Well folks, I don't think too many observers were suprised with the by-election win by Liberal Chris Collins in Moncton East. However, looking more indepth into the results, I think that there are some noteworthy trends.
I doubt Spinks will agree, but I thought these results were particularly good news for the NDP, to a lesser extent for the Liberals and bad-to-neutral news for the Tories.
The Liberals won, so how can it be better news for the NDP than the Grits? Because politics is a game of perception and beating expectations is the best perception of all. The Liberals are obviously going to be able to be quite gleeful that they won their first by-election test and that they took the former PC leader's seat but, everyone believed they were going to win and, traditionally, Moncton East is one of the strongest Liberal seats in the province.
For the NDP, things look quite rosy, relatively speaking. The NDP has never been strong in Moncton, so no one expected them to do well, however they nearly doubled their share of the popular vote vs. September (8.3% vs. 4.5%) and were the only party to get more real votes. Turn out in this by-election was 4509, down from 6964 last September, so you didn't need nearly as many votes to win. The Liberals actually received 201 fewer votes than in 2006, the Tories received a crazy 2308 fewer votes, while the NDP gained 54 votes. To me, this indicated that 2006 may have been the low water mark for the NDP and with a new leader, they could revert back to their traditional 10% of the popular vote province wide.
For the Tories, they had a party hack as a candidate and faced a Liberal "star" who is almost certain to join cabinet. It was a seat that in its entire existence from 1974 through the 1995 elections returned Liberal Ray Frenette by large margins and went to Lord only by modest margins when one factors in the typical "leader bump". Everyone expected them to lose so they met expectations so, in perception, it isn't really a loss. However the size of the loss is substantial though it may not be reported on. I expected Collins to win comfortably, but I would have never expected him to get 58% of the vote and a victory margin of 15%!
Let's look at past numbers: Frenette 74 - 59%; Frenette 78 - 56%; Frenette 82 - 51%; Frenette 87 - 70%; Frenette 91 - 53%; Frenette 95 - 61%; Lord 98 - 51%; Lord 99 - 66%; Lord 03 - 52%; Lord 06 - 55%; Collins 07 - 58%.
Collins numbers are equal to Ray Frenette's average (58.3%)... this seat didn't just edge to the Liberal column it has returned to its traditional Liberal status and will probably stay there for the forseeable future.
As for Collins future, I wouldn't be surprised to see him become Minister of Local Government (which is currently held by Finance Minister Victor Boudreau) in a not too distant shuffle. Maybe it will be a bit of a competition for him with Ontario Revenue Minister Michael Chan to see who can make the cabinet quicker. Chan was recently added to the Ontario cabinet just 13 days after his by-election win.
Now on to Andy Scott...
I was quite surprised to hear this news today. Wasn't Andy on the record a short time ago saying he was running again? Perhaps his departure may cause Bernard Lord to re-evaluate his plans for running in the next federal election?
I will be curious to see who emerges as the Liberal candidate to replace Scott. Dion is pushing for women candidates in winnable ridings so I expect there would be some encouragement for one to come forward here. Three come to mind, Anne Bertrand who was co-chair of Gerard Kennedy's campaign in the province and unsuccessfully sought the provincial nomination for Fredericton-Silverwood, Joan Kingston who is the premier's principal secretary and was a cabinet minister from 1997-1999, and Scott's wife Denise Cameron Scott who is as involved in politics as her husband and currently serves as deputy chief of staff in the office of the provincial government caucus.