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Following byelections in Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario that saw the Conservatives and Liberals hold on to their seats, pollsters and analysts say the lackluster results for the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada (PPC)’s shows they are being “squeezed” by the larger parties on both sides of the political spectrum.
“They’re having more difficulties in this configuration of major parties, where the Conservatives are a little more populous than they have been in the past—which kind of squeezes the PPC—and for the Liberals, being very environmentally focused, it squeezes the Green Party,” said Nik Nanos, chief data scientist and founder of the Nanos Research Group of Companies, in June 20 interview with The Epoch Times.
“So this configuration of major parties is just very difficult for those parties that are smaller because they’re just getting squeezed on both sides of the spectrum.”
Monday’s byelection results saw the seat configuration in the House of Commons remain unchanged, as the Liberals took Winnipeg South Centre and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount, while the Conservatives kept Oxford and Portage-Lisgar. The four seats have long been considered “safe” for the respective parties.
In Portage-Lisgar, Branden Leslie—the campaign manager of former Tory MP for the riding Candice Bergen—won with 45 percent of the vote, while PPC Leader Maxime Bernier received 17 percent. Back in 2021, PPC candidate Solomon Wiebe won 22 percent compared to Bergen’s 52 percent.
Nanos told The Epoch Times that the results from Portage-Lisgar mean that “perhaps the wind in the PPC’s sales is not as strong as it was back in 2021.” He also said the results were good news for Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who may have managed to pull some PPC voters over to his camp.
Elliot Hughes, a senior advisor at Summa Strategies, said the results of the byelection “certainly did not go in the right direction” for Bernier. Hughes said the results could be partially attributed to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health measures, which Bernier was highly critical of.
Hughes said the Conservatives under Poilievre may have also done well at cementing voter support on the right, which could have contributed to the results in Portage-Lisgar.
“My view would be that Pierre Poilievre has done more than enough to attract the types of voters who, in another election perhaps, would feel more comfortable in Bernier’s camp,” he said.
In the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Westmount, which has been open for a byelection since former cabinet minister Marc Garneau stepped down in March, Liberal candidate Anna Gainey won with 50 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Deputy Leader Jonathan Pedneault received just over 13 percent of the vote.
Nanos said while the Green Party performed “marginally better” in the byelection, the riding is so overwhelmingly red that “if the Liberals ever lose that riding, that means that it’s the beginning of the end.” He said a big challenge for the Green Party is that the Liberals and New Democrats have proven to have more focus on environmental policies in recent years.
“I think it’s hard for the Greens to cut through the clutter, even factoring in a star candidate like having their co-leader throwing their hat in the ring in this Liberal stronghold,” he said.
Tim Powers, vice-chairman of Summa Strategies and managing director of Abacus Data, said the Conservatives will need to study the results of the Oxford byelection “intensely.” Conservative Arpan Khanna won 43 percent of the vote, while Liberal David Hilderley garnered 36 percent. Back in the 2021 election, long-time Conservative Dave MacKenzie won 47 percent of the vote to Liberal Elizabeth Quinto’s 20 percent.
Powers said the closeness of the byelection results could be attributed to the unique circumstances surrounding the race. MacKenzie’s daughter Deb Tait ran for the Conservative nomination in the riding, but the co-chair of Pierre Poilievre’s leadership campaign in Ontario, Arpan Khanna, won the nomination instead. She then endorsed the Liberal candidate.
“I mean, do you dive really deep into this and ask the question, are there other parts of the Conservative Party that have a frustration that goes beyond Mr. Mackenzie’s frustration, or was this such a localized thing you don’t want to over overplay analyzing it?” he asked.
“There was some wrangling around the nomination issue, but [the Conservatives] created all of that. Does that exist in the next election campaign? Is there some carryover effect that maybe limits their opportunity to grow there?”
In Winnipeg South Centre, where Liberal Ben Carr, son of the late former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Carr, took 55 percent of the vote to Conservative Damir Stipanovic’s 24 percent, Powers said, “It would have been a hard riding to take for anybody but the Liberals in this campaign.”
Powers said the Conservatives are likely disappointed they didn’t gain more votes in the riding, especially since they will need to do better in similar ridings in order to win the next election.
Powers said out of the many byelections he had seen over the years, only two or three had significance for Canada’s overall political stage.
“There have been dozens upon dozens that were not significant. And I think, by and large, these were not significant byelections. But there’s always a few little morsels you can glean from them,” he said.