After every by-election, it’s always fun to watch the punditry and chattering classes flail about trying to read the entrails in search of trends to derive from the results. Politicos will look for trends to favour their party, while pundits will look for trends they can shoe-horn into whatever narrative they’ve been pushing, thereby affirming their awesome powers of punditness.
While every now and again you can find national trends in by-election results (there is an exception to every rule, after all) by and large there are usually no wider trends to derive from a series of randomly occurring by-elections scattered around the country. Usually, they’re just some stuff that happened, driven by unique circumstances in each riding.
The same is true for last night’s three races. Local factors are behind each result, and those trying to read too much into them are only fooling themselves. Or trying to fool us, because I’m sure most of them probably don’t believe the malarkey they’re peddling anyways.
Is this a sign of a red wave set to sweet the prairie West? Is the NDP vote about to collapse? Not hardly. This was a case of a strong and respected but new to politics candidate in Chief facing off against a veteran of provincial politics in Lamoureux. Both sides poured-in resources and volunteers and fought hard on the ground, but in the end Lamoureux’s name-recognition was likely the difference. Hard to find any trends there.
Expected to be a landslide for high-profile star Conservative candidate Julian Fantino over last-minute Liberal candidate Tony Genco, it ended up being a very narrow Conservative victory.
Lesson two: It’s hard to sense the local mood from Ottawa. It was really amusing, and saddening, to watch the national media and punditry seriously try to handicap these races without ever leaving the friendly confines of their offices near Parliament Hill, relying instead on the spin they’re fed by each of the parties. No wonder they thought Vaughan would be a Conservative landslide, that the Liberals were having trouble pulling volunteers, and never even saw Winnipeg-North coming. I’m not that old, but I do remember a time when reporting meant first-hand observation. If they’d visited Vaughan or Winnipeg-North to talk to residents, meet the candidates and stop by the campaign offices, they’d have gotten a much better picture of the races.
For those looking for signs of Liberal disunity, it’s hard to find any here. From what I hear, Genco in Vaughan had more volunteers than he knew what to do with, which is a great sign of how committed and energized Liberals on the ground are, and bodes well for the next election. Same in Winnipeg. A major inhibitor for the Liberals in the last few election as been their inability to identify and marshal the Liberal vote, and find the volunteers to run an effective GOTV operation. These results bode well for the next race.