In the increasingly unlikely event the federal Liberals spot a poison pill in Tuesday’s budget and refuse to swallow, the current by-election in Toronto Centre will be abandoned in favour of a general election.
(It would probably be more illustrative to use a poker analogy here, with the by-election holding three-of-a-kind and a general election showing a full house, but best to keep Michael Ignatieff’s poison pill metaphor going. It was a good line, and hopefully one day it’ll be the top “poison pill” search on Google.)
This rare bit of electoral procedure, via Elections Canada office in the riding, is but another wedge in the debate to trigger an election. In Toronto Centre, something of a mini-debate has emerged based on the question, with two of the most vocal candidates taking different positions.
Bob Rae, the former premier and Liberal foreign affairs critic, has reportedly been pushing for his party to allow the budget to pass – a move best viewed as strategic.
If the by-election is trumped by a general election, then Rae and the Liberals miss a chance at momentum swing. Rae would almost certainly take the riding in a quiet by-election, adding much-needed energy to his party’s campaign in a wider vote. (The opposite happened last year in Quebec, where most notably the future leader of the NDP won in a Liberal stronghold.)
Not to mention if Rae wins a by-election and a general election closely follows, he will most certainly glide to consecutive victories, having just won and not had any time to represent the riding.
But, should this turn into a nation-wide affair, Rae’s chances of winning might be diminished based on the unpredictable behaviour of Garth Turner and/or the rest of his party.
The NDP and Greens have more to gain in a longer campaign, as they’ll have a longer time to endear themselves to voters. The concern of campaign finances would undoubtedly crop up (donations from the by-election would be carried over to a general election, should one be called), as would the time commitment from candidates. The Greens’ Chris Tindal, whose greatest accomplishment thus far has been joining the Green Party, has already made it known he would rather take it to a general election.
The Conservatives are generally out to lunch in this riding – by-election or not. But, as they do currently form government, their role should not be underestimated. One possibility, trotted out by bloggers late last year, is Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will trigger an election all by themselves, thus delaying Rae’s march to Ottawa and any ensuing Liberal momentum. This is keeping in mind Harper has already delayed calling this by-election to the very last minute.
Provided there isn’t a non-confidence motion on the budget – which, again, is likely – here are the remaining scheduled debates for Toronto Centre.
Feb. 27, 7 pm, St. James Town Safety Committee Feb. 28, 7 pm, Rosedale United Church Mar. 2, 2 pm, Cabbagetown Youth Centre Mar. 5, 7 pm, 519 Church Street Community Centre Mar. 11, 7:30 pm, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
UPDATE: No vote of non-confidence.
UPDATE AGAIN: Since he's mentioned above, here's Garth Turner's thoughts.