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Cablegate: Canada: Conservative Bounce From by-Elections

VZCZCXRO0940
OO RUEHGA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #0876/01 3142219
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 102218Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0067
INFO ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000876

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: CANADA: CONSERVATIVE BOUNCE FROM BY-ELECTIONS

REF: OTTAWA 858; OTTAWA 777

OTTAWA 00000876 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: The governing Conservatives added two seats in
the House of Commons on November 9, after the governing party
surprisingly won two of four federal by-election victories. Its
upset win in rural Quebec suggests the party may at least be back
in the game in that province. The Conservatives came a solid
second in a suburban Vancouver riding, which the New Democratic
Party (NDP) won. The NDP placed second in two of the other
by-elections, and is already boasting that it is the only
opposition party with "momentum," especially since the Bloc
Quebecois lost one seat. The Liberals had not expected to win any
of the four seats, but finishing third in all four ridings and
losing vote share in three of four ridings over 2008 forced leader
Michael Ignatieff to admit publicly that "we have a lot of work
ahead of us." Turn-out everywhere was low, and the races largely
reflected local issues. Overall, the results were a win-win for
the Conservatives, who appear to be on the right track to possibly
winning a majority in the next federal election - whenever that may
be. End summary.

CONSERVATIVES: NOT DEAD IN QUEBEC

2. (U) In the November 9 federal by-elections (reftels), voter
turn-out varied between 22.3% and 36.6% in the four races in
Quebec, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia. In the eastern Quebec
riding of Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riveire-du-Loup,
Conservative Bernard Genereux surprised many observers by retaking
the riding from the Bloc Quebecois after sixteen years in Bloc
hands. A popular local mayor, Genereux defeated Bloc candidate
Nancy Gagnon by 42.7% to 37.7%. Federal spending -- and the
candidate who could best deliver such investment in the future --
were the major campaign issues in the essentially two-horse race.
The Liberal and NDP candidates garnered 13.2% and 4.8% of votes
cast, respectively.

3. (SBU) In the Montreal-area, the Bloc Quebecois easily held the
suburban riding of Hochelaga, with 51.2% of the vote. The new Bloc
M.P Daniel Paille, a former corporate executive and provincial
Minister of Industry, is a political heavy-weight with extensive
business (including U.S.) and high-level political connections.
AmConGen Montreal contacts believe Paille will noticeably
strengthen the Bloc team in Ottawa. The NDP ran an aggressive
campaign, and finished a surprising second at 19.5% of the vote,
edging out the Liberals, who had placed second in the riding in the
2008 federal election. The Liberals saw their share of the vote
slip from 20.6% in 2008 to 14.3% in this vote.

RECLAIMING SEATS IN THE EAST AND WEST

4. (U) In Nova Scotia, the Conservatives easily reclaimed their
former stronghold of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley,
with 45.8% of the vote. The NDP finished second at 25.7%. The
Liberals produced their best showing of the evening at 21.3%, but
still trailed in third place.

5. (U) In British Columbia, the NDP easily held its seat in New
Westminster-Coquitlam at 49.6% of the vote. The Conservatives, at
35.8%, largely maintained their vote share from the 2008 election
(38.8%), as did the Liberals, at 10.3% (down from 11.2% in 2008,
however).

A MORE CONSERVATIVE HOUSE

6. (U) Following the by-elections, the Conservatives have 145
seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, the Liberals 77, the Bloc
Quebecois 48, and the NDP 37 seats. There is one Independent. As
the Independent MP tends to vote as a Conservative, Prime Minister
Stephen Harper is now nine seats short of a working majority.

LIBERAL LAMENT

7. (U) Once the outcome of the by-election votes was clear,

OTTAWA 00000876 002.2 OF 002


Ignatieff issued a statement congratulating the winners and
thanking the Liberal candidates, but admitting that "we have a lot
of work ahead of us." He emphasized that "our job in the months
ahead is to earn the confidence and support of the Canadians."

8. (SBU) Comment: By-elections traditionally favor opposition
parties, so the Conservatives' performance was especially notable.
These four local races were the voters' first opportunity to render
judgment on the Conservatives' handling of the recession, as well
as on Ignatieff's leadership of the Liberal party. Going into the
campaign, the Conservatives had downplayed expectations, while
quietly throwing significant resources into the races and these
ridings, particularly in Quebec. Their upset win in eastern Quebec
suggests the party remains competitive in the province -- contrary
to most polls - at least in selected, targeted rural ridings.
However, AmConGen Quebec City contacts cautioned that the
Conservatives will have to deliver on their "get back on the side
in power" campaign in the next federal election against a concerted
Bloc push to get out the vote. The results are a win-win for the
governing party, confirming trends in recent polls showing the
Conservatives strengthening across the country and apparently on
track with a growing number of voters. The NDP has also succeeded
in aggressively opposing the government while refraining from
bringing it down (using the excuse of Employment Insurance
legislation). In contrast, the results had absolutely no silver
lining for the Liberals, whose morale must be even lower after
these by-elections, with no clear path for any quick rebounding.
The Conservatives are clearly again eyeing a possible majority win
in the next federal election, whenever it will be -- but almost
certainly sometime in 2010.
JACOBSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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