Friday, November 14, 2014

Will Conservatives drop, Liberals gain in Monday's by-elections?

Update on Election Night: Answer? Yes. The Conservatives took a hit in their vote share more or less in line with how they have performed in past by-elections, but nevertheless put up some decent and respectable results with (at time of writing, with still some votes to be counted) 63% in Yellowhead and 49% in Whitby-Oshawa. They also won both ridings, which in first-past-the-post is all that matters.

The Liberals had a good night in terms of vote share increase, jumping to 41% in Whitby-Oshawa (almost tripling their share) and 20% in Yellowhead (increasing it more than sixfold). But they still came up short. The Liberals will do well in 2015 if they can replicate these kinds of swings, but will not go very far if they just replicate these close losses instead.

The New Democrats had a bad night in Whitby-Oshawa, dropping to just 8%. They held their own in Yellowhead, however, with 10%. But the party's future prosperity lies not in rural Alberta, but in seat-rich Ontario. The drop of more than half of their vote share in Whitby-Oshawa is not a promising sign. But these are still just by-elections, when a two-horse race can have a stronger influence on strategic voting than might be the case in a general election. Nevertheless, little silver lining to be had for the NDP. 

In terms of the polls, Forum should have quit when it was ahead. The polls of November 11 that I wrote about below were quite close, but their election eve polling of November 16 was worse. And in the case of Yellowhead, much worse.

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The Conservatives have put up poor results in byelections since winning a majority government in 2011, and will again be put to the test in two contests in Ontario and Alberta on Monday. Will they be able to hold on to their two seats?

You can read the rest of the piece on CBC.ca. It goes over some of the regional-level polling Alberta and Ontario, the by-election record of the major parties since 2011, and how the Conservative government's record stacks up.

Let's briefly here go over the by-election polls that were out this morning. They were conducted by Forum Research, and we all know how hit or miss their by-election polling has been in the past. One thing to take into consideration, however, is that Forum's by-election record is actually not too bad in the GTA, where the Whitby-Oshawa by-election is being held. Their notable misses took place in Alberta, Manitoba, and elsewhere in Ontario. We'll see if that trend continues on Monday.

Forum now has it as a close race in Whitby-Oshawa, with Pat Perkins of the Conservatives at 44% and Celina Caesar-Chavannes at 40%. That represents a narrowing of the gap, as Perkins does pick up three points while Caesar-Chavannes picks up eight compared to Forum's poll of October 27. The NDP's Trish McAulife is down three points to 12%.

That it has become a close race is a little bit of a surprise. The Flaherty legacy is strong in the riding. So, we should take these results with a little caution. When Forum has been off in the past, often it was an over-estimation of the challenger's support. So that would suggest Perkins has more of an edge than the poll indicates.

In Yellowhead, we get our first poll of the campaign. Jim Eglinski of the Conservatives was well ahead with 62%, followed by 16% for the Liberals and 12% for the NDP. These are intuitive numbers at the very least.

Unless Whitby-Oshawa flips, the thing I will be looking for on Monday is whether the Conservatives continue to take a significant hit in these by-elections to the benefit of the Liberals, continuing to corroborate what the polls are showing to be the case at a wider level.

53 comments:

  1. The Alberta by-election is not important...Whitby-Oshawa could be telling even if the Conservatives win...

    Flaherty won big, the area is upscale, higher up middleclass earners...

    If the Liberals are close, even within 10%percentage points would be telling...

    A big name(former mayor) running for the Cons...A newbie running for the Liberals(talented lady)..

    Should be a Conservative romp...if not, within 10% or closer would be a major Liberal victory and harbinger of things to come..

    Cheers

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  2. Before Flaherty won it in 2006, this was a Liberal riding, so it is a swing riding. For perspective, I've plotted election results since 2004 along with the two recent polls. It seems the Liberal surge comes from Green and Independent support.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NuGLIxlt_Yax2JL4gUDIjlofS5ZQ3xIx5rnS184wVhA/pubchart?oid=468326444&format=interactive

    The Liberal surge comes supported by Forum showing that much of this is due to the Liberal candidate improving her recognition and approval rating. It's still an uphill battle with the Conservative and NDP candidates showing that their support is steady and all the Green and Independent votes already gone to the Liberals.

