Early results from a by-election in the Greater Toronto Area on Monday suggested an imminent return to government of former Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, this time as an MP.
With just under 20 percent of the votes counted, Sousa arrived at a campaign event in Mississauga declaring himself the winner, to cheers from a crowd of more than a hundred supporters.
“As your voice in Ottawa, I want you to know that I am here to support you, work with you and the community, and be pragmatic in finding the right solutions to the challenges we face,” Sousa said. in a victory. speech.
“It is an honor to serve this great community and to join the Ottawa team that shares these values.”
Sousa was winning by just under 20 percentage points with almost half of the votes counted, or 110 out of 234 polls in the constituency. He obtained 52.5% of the vote against 33% for his conservative opponent, the NDP candidate ranking far behind with 6.5%.
The Liberal Party also declared victory late Monday night, saying in a press release that leaves it “in a stronger position” at the end of 2022.
If that dramatic lead were maintained while the rest of the votes were counted, it would be a negative sign for new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, said Philippe Fournier, the creator of 338Canada, a statistical model of electoral projections based on polls, the demographics and election history.
Reacting to the early results, Fournier noted that the by-election appeared to have low turnout. The top 34 percent of votes counted represented only about 5 percent of registered voters.
That’s a turnout of about 15%, based on these early results. Fournier said such a low number could be a sign of “general apathy or complacency”. Both are good signs for starters.
He suggested that if the Liberals maintained a significant lead, it would mean Poilievre was “doing worse” than his two immediate predecessors, Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer.
Although Fournier warned against over-interpreting the results of a by-election, the Liberals pointed to the victory as an indictment of Poilievre.
“Tonight, voters in Mississauga–Lakeshore rejected the reckless policies of the Pierre Poilievre Conservatives,” party national director Azam Ishmael said in a statement.
During a campaign that saw big-name Liberals in the riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore and federal cabinet ministers on the phones, Sousa portrayed himself as a seasoned decision-maker capable of working with opponents across the the driveway.
The former banker had lost his seat in the 2018 election which saw the provincial Liberals go from the ruling party to a party without official status in the Legislative Assembly.
He thanked those who helped him in the campaign during his victory speech Monday night, saying he couldn’t have done it alone. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Liberal MP Iqra Khalid were both at his side.
“Nothing will change in Ottawa regardless of the outcome of this election,” Sousa said in an interview ahead of the by-election. “So who do you want to fight for you and be there for you? I’m getting a lot of positive feedback.”
At an event for Sousa on Monday night, campaign volunteer Patti Jannetta called Sousa a visionary and said she’s heard a lot of positivity from voters.
“I feel really confident because I think people have confidence in him,” she said at the Oasis Convention Center shortly before the polls closed.
As dozens of supporters waited for the results to come in, they sat around tables chatting to loud blues music played by a live band, some sipping beer or wine. Later, the crowd grew to over 100 and the atmosphere became more festive as Sousa’s lead held.
A more modest Liberal victory would simply have been “business as usual,” Fournier said before the vote. However, the story would have been very different had the Conservative Party succeeded in upsetting.
At first glance, Monday’s federal by-election in a coveted riding in the Greater Toronto Area seemed like a potential scam.
It was the first contest under Poilievre’s conservative leadership, in an area of the country crucial to his party’s chances of success in future federal elections.
And the contest, in a district the Conservatives won when Stephen Harper secured a majority mandate, came seven years into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government is in its second minority term in Parliament.
As the Conservatives lowered expectations for their performance in Mississauga-Lakeshore, Poilievre was barely visible, despite tweeting his support for Conservative candidate Ron Chhinzer on Monday afternoon.
Fournier said the Conservatives will have to learn to win again in areas outside of Toronto if Poilievre is to have a shot at becoming premier.
“When you look at the riding map, the Conservatives have peaked in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. They could win maybe a handful more in the Atlantic provinces, maybe two, three more in Quebec, maybe two, three more in British Columbia,” he said. said.
“It doesn’t give you the win. They need to win more in Ontario. Where are the potential wins for the Tories? It’s in the Mississaugas and the Scarboroughs.”
The by-election was announced after Sven Spengemann, the former Liberal MP, announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down to take up a new post at the United Nations.
The final results of Monday’s contest will not be tabulated until local special ballots are added to the tally, beginning Wednesday.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 12, 2022.
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