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Canada’s Conservative Party Retains Seats in By-Elections

Canada’s ruling Conservative Party retained two districts in special elections last night, turning back a challenge from the Liberal and Green parties and avoiding an upset in the city Prime Minister Stephen Harper represents.

With all polls reporting, Conservative Joan Crockatt had about 37 percent of the vote to win Calgary Centre, a downtown district of condo dwellers and oil and gas headquarters, beating the Liberal challenger who had 33 percent support and the Green candidate who had 26 percent. In Durham, outside Toronto, Erin O’Toole retained the seat for the Conservatives with more than half of the vote.

In the Calgary race, “it’s remarkable that the Conservatives have gone from winning a minimum of 51 percent of the vote to about 36 percent,” said Melanee Thomas, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary political science department. “That’s a pretty significant erosion of their support base.”

Still, the results may not signal widespread disenchantment with Harper and his policies. Voter turn out was low and by-elections often speak to “local context,” Thomas said.

The Conservatives under Harper won their first majority mandate last year after running minority governments since 2006, winning 166 seats in the 308-seat legislature. The by-election in Calgary was closely watched, as early public opinion polls suggested Crockett risked losing to either the Liberals or Greens in a close three-way race. The Liberals haven’t won a seat in Canada’s oil and gas capital since 1968.

Alberta Economy

Alberta was Canada’s third largest economy in 2011, according to 2011 Statistics Canada. It grew 5.1 percent last year, almost twice as fast as the national rate, with mining and oil and gas extraction directly accounting for about 19 percent of output. Calgary’s jobless rate was 4.7 percent in October, Statistics Canada reported earlier this month, compared with 7.4 percent nationally.

In Victoria, British Columbia, the official opposition New Democratic Party held its district after a strong challenge from the Green Party. The NDP’s Murray Ranking took 37 percent of the vote to win, while Green candidate Donald Galloway had 34 percent, according to Elections Canada.

With the results, the Conservatives will have 165 seats, while the New Democratic Party, the official opposition, will have 101. The Liberals still hold 35, the Bloc Quebecois four, the Green Party one and two seats are held by independents.

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