Liberals sweep Toronto, but falter out west
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion finally got some good news last night when Toronto voters sent former NDP premier Bob Rae and party veteran Martha Hall Findlay to Ottawa in critical byelections, though the Grits apparently lost a seat it had held in Saskatchewan to the Conservatives.
For Rae, 59, it was his ninth election campaign in federal and provincial politics and vindication of criticism by his opponents in Toronto Centre that voters wouldn’t support a political turncoat.
To mark the importance of the byelections, Dion flew to Toronto yesterday for victory parties at Rae and Hall Findlay headquarters. Both ran against him for the Liberal leadership in 2006.
"I’m looking forward to making some noise in Ottawa," said Hall Findlay, 48.
Both Rae and Hall Findlay won ridings vacated by popular retiring Liberal MPs — Bill Graham and Jim Peterson, respectively. The ridings were seen as important tests of support for Dion. He’s had a rough ride since winning the leadership 15 months ago, with internal squabbling, fundraising problems and a stunning set of Quebec byelection losses.
According to the bar set for Dion among some Liberals before yesterday’s vote, his party had to win a minimum of three of yesterday’s four byelections, which also included Vancouver Quadra and Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River in northern Saskatchewan.
As of Metro’s deadine, Conservative Rob Clarke was handily leading the race over Liberal candidate Joan Beatty in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River, with nearly 47 per cent of the vote and 170 of 182 polls reporting.
The best race of the night was shaping up in Vancouver Quadra, where the lead changed hands several times between Conservative Deborah Meredith and Liberal Joyce Murray, before the first 100 of 237 polls had reported. Final results of the Vancouver Quadra race were not available as of Metro’s deadline last night.
‘red tory’ views and embarrassing losses
- In Toronto Centre, former Conservative candidate Mark Warner said many long-time Tory volunteers refused to work for the party during the campaign after he was ousted last fall for his "Red Tory" views on social and urban issues. Warner was replaced by Toronto pastor Don Meredith.
- It was clear Liberals were taking no chances after their humiliating losses last September in three Quebec byelections, including Outremont, long considered a safe seat. The loss to the NDP, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois reignited concerns Dion wasn’t up to the task of leadership.