    Crucial here is the undecided vote. If that is still large, momentum like this will lead to a Liberal victory. At that point you'll see Conservative panic in the Toronto caucus. They have to win ridings like this.

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    1. I just hope for a Liberal victory recognising it probably won't happen.

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    2. The Conservative candidate is a popular local mayor. A candidate with local resources in addition to Flaherty's legacy will will be tough to beat in a close race like this. A lot of the Liberal vote comes at the expense of the Greens and Independents, implying that these voters are less committed.

      On the other hand, momentum like the one the Liberals have tends to take on a life of its own. This one is going down to the wire.

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    3. "The Conservative candidate is a popular local mayor"

      Popular - well, not really. She was the local mayor, yes, but she was about to have a pretty good fight on her hands in the municipal election. She stepped in it a bit in a spending faux-pas, and if you poll local Conservatives they are pretty split. She comes with as much baggage as popularity.

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  3. Even seeing the Liberals ahead of the NDP in Yellowhead is pretty big. They've been 4th place in that riding the last two elections, behind the Greens and well behind the NDP. That riding also has a history of electing New Democrats and Liberals provincially.

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    1. The provincial riding is much smaller and less rural. It is dominated by the industrial/resource towns of Hinton and Edson and by the ski resort and national park town of Jasper. The NDP won it once in 1986 and the Liberals once in 1993. The old riding of Edson had a history of electing Labour MLAs, but that was a long time ago.

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  4. Eric, I think it's kind of unfair to call Forum's by-election polling hit or miss. They've actually been right in getting the correct outcome the majority of the times. They've tended to be off the mark in the Western rural ridings (eg. Brandon-Souris & Fort McMurray-Athabasca), but they correctly got all the Ontario by-elections over the past year (eg. predicting clear Liberal wins in Toronto Centre, Trinity-Spadina & Scarborough-Agincourt). They also were correct in predicting Labrador & Bourassa.

    Margins of error tend to be larger in by-elections as we know, so we can't expect them to have the exact margins for all the parties. But when it's come to predicting the winner, they've been right most of the time, and even when they've been wrong (eg. Brandon-Souris & Fort McMurray) they've been correct in predicting a changing trend from the previous election (eg. they correctly predicted large increases for the Liberals in Brandon & Fort McMurray).

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  5. I live in Whitby-Oshawa, a few points I'd like to make. First off, this is a Flaherty/Elliott riding more than it is a "Conservative" riding. Even when Flaherty first jumped to federal politics, he didn't blow the doors off the place - it wasn't until he was finance minister that he really took a stranglehold.
    Also people keep overestimating the "Oshawa" part when they talk about the NDP. The part of Oshawa that is included in this riding (until next election) is the furthest north section - this is where Durham College / UOIT are. It's not factory workers, it's primarily students and upper middle class homes. This is not the typical "Oshawa" demographic, much closer to Whitby.
    Last point - a lot of local Conservative party faithful are not happy with how the Perkins nomination went down. You can check the "Whitby This Week" articles on the subject, there was a fair amount of acrimony between the president and the new candidate (former mayor of Whitby). The sign war is in the Liberal favour, and it really feels like the Conservative ground game just isn't up to snuff.
    All of this leads me to believe this riding is going to be a dog-fight to the end.

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  6. Of course, the CPC will drop in vote share and the LPC will gain in vote share during the by-election. That's a no brainer looking at current polling trends.

    However, as we seen in Calgary Centre, Brandon-Souris and Fort McMurray-Athabasca, the LPC does well but they still come short of taking the riding from the CPC. I feel the same will happen in Whitby-Oshawa.

    As some of the posters said above me, Whitby-Oshawa is often mistaken as a Conservative stronghold when its not, its a Flaherty/Elliott riding. I feel it is comparable to Trinity-Spadina in downtown Toronto, which is not a NDP stronghold, but rather a part of the city that is receptive to Layton/Chow.

    However, as an upper middle class suburb in the far outer ring of the GTA it does lean towards the right of the political spectrum. Long shot for the NDP, but fair game for the Liberals.

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    1. Fair game for the Chrétien/Martin Liberals. What Trudeau has to offer them I have no idea.

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  7. The pollsters have a lot riding on Yellowhead. For some time now pollsters have given us data showcasing the Liberals in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties in Alberta. On Monday if the Liberals only manage 10% or single digits we all will have to re-evaluate where the Liberals really stand in Alberta.

