It's interesting how the Conservatives are using by-elections to paint a rosier picture on how popular they are. During the summer there were 7 vacant seats in the House of Commons as result of resignations throughout the year. A number of seats had to be filled because seats can only remain vacant for 180 days.
The Conservative government held by-elections on September 17 but only in 3 Quebec ridings. That is because the other 4 ridings are pretty safe Liberal seats. The Liberals lost their Montreal stronghold in Outremont to Thomas Mulcair, the NDP's star recruit. The loss was not unexpected. In the Saguenay, Conservative candidate Denis Lebel sailed to victory in the sovereigntist-rich riding of Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean. Signifying that the Conservatives were the first choice federalist party in Quebec. And in Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, east of Montreal, Bloc Québécois candidate Ève-Mary Thai Thi Lac beat Conservative Bernard Barré.
The Conservatives have used the by-election results to demonstrate that the Liberals are a mess and the media and public have partly bought in. That's not to say that the Liberals don't have problems.
The Conservatives want to avoid holding by-elections in the remaining 4 vacant ridings and are hoping that their government loses a confidence motion before the by-elections must be held at the end of the year. The four ridings are:
- Toronto Centre where Bill Graham has resigned and Bob Rae is the Liberal nominee
- Willowdale where Jim Peterson has resigned and Martha Hall Findlay is the Liberal nominee
- Vancouver Quadra where Steven Owens has resigned
- Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River where Gary Merasty has resigned
In fact, Graham and Peterson intentionally resigned in the summer in anticipation of the September by-elections. The Liberals didn't expect that the Conservative would out-maneuver them by only holding the 3 by-elections. Obviously, the Conservatives don't want to see the two failed Liberal leadership candidates in the Commons before the next general election. Also the 4 potential Liberal wins will remove some of the lustre from the results on September 17 where the Conservative in fact only gained one seat.