Should the NDP be concerned about its poor performance in this week’s by-election?

OTTAWA—For both Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Monday’s by-election was a victory.

For the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, however, they could portend a sign of trouble ahead: His share of the vote dropped in all four elections, compared to the last general election.

The numbers suggest that, so far, the NDP’s attempts to boost dental care and other affordability measures outlined in the Liberal-NDP governing pact are obviously not translating into more votes for the party, even as Singh applied all four rules. to do the NDP. case.

On Tuesday, he dismissed the results because the Canadians stuck to the status quo.

“Nothing really changed… The New Democrats need a good turnout to get our vote out. So with low voter turnout, it doesn’t really tell us much about where we are at,” he said.

The party experienced its biggest drop in Conservative control of Oxford, falling from 18.3 percent of the vote in 2021 to 10.5 percent on Monday. Meanwhile, the Liberals saw their turnout rise to almost 16 percent.

How much did the NDP lose?

NDP losses averaged 6 percent at the Conservative stronghold of Portage-Lisgar and the Liberal locks of Winnipeg South Center and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount.

NDP national director Anne McGrath told the Star it is “reckless” to guess too much from by-election results, also pointing to voter turnout as a factor.

In all four ridings, turnout plummeted compared to the general election.

The sharpest drop was at Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, where turnout on Tuesday was 29.7%, compared with 62.6% in the 2021 general election. Still, the Liberals kept it easily, with the NDP, Greens and Tories basically tied for second place.

McGrath said it was “still a bit early” to see the pact, which was signed in 2021 and could see the party support the Liberal minority until 2025, become a success at the polls.

“I strongly believe that as we implement the types of results that we have been able to achieve, that will resonate with voters,” he said.

Still, Monday’s results don’t necessarily bode well for a party that deeply believes the upcoming election will be about change.

The party in particular has its sights set on areas where the Conservatives and NDP could clash in the next contest; launched a “Blue vs Orange Battlefield Fund” last month to shore up support in a host of regions, including southwestern Ontario, where Oxford is located.

The Conservatives’ analysis the next morning dealt with it in a different way. What they saw was the New Democrats bleeding in favor of the Liberals, which at the very least means “there will be no election anytime soon,” party strategist Anthony Koch said in an interview.

“I don’t know why anyone would want it.”

But that also includes conservatives. His victories on Tuesday were not entirely a piece of cake.

How did the conservatives fare?

In Portage-Lisgar, the former electoral headquarters of the party’s interim leader Candice Bergen, former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier decided to try to capitalize on the fact that his People’s Party of Canada won 21.6% of the vote in the election. from 2021 and look for the seat himself.

The ensuing contest reignited conspiracy theories at the World Economic Forum and saw Bernier rethink positions on abortion and other issues deliberately designed to steer Poilievre’s candidate away from talking points about the economy and inflation.

For Team Poilievre, through its candidate Branden Leslie, the goal had been to prove a central premise of Poilievre’s successful leadership bid last year: that the disillusioned voters who flocked to the PPC in 2021 would return to the CPC under Poilievre. .

“We wanted them to be welcomed back into the conservative fold,” Koch said, and the fact that Bernier got only 17 percent of the vote suggested that he was.

Other conservatives, however, privately argued that the tactics the CCP used to win Portage-Lisgar are the reason the party did no better in Manitoba’s other by-election in Winnipeg South Centre.

For every vote won in Portage-Lisgar, two were lost in Winnipeg, was a common refrain among party members Tuesday. Koch downplayed that approach, saying “contagion” was not a real factor.

“I’m sure the liberals will try to capitalize on it because that’s their job,” he said.

Winnipeg South Center has been a liberal stronghold for decades, won only once by the Conservatives in recent years in their majority march in 2011.

Even that victory was slim (Joyce Bateman won by 722 votes) and pundits pegged it as the result of a Liberal/NDP vote split, one of many outcomes that helped his minority.

This time, the Conservatives saw their share of the driving vote drop by four percentage points during the 2021 campaign, a fact the Liberals alluded to during question period when Poilievre hounded them on their economic record.

“The leader of the opposition is simply continuing his attacks to try to divert attention from the disappointing election results he got last night,” Trudeau said.

What about the liberals?

The Liberals saw their share of the vote in Winnipeg South Center rise by 10 percentage points, with Ben Carr, son of former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Carr, who died last year, comfortably capturing the share.

Koch noted that Carr was a well-loved local figure and his election also speaks to the challenges of the by-election as a whole.

“All politics is local, but that’s especially the case when you have these by-election scenarios,” he said.

Still, a rising Liberal party with a weak NDP partner means the vote splits that gave the Conservatives a majority in 2011 remain elusive, Koch acknowledged. That’s partly why part of the focus in the upcoming election will be directly courting NDP voters in places like northern Ontario, where all three parties are competitive.

Local politics also played big for the Tories in Oxford, a rural Ontario horse riding they have also organized for years.

The nomination race soured some local grassroots Tories against party headquarters after a Social Conservative was disqualified, and then a candidate, Arpan Khanna, appeared to be parachuted from party headquarters. Some Conservatives even went so far as to actively campaign for the Liberals, who saw their share of the vote increase, although Khanna ultimately won.

However, also benefiting from conservative infighting was the Christian Heritage Party, which won 4 percent of the vote, up from 0.8 percent in 2021.

Bernier’s PPP, by contrast, saw a total drop from 10.6% in 2021 to 3.3%.

Bernier, despite continually failing to win a seat, said he will not leave the federal scene just yet.

“We are not leaving! It takes time to convince Canadians that we need a drastic change of course to reverse years of bad Liberal policies and weak Conservative opposition,” he said in a statement.

“We are fighting for the future of our country and of Western civilization, and we will fight for as long as it takes.”

Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel

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