The three November 29 by-elections in Manitoba and Southern Ontario : a new hinge of fate?

Nov 28th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief

Robert Sopuck in the moody Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette : a shoe-in for the Conservatives.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 30, 2010. 1:15 AM ET. As widely predicted, Robert Sopuck did win the rural Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette handily enough for the Conservatives, with “about 58 per cent of the vote.” Elsewhere it now seems clear enough that the Ignatieff Liberals have not fared quite as badly as some had feared (including, I am happy to report, myself below) — and others, of course, had hoped.

It does appear that Julian Fantino has won in Vaughan. But the result is closer than the smart money was predicting on the eve of the election. CPAC has most recently reported the results, with 280 of 284 polls in, as 18,839 for Fantino and the Conservatives, to 17,859 for Genco and the Liberals. Much more to the point, back in moody Manitoba (to cite the instant headline in the online edition of the Winnipeg Free Press) “Lamoureux wins upset victory for Liberals in Winnipeg North”! I will leave just what all this means for the hinge of fate in Canadian federal politics to the middle of the week. Meanwhile, Mr. Ignatieff will likely be sleeping a bit better at some point over the next several hours than he might have thought he would.

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ORIGINAL POST, NOVEMBER 28: Just three and a half weeks ago, the Globe and Mail was reporting that in the three federal by-elections which finally happen tomorrow, the Conservatives were as close as humanly possible to a sure thing in the rural Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette. And the New Democrats would probably also hold onto Winnipeg North (which still has a Communist Party candidate, receiving 3% of the vote in a current Winnipeg Free Press online poll!). But the Southern Ontario riding of Vaughan, just north of Toronto, was a real horse race, with the Liberals and Conservatives even (at 42% each).

Now, on the eve of the actual event, everyone seems to agree that the Conservatives are still a shoe-in for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette. There are “rumblings it’s a three-way race this time around” in Winnipeg North. But if you have to bet real dollars and cents, the NDP is probably still the safest ticket. In Vaughan, however, virtually all the smart money agrees that the vastly superior name recognition enjoyed by Conservative candidate and former police chief Julian Fantino (in London, Toronto, and then Ontario writ large) is almost certain to prevail over Tony Genco of the Liberals (who have up to this point held the seat for the past 22 years). Even the “lawyer, consultant and Liberal Party spin-doctor” Warren Kinsella is prophesying in the Toronto Sun today: “Genco is in the race for all the right reasons. He wants to serve … But the numbers don’t lie: Fantino could be campaigning with the Yogic Flyers, and he’d win.” (Ah yes, the Yogic Flyers. If you are old enough to remember: those were the days.)

Kevin Chief, running for the New Democrats in Winnipeg North.

The Conservatives have been criticized by some pundits and virtually all opponents for “running a classic frontrunner campaign for Mr. Fantino, keeping him out of the spotlight to avoid any missteps. But he is active in safer venues, such as on social media … In fact, the 68-year-old retired cop took to Twitter after he finished the television debate.” [In fact as well, I am told that on Thursday, October 21, 2010 counterweights itself received an email saying “Julian Fantino (@JulianFantino) is now following your tweets (@counterweights) on Twitter.”  As is its customary practice in such circumstances, counterweights promptly returned the favour and began following Mr. Fantino too.]

Along with his superior name recognition, Fantino’s appeal as the Conservative Party’s “law-and-order candidate” in Vaughan has probably been enhanced somewhat by an alarmingly murderous recent home invasion in nearby Markham, just east of Yonge Street. Most recently, such headlines as “Daughter charged with murder in Markham home invasion” have taken some of the real terror away from this particular crime. But the melody likely lingers on in some degree, to Mr. Fantino’s continuing advantage.

Liberal Tony Genco in Vaughan (left) gets a helping hand from Michael Ignatieff (centre) and former provincial cabinet minister Greg Sorbara (right).

On the other hand, if former Chief Fantino’s rugged tough-love approach to crime does gain some enhanced credibility through an especially strong federal by-election victory in Vaughan tomorrow, this will only further distress those already disturbed by such other recent headlines as: “Justin Trudeau takes Julian Fantino to task for attack on Charter” ; “Strip-search in police cell” ; “Strip search of Ottawa woman ‘troubling,’ McGuinty says” ; “SIU clears officers in G20 probe” ; and “Justice denied in G20 police brutality cases” (and/or even “‘Peek-a-boo’ Fantino campaign gets boost from Coach’s Corner” — although in this last case note as well: “Stanley Cup winner and Hockey Hall of Fame member Ken Dryden … fighting back against Don Cherry’s endorsement of Julian Fantino” ;  and “Who is that masked man? Dryden steps into federal byelection battle with Cherry“).

Vaughan Conservative frontrunner Julian Fantino (left) gets some help from PM Harper and two other supporters (although the one in the pink hat will probably not be voting on November 29, 2010).

Finally, according to James Travers in yesterday’s Toronto Star: “Federal Liberals have much more to worry about this weekend than the looming by-election loss of yet another supposedly ‘safe’ seat. A sorry result in Vaughan may well trigger a winter campaign fought to Liberal disadvantage on Conservative terms.”  And Mr. Travers also reports that: “Still hoping for the by-election best, Liberals are preparing for the worst. Unless loyalists shock organizers by flooding polling stations, former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino will win in a walk, one widely expected to lead him straight into the Conservative cabinet … Losing a riding Liberals held for 22 years … would wave warning flags any time. Losing Vaughan now to Stephen Harper would be a jarring wake-up call for Michael Ignatieff.” Mr. Ignatieff may well have heard the call already, even if he is still hoping against hope that the loyalists will flood the polling stations, at the last minute. The problem to which no one still seems to have an answer is what to do about it.

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