By Gerald V. Paul
The Liberals put up a strong fight in Monday’s Whitby-Oshawa byelection as Celina Caesar-Chavannes made significant gains with 41.1% of votes, leaving the NDP’s Trish McAuliffe trailing at 8%, with Caesar-Chavannes beaten by Conservative Pat Perkins at 48% for the seat formerly held by the late Jim Flaherty.
The Liberal candidate was in a tight race for much of the night with former Whitby mayor Perkins, who only began to significantly surge ahead later in the night as all 280 polls came in.
Despite opinion polls which showed the Tory and Liberal virtually tied prior to election day, Perkins beat Liberal newcomer Caesar-Chavannes, who managed to triple the Liberal share of the vote from 2011, despite a light turnout of 31.8% of eligible voters in the riding, located east of Toronto. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had visited the riding during the campaign, visiting voters with Caesar-Chavannes.
In a broadcast email, Trudeau said, “I am so proud of the two phenomenal Liberal candidates who’ve made impressive gains in today’s byelections: Celina Caesar-Chavannes in Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario, and Ryan Maguhn in Yellowhead, Alberta.
“The Liberal Party of Canada is the only party to increase support in all 11 by-elections since April 2013. After weeks of campaigning, they’ve shown us the real meaning of hope and hard work.”
Though byelections are not always reliable for predicting future voting trends, the Whitby-Oshawa campaign was nonetheless seen as a proving ground for the three major parties as next year’s federal election looms closer, opening the question if NDP Leader and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair can expand beyond the party’s Quebec powerbase.
In the 2011 general election, the NDP placed second in the riding, with the Liberal candidate in third.
Perkins promised to work to make things better and safer for Canadians. She called it a “great team effort” and thanked MPP Christine Elliott and the whole Flaherty family for their help. Elliott, widow of the former federal finance minister, is considered a frontrunner for leadership of the provincial Conservative Party.
Caesar-Chavannes, a businesswoman, had appealed to working families, saying there are 6,000 single-income families in the riding, parents who both work at jobs with similar incomes and others trying to get their kids off to university. As part of her campaign, she stressed that none will benefit from the government’s recently announced Family Tax Cut or income-splitting scheme.
Attempts to contact Caesar-Chavannes after the vote by The Camera were unsuccessful.
In Alberta’s Yellowhead riding, the Conservative candidate easily won on Monday, with the Liberal placing second and the NDP candidate running third.