View From the Hill by KeithBeardley – No Surprise in By Election Results – July 2, 2014

Dr. EvilCFN – Was anyone really surprised by the results of the June 30th bye-elections?

For the most part turnout was low and that has been blamed on the government because the date they picked was just before a long weekend. There will be some truth to that but if someone really wanted to vote, there were plenty of opportunities to do so at the advance polls. Having worked so often on Election Day, I would have to go back to the 1970s to find a time when I didn’t vote at an advanced poll. Excuses, excuses, but if it was important to you, you had a chance to vote.

Bye-elections are also a time for voters to safely send the sitting government a message if they are discontented with that government’s performance. Could the low turnout be partially because those given the opportunity to vote really didn’t have a bone to pick with the government at this time? There will be a lot of tea leaves read over the next month or so as the parties collectively try to extrapolate that answer from the results.

The Conservatives won what they were expected to win (Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca). The Liberals did better than expected getting re-elected in one and capturing another urban seat (Trinity-Spadina) in the vote rich GTA. It’s a good start for the Liberals and gives them a bit more momentum than their left wing cousins in the NDP. Trudeau has served notice to the NDP that the Liberals can take the fight to them and win.

It will be interesting to watch how the NDP bounce back and what their strategy will be and how they position Mulcair over the next few months. Exactly how will they counter Trudeau’s momentum?

For the Liberals it will take some effort to keep the momentum going. With the vacation season upon us, how many voters will be the least bit interested in politics or following what the various leaders are doing? It’s always much harder for the opposition parties to stay in the spotlight over the summer?

The Tories can pretty much go on cruise control over the summer. There will be all sorts of funding announcements which are guaranteed to make the local press. They won’t consider a lack of national media coverage by the press gallery a problem as they continue to make little if any attempt to improve relations with the gallery.

But they will have to pay attention to the drop in support in their home ridings like Fort-McMurray-Athabasca.  They need to look at how the demographics in their ridings are changing especially in urban ridings. Which part of the country are the voters coming from? Did they bring a tradition of voting Conservative with them when they moved to Alberta?  What are the age groups making up the voter pool in those ridings? Are the voters getting younger? As the demographics change will the voter pool in 2015 be as receptive to the Harper style of government and policies that have been in place since 2006?

There are lots of questions and few answers, but enough to keep staff in all three parties busy over the summer.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for Cenco 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. 

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