Ontario by-elections 2010
There were two provincial by-elections in Ontario on March 4, both of them in Eastern Ontario. In Ottawa West-Nepean, MPP Jim Watson (Liberal) retired to run in the fall municipal elections in Ottawa; while in Leeds-Grenville, long time PC MPP Bob Runciman was appointed by Harper to the Senate. Ottawa West-Nepean’s by-election was by far the most watched of the two, the riding being one which the Conservatives will need to win in 2011 if they’re to return to power.
Ottawa West-Nepean is located in the western part of Ottawa, including the inner suburbs of the city, such as parts of Nepean. Like most of Ottawa’s west-side, the riding is largely Anglophone (63%) and generally well-off, though it has a significant visible minority population (around 25%) and describing it as a ‘wealthy white suburban riding’ would be quite off the mark. It’s a upper middle-class area, along the lines of Etobicoke in Toronto. The riding, which has a large population of federal government employees, has been a swing riding. John Baird has represented the riding federally since 2006, having previously served as MPP in Queen’s Park since 1995. Provincially, former popular Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has held the seat since 2003, winning re-election in 2007 by an exceptionally large margin, undoubtedly because of his local popularity. The PCs held the seat between 1999 and 2003, but Bob Chiarelli held the seat in the Mike Harris landslide of 1995, due more to personal and local factors than anything else (arguably, it would have gone PC were it not for these factors). With PC leader Tim Hudak counting to win the 2011 election on the same coalition which carried Harris in 1995 and 1999, this is certainly one of the ridings which the PC would need to win in 2011: a middle-class suburban seat.
The Liberals nominated another former Mayor of Ottawa, Bob Chiarelli (defeated in 2006), Chiarelli having previously represented the area until 1995. The PC candidate was Beth Graham, the NDP candidate was Pam Fitzgerald and the Green candidate was Mark Mackenzie. John Turmel contested his 73rd election here.
Bob Chiarelli (Liberal) 43.46% (-7.16%)
Beth Graham (PC) 38.99% (+7.26%)
Pam Fitzgerald (NDP) 8.43% (-1.26%)
Mark Mackenzie (Green) 8.31% (+2.03%)
John Turmel (Ind) 0.81%
The reactions to this results have been a bit all over the place, with the Liberals claiming that it’s a very strong result for them in a swing riding which is blue federally; but PCs have said that their little-known candidate’s good result is a sign of a swing back to them. Some Tories also referred to this as a ‘traditionally Liberal riding’, which is obviously intellectually dishonest. The 4-point margin is about the margin I was expecting, after the retirement of a popular incumbent with probably a large personal vote. But the truth remains that the PCs will need to actually win ridings like Ottawa West if they’re to win in 2011. Doing relatively well in them and losing by a 4-point margin won’t be enough.
I mentioned in my previous post, available here that the nomination race for the PCs in Leeds-Grenville was interesting, featuring a race between Steve Clark (former mayor of Brockville), the candidate supported by the establishment; and Shawn Carmichael of the radical Ontario Landowners Association (OLA), a group of feisty rough rural rightists. I mentioned the possibility of the OLA candidate running as an independent, but in the end Clark won and Carmichael didn’t run as an independent. Leeds-Grenville, located in rural eastern Ontario on the shores of the St. Lawrence, is a very rural (and all the things that come with it, Protestant and English) conservative area. Its previous long-time MPP, Bob Runciman, had won re-election in 2007 with 56% of the vote, after facing a surprisingly tough race in 2003. However, it is interesting to note that federally this riding went Liberal in 1988, the free-trade election won by Mulroney’s Tories. The Liberal sacrificial lamb was Stephen Mazurek, the NDP’s was Steve Armstrong and the Green candidate was Neil Kudrinko. The Libertarian Party ran in this seat with Anthony Giles.
Scott Clark (PC) 66.60% (+10.36%)
Stephen Mazurek (Liberal) 20.05% (-8.62%)
Neil Kudrinko (Green) 7.70% (+0.51%)
Steve Armstrong (NDP) 5.18% (-1.79%)
Anthony Giles (Libertarian) 0.46%
Unsurprising large PC win, but I’m somewhat surprised by such a good result for the PCs, which even beats the 58.4% amassed by federal Conservative MP Gord Brown in his 2008 landslide victory.