Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Liberals Win Big, But Not Big Enough

Controversial Saskatchewan riding falls to Conservatives

In a set of by-elections in which Liberal leader Stephane Dion was looking for some redemption, he found it -- sort of.

Liberals Bob Rae, Martha Hall-Findley and Joyce Murray emerged victorious in the ridings of Toronto Centre, Willowdale, and Vancouver Quadra respectively.

However, the controversial riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, Conservative candidate (and now MP) Rob Clarke claimed 49% of the vote while Dion's handpicked alternative to disgruntled Progressive Conservative blowhard David Orchard tallied 32%.

"It's a great day for the Liberals," Stephane Dion announced at Rae's celebratory rally.

Certainly, Dion can now crow about winning three of four by-elections conducted yesterday. However, Liberals can't be comfortable with the fact that the race Stephane Dion had the most direct involvement in -- appointing Beatty and denying Orchard an opportunity to run for the nomination.

And while Dion may have finally managed to get two of his inner circle into the House of Parliament, he may also want to take into account the fact that the Liberals are a seat poorer -- and the Conservatives a seat stronger -- in Parliament after today. Cast in that light, maybe this wasn't such a great day for the Liberals after all.

It probably could have been an even better day for the Conservatives if they didn't have their own controversial candidate-swap to defend. In an equally controversial move, Conservative party brass disqualified Mark Warner, a candidate elected by the party's Toronto Centre riding association in favour of Don Meredith, an individual who turned out to be so stupid he deserved to lose the riding.

(How stupid, you ask? This bloody stupid -- an individual who doesn't seem to know it's Afghanistan Canada is involved in, not Iraq.)

If Stephen Harper and the Conservative party brass had reined in their heavy-handed tendencies they could have given Bob Rae a run for his money. They probably wouldn't have won -- theory has it that voters in Toronto Centre would elect Victor Von Doom if he ran as a Liberal -- but at least they could have done better than 15% of the vote.

All the same, the day was fairly good for the governing Conservatives -- they managed to claim a Parliamentary seat that they didn't have before.

But a "great day" for the Liberals? Not on a day when you come out of a round of by-elections weaker than you went into them. It's a big win for the Liberals, but just not big enough.

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