Canada’s Liberal Party gained a seat and boosted its share of the vote in four special elections held to fill Parliamentary vacancies, gaining support at the expense of both the ruling Conservatives and main opposition New Democratic Party ahead of next year’s general election.
With more than 75 percent of ballots counted, the Liberals had more than half the votes cast in two Toronto-area districts, including Trinity-Spadina, which had been held by the NDP, according to preliminary results posted by Elections Canada. The governing Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was leading in the two Alberta districts they previously held.
While the Liberals under Justin Trudeau increased their share of the vote from the 2011 election in all four districts, the Conservatives and NDP saw their support fall in all the races. National opinion polls have shown the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives and the NDP, led by Tom Mulcair, since Trudeau became leader in April last year.
“The by-election results suggest a positive showing for the Liberals and worrisome results for the NDP,” Nik Nanos, chairman of Ottawa-based polling firm Nanos Research Group, wrote in an e-mail. “The loss of Trinity-Spadina has to be of particular concern to Mulcair because it is a bellwether riding in battleground Toronto which is critical to both the Liberals and the NDP.”
The Liberals were looking for a strong showing in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, the region at the heart of Alberta’s oil sands industry. Since 1968, the district has never been won by a party other than the Conservatives or their predecessor parties, and Trudeau visited the area during the campaign to build support.
With 79 percent of the polls reporting, Elections Canada reported the Liberals’s share of the vote rising to 34 percent from 10 percent at the last election. While the Conservatives retained the district, their share of the vote fell to 48 percent from 72 percent in 2011.
“Canadians voted for the kind of team that we’re going to be building in the approach to the 2015 election,” Trudeau told about 650 Liberal supporters in Toronto, where he appeared with winning Trinity-Spadina candidate Adam Vaughan. “Albertans are tired of being taken for granted.”
With tonight’s results, The Conservatives will have 162 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, compared with 98 for the NDP and 37 for the Liberals. The next general election is scheduled for October 2015.
Turnout was very low, with less than 30 percent voting according to preliminary estimates by Elections Canada.