It was Stephen Harper at his manipulative worst when he scheduled four federal by-elections on Monday, June 30 -- i.e., in the midst of a pre-Canada Day long weekend. He wanted to make voting as difficult as possible, suppressing both turnout and news coverage to make those votes seem irrelevant and unimportant.
But the very good results for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party cannot be hidden or denied.
In Ontario, in the one riding the Liberals had previously held (Scarborough-Agincourt), the Party was re-elected with Arnold Chan getting some 60 per cent of the popular vote. In the seat previously belonging to NDP powerhouse Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), the NDP lost to Liberal Adam Vaughan who polled over 53 per cent.
In Alberta, in the Macleod riding, Liberal Dustin Fuller finished second to the Conservatives, but more than quadrupled the Liberal share of the vote. In Fort McMurray-Athabasca, Liberal Kyle Harrietha also finished second, and lifted the Party's vote from a mere 10 per cent to more than 35 per cent (the best Liberal showing since 1968).
So the Liberals won two and finished second in the others. In each case, our popular vote was up significantly -- by more than 20 percentage points overall.
The Conservative held onto their two ridings in Alberta, but finished a distant second in Scarborough-Agincourt and an even more distant third in Trinity-Spadina. In all cases, their popular vote declined -- by more than 12 percentage points overall.
For the NDP, the results were uniformly bad. They lost their flagship riding of Trinity-Spadina by a wide margin and finished no better than third everywhere else. NDP popular vote was down in all four seats -- by more than 9 percentage points overall.
This continues a trend since the 2011 general election.
In 2012, there were also four by-election campaigns. The Liberal vote increased in the aggregate by more than 6 per cent, while the Conservatives dropped nearly 11 per cent and the NDP were down more than 5 per cent.
In 2013, there were another four by-elections. The Liberal vote was up overall by more than 19 per cent, while the Conservatives were down by more than 12 per cent and the NDP by 5.5 per cent.
The latest 2014 results suggest two further observations -- Liberal momentum is accelerating and translating now into tangible gains (not just moral victories), and the NDP's situation is steadily deteriorating.
For at least the last year, public opinion polls have clearly identified a growing uneasiness with the Harper government. Canadians don't like the direction in which the Conservatives are headed, or their tactics. They don't trust or believe Mr. Harper any more. And they want change.
But not change to just anything. They want a new government, that's not only different, but also unmistakably better. And that may be the key to the inroads Justin Trudeau is clearly making.
He's assembling a plan for economic growth, social fairness and democratic renewal that rises far above the grinding mediocrity of the Harper regime. It's a message of hope and encouragement to middle-class Canadians and all those who are working so hard to get there.
Equally important, Justin is attracting a strong team of candidates who share his vision and can deliver on it. He gets it. Leadership is not a one-man show. It must involve a team of capable people from every corner of the country with the skill to govern well and the commitment to represent Canadians authentically.
Justin's leadership is proving far more substantial, engaging and effective than the unproductive competition between Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair about who can make you angrier.
A lot of hard work is still required, but Justin is steadily building the opportunity for Canadians to embrace -- with enthusiasm and confidence -- the real change for the better that they want for their country.
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