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    1. I don't believe that to be the case. The Liberals had 3% in Yellowhead in 2011, 9% province-wide. If they manage 10%, or thrice their 2011 support, that would corroborate the province wide polling, not refute it.

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    2. Yes, I understand but, they average 20% in the polls So while a result of 9% may corroborate province-wide gains a result similar to 2011 of 3% will leave open questions as to pollsters' ability and methodology. If the pollsters are correct we should expect a result of 6% or better for the Liberals.

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  8. Since 1979, whenever the conservative party of the day (PC, Reform, Alliance, CPC) has won Yellowhead with 70 percent of the vote, they've formed at least a minority government. When they haven't, they've gone into opposition. It's been a surprisingly robust bellwether in that sense. Something to keep in mind, anyway.

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    1. "Since 1979, whenever the conservative party of the day (PC, Reform, Alliance, CPC) has won Yellowhead with 70 percent of the vote, they've formed at least a minority government".

      Brian,

      Your statement regarding conservative parties forming Government when they win Yellowhead with 70% of the vote is incorrect. In 1988 Joe Clark received less than 70% of the vote (44.5%) and the PCs won a majority government.

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  9. I agree... I think Whitby/Oshawa will go down to the wire... the Conservatives have Pat Perkins (past mayor) but I don't know how popular she is... I have a friend that works for the township and she wasn't the most pleasant person to work for...

    I also live in Whitby and I don't know if I agree with jonovision_man that the Liberal are winning the sign war... believe me I wish they were... I'm Liberal... but there are just as many Pat Perkins signs:(

    It is definitely close... Liberals are doing everything they can... there was a fire at a retirement home and Trudeau came down and visited them... front page news... they are even bringing in Kathleen Wynne for a visit!!!

    It must be close...

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  10. I think Whitby-Oshawa was Flaherty's riding not a Conservative or Liberal riding.

    So with him gone I'm not sure which way it will go?

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  11. The true meaning of by-election results:

    Nov 8, 2009 Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup

    CPC won this solid BQ seat in this by-election one year after THe BQ won this in the general election with a 10 % pt 12,000 vote margin.

    In 2003 the CPC candidate had 10% of the vote.

    This by-election clearly showed that the CPC party was set to dominate Quebec....

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    1. It may have not indicated a Conservative sweep, but it did portend the collapse of the Bloc in the following election, much the way a Liberal win in Whitby would show incredible Liberal strength in the outer GTA. Remember, this is a region that bounced the Hudak Tories last year in a provincial election. Whitby was one of the few Conservative bastions that stayed with the provincial Tories. If Harper loses this one, it would be the worst news possible for him. It would show that the people he is targeting with his personal attacks on Trudeau and tax cuts are not listening to him.

      Look for a caucus revolt in Toronto and maybe all of the East and Central Canada if Harper loses Whitby.


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    2. There won't be any "caucus revolt" if the Tories lose Whitby-Oshawa. Ruling parties lose byelections all the time. Its never cause for joy but everyone knows a byelection gives people a "free kick" at the government. Remember who Christry Clark lost Port Moody-Coquitlam and Chilliwack-Hope in byelections. and what about Kathleen Wynne? was there any caucus revolt against her when she lost London West, Windsor-Tecumseth, Niagara Falls and Etobicoke-Lakeshore a year before she won a majority?

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    3. Kathleen Wynne was a new leader when her party lost these by-elections; she showed that a party can reverse its fortunes simply by choosing a new leader, particularly in the GTA. Maybe the Toronto Conservatives will figure that out before they all get voted out like Hudak's Conservatives did.

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  12. Mulcair's by-election win in Quebec foretold the 2011 orange crush there. Hopefully the liberals perform the same feat in Ontario!

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    1. Maybe the GTA and a few small cities. Rural Ontario is pretty hard core Conservative.

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    2. The GTA and a few small cities is a lot of seats, especially considering that almost all of Ontario's seat gain in the redistribution is coming in the GTA.

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    3. Mulcair was elected in 2007. There was an election in 2008 and the NDP made very modest gains. In Quebec their vote increased more substantially by about 4.5% but, Outremont is not a Quebec bell weather nor could it be called an "average riding", the fact that the "orange wave occurred 3.5 years after the by-election diminished its ability to foretell anything. This is the danger of reading too much into what are unique and often only loosely connected events. The BCNDP won a by-election in the staunchly BC Liberal riding of Chiliwack and we all know how that worked out.

