OTTAWA – Two byelections are being held before the next federal election, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not leave any doubt when it comes to whom voters will be voting for: Liberal voters in Lac La Biche, and conservatives in Kanata North.
Three byelections are being held in Western Canada this fall, but all have been declared invalid by Elections Canada because it was not possible to get the correct answers from the cast.
That means the Liberals and Conservatives must have a shot at regaining power in those ridings with a new voters’ guide and new rosters.
Some Liberal supporters in Lac La Biche are not satisfied.
“You can’t debate all your policies and still have us sign a petition and vote against us,” John Walsh, 57, said on the campaign trail, demanding to know why Trudeau has not withdrawn his party from the byelection.
Facing accusations that he favoured one political party over another in the two byelections, Trudeau said he understands the frustration of some Liberals who may not be convinced that he is listening to their complaints.
The election, which came just days after Trudeau’s election to a fifth consecutive majority government, was held as both campaigns focused on preserving his gains from the end of the election campaign before, and winning over voters who viewed him as a champion of the middle class.
“You can criticize and you can point fingers. But how do you connect to those who are unhappy with what is happening in your country?” said Rob McKenna, a Liberal MP in Kanata North.
MacKay, a non-Indigenous candidate, had advocated broadening the base of his party. But he will be a long shot to win against the Liberal candidate and front-runner in the byelection, Adam Chretien.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef, who is due to become Canada’s first female prime minister next month, said she is pleased to see many Canadians turned out to vote in the latest byelections and the election is shaping up to be a good one for the Liberals.
The Liberals won 63 seats in the 121-seat House of Commons to become the first party since the Liberals returned to power in 1984 to hold a majority in both the House and Senate. The Conservatives will also win 55 seats.
That should give Trudeau, who will face continuing criticism over the party’s handling of the situation at the border, sufficient room to maneuver with the Conservatives to retake the House.
Liberal supporters argue that while Trudeau is popular in the urban ridings where they used to run, they are at risk in the rural ridings where they lost out to Conservative candidates and which will be left holding the bag in Ottawa if Trudeau and his party lose a majority in the 2019 vote.
They say voter frustration with Ottawa runs deep, and the byelections are part of that movement.
People are giving a lot of talk about a nationwide pandemic this election, said Kyle Hekman, a Liberal voter in Lac La Biche.
Hekman said he was hoping Trudeau could reverse the decision to retire Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister who announced she was quitting last week.
“The last bit of anybody throwing her overboard … is a pretty good sign, I guess, of why she’s got some distance,” Hekman said.
Some are also calling for the Liberals to be held accountable for their actions after these byelections.
Trudeau’s former house leader, Neetzan Zimmerman, is no longer on the Liberal leadership campaign staff, which forced him to turn to a rival. Zimmerman was co-author of a letter to the editor last year that suggested Prime Minister Stephen Harper was being pushed out of office because his party had underestimated Trudeau’s popularity.
Trudeau’s government made a $12.2-million donation to the Liberal Party of Canada to help pay for this year’s election.
Julie Di Mambro, who runs the website TrudieDaVine.ca, which is used to get Canadians motivated to vote, said that public votes can be an important source of low turnout.
“There’s been this persistent whisper in our community that citizens are expecting governments that show greater transparency, that display a greater willingness to reach across the aisle,” Di Mambro said.“It’s an indication that people are looking at election material and that people are very focused on it and they are giving these byelections a lot of weight in terms of asking themselves, ‘What can I do about this?’”
The Liberals will raise the issue with the federal Electoral Boundaries Review Commission, including any recommendations Trudeau thinks are appropriate.“These are issues that