Voters in four federal ridings cast ballots today in byelection races in rural Alberta and the City of Toronto. CBC
The Liberals nabbed the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina from the New Democrats, gaining a new seat and also holding on to the electoral district of Scarborough-Agincourt, CBC News projects.
As was expected in Alberta, Conservative candidate John Barlow won in Macleod, while results continue to trickle in for Fort McMurray-Athabasca.
Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan will be elected to Trinity-Spadina in what was expected to be a hotly contested race against New Democrat candidate Joe Cressy to replace former NDP MP Olivia Chow, who is now running for mayor of the city.
The riding had previously been considered an NDP stronghold.
The Liberals also ran Arnold Chan, a former lawyer and corporate manager, in the densely Chinese-populated Scarborough-Agincourt riding. He managed to keep the riding under the Liberal banner, after 25 years of representation by Jim Karygiannis.
Although the two Alberta ridings of Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Macleod were perceived as virtual locks for the Conservatives, political strategists will be looking closely at vote percentages to judge how much momentum the Liberals may be gaining.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has campaigned three times in the oilsands heartland to back Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha in Fort McMurray-Athabasca. A dramatic increase in Liberal support could be an indication of voter dissatisfaction with the Conservatives.
The Conservatives won by healthy margins in Alberta in 2011, capturing 72 per cent in Fort McMurray-Athabasca and 77 per cent in Macleod. But pollster NikNanos, chairman of Nanos Research, said a drop in support by as much as 20 points in these byelections would spell trouble.
"It would suggest a significant proportion are not happy and want to send a message to Harper," Nanos told CBC's Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton. If the ballot results don't show a significant vote split, Nanos added, "the Conservatives have to be nervous."
Vaughan's victory in Trinity-Spadina is a coup for the Liberals, who are keen to sell themselves as a reinvigorated party under Trudeau's stewardship. Public opinion surveys show more Canadians giving popular support to the Liberals than the Conservatives, followed by the New Democrats in third place.
Since 1972, every time the Liberals won Trinity-Spadina they have gone on to form government; every time the NDP took the riding, the Conservatives have taken power.
Things were looking more certain in Scarborough-Agincourt. The riding has been a Liberal bastion for 25 years under Jim Karygiannis's representation,and it will continue to be so with Chan.
The former MP resigned from federal politics in April to run for a city council ward in Toronto, and Trudeau has since toured the area to champion Chan's candidacy. Karygiannis has also said he has endorsed Chan, though his own preference for a successor lost the nomination.
Voter turnout for the four federal byelections was expected to be low, coming between a weekend and the Canada Day holiday. Some political observers accused the Harper Conservatives of choosing this date to hold byelections in order to engineer a low voter turnout.
Barry Kay, a political science professor with Wilfrid Laurier University, said turnout in byelections is typically 10 to 15 points lower than the turnout in a general election. He said that governing parties tend to suffer more losses in byelections as voters use the occasion to show their dismay at the polls without having to worry about changing the seat of power.
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