It almost goes without saying that voters tend to punishment governments during byelections.
Shifting a seat to the opposition during a byelection is a way of sending a message to the government without risking turning the whole shooting match over to someone new.
On Monday, the federal Conservatives won two of four byelections.
The Tories upset the Bloc Québécois in eastern Quebec and cruised to an easy victory in Nova Scotia; however, the Bloc retained the riding of Hochelaga in Montreal’s east end, while the New Democrats easily held onto a seat in British Columbia.
Had Canadians been exceptionally angry with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, they likely would have saw to it that his party lost all four byelection races. And, in fairness, had Canadians been overwhelmingly happy with the Conservatives, then the Tories might have won all four races.
But, the way it turned out, it was something of a split decision. And the federal government has to be happy with that. And now they have two more seats. Any government that can win half of its byelections must be doing something right.
The Liberals, on the other hand, must be rather disappointed not to have chalked up any victories on Monday. Similarly, the Green Party must be starting to realize that they may have little future in Canada with their candidate placing last in the B.C. riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam — a province that the Greens have long viewed as their best prospect.
Monday’s byelection results may discourage the Liberals and the Bloc from forcing a federal election.
New Democrats, on the other hand, likely feel a bit encouraged at managing to keep the seat in B.C.
Most Canadians, no matter which political party they support, likely don’t want a general election just yet. And, if the Tories continue to do reasonably well in byelections, the electorate as a whole may not have to go to the polls for some time yet.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.