If you’re looking for clues on what to expect in next year’s federal election, byelections are a good place to start.
Yes, individual byelections can hinge on local issues and well-known candidates, making it perilous to draw broader conclusions from the results. But they’re also the only moments between general elections when real voters are casting real ballots — when a party’s messaging, strategy and leadership are put to the test.
And when those individual contests are taken together, they can tell a compelling story. For Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, it isn’t clear whether it’s going to be a story with a happy ending in 2019.
The next chapter will be told through Monday’s federal byelection in Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. Polls are open from 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. in the eastern Ontario riding.
An upset is unlikely. Held by Conservative MP Gord Brown from 2004 until his death earlier this year, the riding has voted blue ever since the old Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties merged in 2003.
The Liberals held the riding in the 1990s, but they were helped by a divided field. The last two times the Liberals won what was then Leeds–Grenville — in 1997 and 2000 — they did so with less than 40 per cent of the vote, while the two right-of-centre parties together pulled a majority of votes cast.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be something worth watching in Monday’s results. There’s always something to learn from how a party’s share of the vote has shifted from the previous election.
Update 4:48am, December 4th, 2018: