OTTAWA –There will soon be five new MPs heading to Ottawa, but there is likely no mystery over which side of the House of Commons they will be sitting.
The five byelections taking place Monday are to fill seats vacated by some high-profile politicians who had usually won their reelections by large margins, which usually means they will stay in their partisan folds.
That includes Calgary Heritage, which had been represented by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, and Calgary Midnapore, which was held by former Harper cabinet minister Jason Kenney before he left to focus on his ultimately successful bid for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party.
The other three byelections – in the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent, Markham–Thornhill, in the Greater Toronto Area, and Ottawa–Vanier – will likely elect Liberal MPs, as they have each done for many years.
Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley played it safe when asked for his expectations, focusing on the efforts the candidates were making, saying the Liberal candidates in all five ridings had knocked on more than 160,000 doors between them.
Conservative spokesman Cory Hann noted his party fared well in byelections when they were in government, and said he expected the Liberals to do the same.
“We can see that Liberals are going to have the upper hand in these,” said Hann.
It’s a tried-and-true method of keeping expectations low – so much so that Hann once used it to argue the opposite in 2014, when the Conservatives were in power.
Asked about that Sunday, Hann said the Conservatives felt they were facing possible protest votes at the time, but the fact remains: “Governments do tend to have the upper hand in these byelections.
Still, political junkies will be paying attention.
Emmanuella Lambropoulos, a 26-year-old high school teacher, stunned many when she won the Liberal nomination contest in Saint-Laurent, defeating former Quebec cabinet minister Yolande James, who was considered to be the Liberal party favourite to replace Stephane Dion, the former Liberal leader who resigned his seat to become ambassador to Germany and the European Union.
Lambropoulos is up against Conservative candidate Jimmy Yu, NDP candidate Mathieu Auclair and William Fayad, for the Bloc Quebecois.
Markham–Thornhill could be one to watch, as Mary Ng, who is on a leave of absence from her job as director of appointments for Trudeau, is the Liberal candidate vying to replace John McCallum, a longtime MP who resigned his seat to become the Canadian ambassador to China.
In that riding, Ragavan Paranchothy is running for the Conservatives and Gregory Hines for the NDP.
There is also the possibility that the current unpopularity of the Ontario Liberal government led by Premier Kathleen Wynne could influence how people in the province feel about the federal Liberal party.
“Something people who watch the political tea leaves will be looking to see is if there is any impact the provincial numbers may be having on federal ridings,” said Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal strategist who is now at lobby firm Environics Communications.
The other Ontario byelection is in Ottawa-Vanier, which Liberal MP Mauril Belanger represented from 1995 until he died last August.
There, Mona Fortier won a hotly contested nomination contest to be the Liberal candidate, and she is up against Conservative candidate Adrian Paul Papara, NDP candidate Emilie Taman and Green party candidate Nira Dookeran.
This is one riding where the NDP is feeling some mild optimism.
“We’re not expecting a major upset, but at the same time . . . there are lots of folks feeling that the government has taken them and their support for granted,” said Robert Fox, national director of the NDP, who said the Liberals’ broken promise on electoral reform is getting some traction there.
And while no one expects Conservative candidates Rob Benzen in Calgary Heritage and Stephanie Kusie in Calgary Midnapore to lose, it will be interesting to see how the Liberals do in the vote tallies, especially since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has gone out there to campaign.
In 2015, the Liberal candidates placed second to Harper and Kenney in those ridings, whereas in 2011, albeit under different electoral boundaries, the Liberal candidates running against those two Conservatives finished third, after the NDP.
In Calgary Heritage, Benzen’s rivals include Liberal candidate Scott Forsyth and NDP candidate Khalis Ahmed. In Calgary Midnapore, Kusie is up against a field that includes Haley Brown for the Liberals and Holly Hefferman for the NDP.