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.