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    4. Justin, you may want to Google "Phil Edmonston" lol.

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  13. New polls released by Forum: LPC leading by 3% (45 to 42) in WO and at 24% in Yellowhead compared to 51% for the CPC.

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  14. Byelections embolden opposition voters. Ruling parties tend to perform badly in them.

    Unless the Cons lose Yellowhead (which they won't), these will tell us nothing.

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    1. The fact that the Conservatives could lose a seat they won with almost 60% of the vote last election doesn't tell you anything? Despite running a well-known candidate, and announcing a pile of tax goodies to the exact demographic in the riding? I'd say it tells us a whole lot - mostly that the Conservatives are going to need new tricks, the old ones aren't working. Justin Trudeau is a force, and the fact that the Liberals are in this thing (despite earning just 14% of the vote here last time around) tells you they are back as the de facto alternative to the Conservatives.

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  15. Mainstreet polled over the weekend and show a Lib-CPC tie in WO !!

    Another poll shows Pelardeau leading the BQ to victory over Couillard !!

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    1. Only saw a mention of that Mainstreet poll in the Canadian Press, with no details. No report on their site either. Too bad - probably too late for them to post it.

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    2. Would this poll have been commissioned by one of the parties? Would that be why it was leaked rather than posted publicly?

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  16. "Their own polling and several public opinion surveys suggest Liberal candidate Celina Caesar-Chavannes, an entrepreneur, research consultant and political newcomer, has steadily closed in on Perkins. The most recent poll, conducted Sunday by Mainstreet Technologies, had the Liberals and Tories tied while NDP support had collapsed."

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/tories-claim-smear-campaign-in-whitby-oshawa-byelection-1.2836969

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    1. Is that an internal poll though? Mainstreet is to Liberals as Campaign Research is to Conservatives.

      Though sometimes those internal polls get things right when everyone else is wrong.

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    2. You have to question why an "internal" poll was released this late in a campaign, especially, when important details are left out such as sample size and MoE. This reeks of a political motivation not an unbiased altuistic release of information.

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  17. "Byelections embolden opposition voters."

    Generally true - yet in August 2013 Forum said that the PCs would sweep to a big win in Ottawa South and instead it stayed Liberal by a healthy margin

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  18. Is it just me or is this 'polls don't close till 9:30 PM' something new ???

    I thought they always closed at 8 PM ??

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  19. Predictions anyone?

    Forum poll for Nov. 16 shows:

    Libs 45 Cons 42 NDP 10 Greens 3

    I plotted the trends for the three forum polls here:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NuGLIxlt_Yax2JL4gUDIjlofS5ZQ3xIx5rnS184wVhA/pubchart?oid=1678134715&format=interactive

    The trend in the Liberal surge is about 1% per day which about matches the increase in the Liberal candidates recognition. Conservatives are steady, and the NDP is falling.

    Based on this, I was going to assign the following

    Libs 47% Cons 41% NDP 9% Gr 3%

    The Conservatives are now whining about a smear campaign against their candidate (My heart bleeds for them). This has a bad effect of making them look like whiners while actually making them waste campaign funds drawing more attention to their candidates past financial indiscretions.

    The NDP is again whining about Trudeau's "star power" as superficial. Calling the electorate shallow idiots is not a way to win votes.

    Given that the opposition is already acting like sore losers and that Trudeau is the only leader planning to be at the headquarters (indicating that internal polls are showing an almost certain Liberal win) I'll revise that subjectively

    Liberal 49% Cons 41% NDP 8% Gr 2%

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    1. I'm preparing to be wrong, but
      Lib 44% Cons 42% NDP 11% Gr 3%

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    2. I think I have to agree with you Guy_Smily... after looking at what you've plotted... I'm going to predict a Liberal win also...
      Liberals ran a good campaign... Trudeau was here a couple of times and Wynne also showed her support!!!
      Liberal 46% Cons 42% NDP 10% Gr 2%

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    3. Nope it was close like Brandon-Sourris but just out of reach for the Grits! Looks like Forum's last minute polls do consistently overrate challengers. At 48% CPC right now it shouldn't make Harper happy but it's a win nonetheless.

