say about his chances in the next election? I expect to see Layton launch another campaign to convince voters that the only true “progressives” are the NDP and his focus shift to trying to attract Liberal votes. The trouble with that strategy is that he has tried this a couple of times before without success. Has Jack reached his “Best before date”?

All in all, interesting days ahead for all three party leaders, however it remains to be seen if Canadian voters are paying attention or if they have tuned out of federal politics.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Choose CornwallJames Moak


  1. Note that on the same day as Fantino wins Vaughn for the Harperites, the Globe and Mail breaks a story on police brutality at the G20 in Toronto. At the same time the Citizen is abuzz with cases of police excess in Ottawa. Coincidence? Or disturbing trickle-down effect of Harper’s ethos of aggression and “tough-on-crime” policies? If we value peace, human rights and good government, we Canadians had better pay attention. I believe we will when we go to the polls.

  2. PJR, maybe it is a conspiracy between newspapers to report news. If they can provide proof that Mr Harper told Police to act a certain way during the G20, or if he told a couple of Special Constables to rough up someone smaller, I would give your comments more merit.

    I do agree that we need to pay attention and vote, hopefully in that order.

  3. Providing proof isn’t the point here, Eric. Just apply the principle of “monkey see, monkey do.” When some officers of the law–I emphasize some–see and hear their government saying “We are the tough-on-crime” party, how may they feel tempted or encouraged to act? When they hear and see their prime minister verbally roughing up people who hold views he does not agree with, what example do they see?

    What I am saying, Eric, is this: Do we have a government that by its aggressive attitudes effectively gives a green light to bullying and disrespect?

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