Ottawa-Vanier has never voted anything but Grit. However, large margins have a way of evaporating in by-elections where voters can register dissatisfaction without turfing a government. That is what makes byelections so tricky.
By SHEILA COPPS
First published in The Hill Times on Monday, February 27, 2017.
OTTAWA—Five byelections across three provinces will be the first real test for the Liberal government.
With vacancies in former Liberal ridings, the pressure will be on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to grow his majority.
Whatever happens, the outcome will likely result in a rise in diversity, as all ridings were formerly held by white men and several byelection frontrunners are women.
At the moment, the Liberal nominee in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier, appears to have the edge. Mona Fortier served as an assistant to Mauril Bélanger, who lost his battle against ALS last August.
Fortier was endorsed by Bélanger’s widow in a hotly contested nomination which recruited 6,500 new members into what has been described as Canada’s safest Liberal riding.
Ottawa-Vanier has never voted anything but Grit. However, large margins have a way of evaporating in by-elections where voters can register dissatisfaction without turfing a government.
That is what makes byelections so tricky. In the case of Ottawa-Vanier, the ruling party does not seem to be in any real danger.
In the heart of the nation’s capital, the riding includes many public servants who are still breathing a sigh of relief that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are no longer in power. By comparison, the Liberals are supportive of the role played by the bureaucracy in developing evidence-based policies.
The population is highly diverse, and supportive of the government’s strong stand in favour of refugee resettlement.
Controversy surrounding identity questions could loom large in the Quebec by-election called to replace former leader and foreign minister Stéphane Dion.
Star Liberal candidate and former Quebec immigration minister Yolande James has changed her position on the niqab, and her nomination opponents are zeroing in on this discrepancy.
While Quebec minister of immigration, James refused to allow a niqab-wearing woman to take French language classes.