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  20. Agree with Eric's breakdown of results. While personally I had hope for Whitby intelligently I knew it was unlikely. Still the dramatic increase in Liberal support along with the almost catastrophic crash in NDP support gives hope for the way ahead. Also the rise in Liberal support in Yellowhead must be acknowledged as good.

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  21. The Nov. 16 poll for Yellowhead was just strange-13% for "other" when there was not even a Green candidate? To be fair "other" did manage about 8% of the vote in the end higher than many would have expected. In the end however, I am surprised the poll was published especially since the results appeared far removed from the usual in Yellowhead.

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  22. I think we may be seeing the rise of a two major party system again? Others think ??

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    1. I hope not. A two-party system tends to polarise the electorate and lead to stalemate (and no new ideas, because the risks of failure are too high).

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    2. Yeah no argument but if you think back a few decades that's basically what we had and it worked. Now is it possible this pair of bye elections became a vote on Mulcair ??

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    3. I think you are looking too much into nothing. A by-election in a rural Alberta riding and an affluent suburban Ontario riding is not an indicator of Mulcair's performance.

      Canada remains a multi-party system where two major parties dominate, similar to Britain. The NDP wanted to replace the Liberals as a major party, but it seems that is unlikely to occur. However, the NDP can hold their own and continue to be a strong force in Canadian politics.

      Yes, by-election trends have favoured the Liberals at the expense of the Tories and NDP. In certain ridings, the progressive vote is correlating around the Liberals to defeat the Tories.

      The NDP is hovering nationally around 18-25% in the last few months. They are very competitive in Quebec and seem to be down to their social democratic base in the RoC.

      While, I will vote Liberal myself, partisan Liberals should not underestimate the NDP and vice versa. The NDP will go to the next election with around 90 incumbents led by a seasoned politician. Progressive swing voters are angry about Stephen Harper not the NDP. In close races between the two parties, this advantage can matter.

      Justin Trudeau and his team realizes that he needs to bring people who voted Tory and NDP in the last election. The Liberal policies are designed to attract soft Tory/NDP supporters without alienating the other (i.e. Marijuana legalization, resource development, tax credit reversal, "middle class" values, vote against Iraq war etc).

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    4. Jay I didn't say the votes where votes against the NDP. I've favoured the party since the Tommy Douglas days. May not have voted for it but liked a lot of it's ideas.

      This time the party has a Leader that simply isn't connecting to the public. Can you understand that ?

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    5. What do you mean again? Canada has had at least 3 parties since 1921.

      Do you mean two big parties? We have that now. They are the CPC and NDP.

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    6. If people only wanted 2 parties they'd only vote for 2 parties. They don't, so...

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    7. Even during the suppossed heyday of the two party system, the 19th century, many independent M.P.s were elected, often a dozen or more. So, Canada never really had a two party system. Canadians have elected 3 or more parties to Parliament in every election since, 1917. in the 1990's when five parties were in the House of Commons we never left the two party system since, only the Reform/ Canadian Alliance and Liberal Party were capable of forming government.

      By-elections in this Parliament have upheld the status quo; Liberals have retained Liberal seats and Conservatives have retained Conservatives seats, of the 15 by-elections held this Parliament the incumbent party has won 13. The two exceptions were Trinity-Spadina that went from NDP to Liberal and Labrador which is a traditional strong Liberal riding, that went Liberal from Conservative. One by-election doesn't make a trend and I would caution about reading too much into any by-election. If anything the by-elections favoured the Conservatives because Trudeau and the Liberals were expected to do better and Governments often lose by-elections.

      It doesn't appear we are moving toward a two party system in 2014. While the Conservatives and Liberals remain 1&2 in English Canada the NDP and Liberals are 1&2 in Quebec with both the BQ and Conservatives hanging on with about 15%. This two party idea is mere Liberal propaganda to distract from the Liberal Party's failinmgs. If the Liberal party was one of the dominant two parties why have they failed to win a by-election? Why has the Liberal party been incapable of dislodging the NDP from first place in Quebec? Why has the Liberal party failed to release a single policy of note? Why can they not consistently poll in majority government territory against an unpopular Government and a lacklustre Opposition?

      The Liberals are headed for 25% support and 50 M.P.s in 2015. It increasing looks that if canada is to move into a two party system the Liberal Party will not be part of it.

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