Yesterday, the Ontario Liberals surprised many with an upset win in Kanata-Carleton and held off a strong challenge from star PC candidate Gary Crawford in Scarborough-Guildwood to win both Ontario by-elections. The Liberals benefited in Kanata-Carleton from recruiting former MP Karen McCrimmon, who took advantage of her name recognition in a sleepy summer by-election. Despite her strong name recognition and local popularity in the riding, it was a tight race.
Scarborough-Guildwood was less of a surprise, given this is one of the safest Liberal seats in the province. However, the PCs were hoping to pick up the riding with the recruitment of star candidate and local city councillor Gary Crawford. In fact, the Liberals lost voter share in this riding to both the NDP and the PCs. The PCs should be encouraged about decreasing the Liberal vote in Scarborough-Guildwood and disappointed, but not panicked, about the result in Kanata-Carleton.
The major takeaway is that by-elections truly do not shed much light into larger political trends, especially ones that are almost three years away from a general election. The PCs should not deem these results as a referendum on the government. These results do not necessarily indicate the Ford government is in trouble and polling continues to show Premier Ford has a significant lead across the province. The big losers of the evening were the official opposition NDP. They were not competitive in either riding, despite having a new leader and again forming the official opposition in the last election.
These results could signal a trend leading up to the next election. If the Ontario Liberals elect a strong and effective Leader, the next campaign could come down to a choice between the PCs and the Liberals. It is possible the NDP have missed their window over the last two elections to have a chance to overtake the Liberals as the centre-left alternative government in the province.