Straight Talk
DAVID AKIN - Conservatives, NDP hold seats in by-elections

PC candidate and MP-elect Joan Crockatt with husband Peter speak to media and supporters in Calgary, Nov. 26, 2012.

Credits: Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/QMI AGENCY

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA - The federal Conservatives held on to two seats while the New Democrats narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Green Party in a trio of by-elections held Monday in Ontario, Alberta, and BC.

Conservative Erin O’Toole easily won in the Ontario riding of Durham east of Toronto where he will replace retiring cabinet minister Bev Oda.

In Calgary Centre, former journalist Joan Crockatt replaces Conservative Lee Richardson in a riding she won in a dogfight against a surging Liberal candidate and a surprisingly strong Green Party candidate.

And in Victoria, New Democrat Murray Rankin appeared to have eked out a win to take the seat vacated by Denise Savoie. Three hours after polls had closed, Rankin had an 821 vote lead on Green candidate Donald Galloway with 205 of 256 polls reporting and 30,507 votes cast.

Still, despite not winning any seats, the strongest showing of the night compared to expectations went to Elizabeth May’s Green Party.

May, whose Saanich-Gulf Islands riding is right next door to the riding of Victoria, is the only Green Party member of the House of Commons. Had Galloway prevailed in Victoria, May would have doubled her caucus.

As it is, her party nearly gave Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats a huge headache. And in Calgary Centre, May’s Greens were clearly the spoiler, taking nearly 26 % of the vote against Conservative Crockatt who had just 37 % of the vote in a riding her party has never lost since its creation more than 40 years ago. The second-place Liberal, environmentalist Harvey Locke, had nearly 33 % of the vote.

With Locke finishing a close second, Liberals will wonder if misguided anti-Alberta comments last week by Ottawa Liberal MP David McGuinty and anti-Alberta comments made by Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau in a 2010 French-language interview and reported by QMI Agency last week might have made the difference.

Even if Locke had taken just one of every four votes cast for the Green candidate, Chris Turner, Crockatt would have gone down to a historic defeat.

May has often spoke about how so-called “progressives” should team up to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and yet, in this case, the success of her party apparently prevented the defeat of one of those Conservatives, something Liberal and New Democrat operatives were privately grumbling about Monday night.

As for the NDP, though the party held on to its seat in Victoria, it did poorly in Calgary Centre where candidate Dan Meades finished fourth with just 3.8 % of the vote, but it can point to some strength in Durham where New Democrat Larry O’Connor finished second to O’Toole with a respectable 26 % of the vote.

Critics said the NDP’s poor showing in Calgary was a judgement on NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s assessment that Alberta’s economic success, based on oil sands wealth, was hurting other parts of Canada.

The Liberals, meanwhile, had only a second-place showing in Calgary Centre to boast about.

In Victoria, a riding Liberals won as recently as 2004, the Liberals were well back in 4th place and in Durham, they finished in 3rd well behind the NDP.

The byelection results, however they turn out, will not change the power balance in the House of Commons. The Conservatives will still have a majority government and the New Democrats will continue to be the Official Opposition.

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