Voters in five federal ridings nearly done choosing new MPs in byelections

By on April 3, 2017


Stephen Harper was the MP in the riding now known as Calgary Heritage, while Calgary Midnapore was long the domain of one of his most trusted lieutenants: Jason Kenney, who has since jumped to Alberta politics. (Photo: Stephen Harper/ Facebook)
Stephen Harper was the MP in the riding now known as Calgary Heritage, while Calgary Midnapore was long the domain of one of his most trusted lieutenants: Jason Kenney, who has since jumped to Alberta politics. (Photo: Stephen Harper/ Facebook)

OTTAWA –Soon, it will all be in the hands of the ballot-counters.

Voters in five federal ridings – two in Calgary, one in Montreal, one in Ottawa and one in the suburbs north of Toronto – have just one hour left to cast their votes.

The seats are not expected to change hands, since they were previously held by prominent MPs, including four former cabinet ministers and one former Conservative prime minister.

Stephen Harper was the MP in the riding now known as Calgary Heritage, while Calgary Midnapore was long the domain of one of his most trusted lieutenants: Jason Kenney, who has since jumped to Alberta politics.

The other three seats were held by the Liberals: the Toronto-area seat of Markham-Thornhill and Montreal’s Saint-Laurent were vacated when Stephane Dion and John McCallum left for diplomatic posts earlier this year.

The fifth seat, Ottawa-Vanier, was held by backbencher, former cabinet minister and longtime Liberal statesman Mauril Belanger, who died last year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under fire last month for campaigning in the byelection races. The opposition Tories said it created questions about who is paying for the visits and puts public servants in a tough position.

The Conservatives and New Democrats also sent high-profile candidates to campaign in some of the ridings.

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.

James had been considered 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.

In Markham-Thornhill, Liberal Mary Ng – on a leave of absence from her job as director of appointments for Trudeau – vying to replace John McCallum, 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 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.

Ottawa-Vanier is one riding where the NDP is feeling some mild optimism, thanks in part to what party officials say is extensive disappointment with the Liberal decision to abandon its efforts at electoral reform.

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 Trudeau campaigned there in person.

In 2015, the Liberal candidates placed second to Harper and Kenney in those ridings. In 2011, albeit under different electoral boundaries, the Liberal candidates running against those two Conservatives finished third behind 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.