12.05.2010 07:57 AM

In today’s Sun: by-election winners and losers

As a charter member of the Alberta diaspora, I admit I was rankled by the way the Conservative and Liberal parties – and the central Canadian media, too – seemingly ignored the two Manitoba contests over the one in Ontario. For example, Ignatieff sent his election “A Team” into Vaughan (including senior members of his personal staff), and they got clearly out-hustled. The rag-tag Grit gang in Winnipeg’s North End, meanwhile, received proportionately far less support from headquarters – but delivered on the ground, big time.

The Conservatives, too, appeared much more preoccupied with the one Ontario faceoff over the two in Manitoba. While the Cons were never in any trouble in the rural riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, their decision to drop an extremely weak candidate in Winnipeg North – and if you saw the same interview I did on CPAC, “weak” doesn’t even begin to describe her – helped pave the way for a Liberal victory.


  1. Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
    Mike says:

    Will someone please help me out here? One of my pet peeves is the use of “adverse” when “averse” seems more appropriate — as in Warren’s use of “risk-adverse” in this column.

    If you substitute “harmful” for “adverse”, does “risk-harmful” make sense?

    From Dictionary.com “averse” is defined as: “having a strong feeling of opposition, antipathy, repugnance, etc.” so using “risk-averse” would suggest opposition to risk, which is what I believe Warren truly intends to imply.

    Am I a victim of Adult ADHD, or simply a guy yearning for correct English usage?

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      JenS says:

      I have had editors change “averse” in my original draft to “adverse” and haven’t really understood the reasoning (perhaps because I’ve never received a good answer when I’ve questioned it.) I’ve actually ceased using “averse” in anything I write professionally, because I know it will be changed, and that rankles me.

      Or, there’s the short answer to your question, which is, “I don’t know.”

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        Mike says:

        Thank you for trying to ease the burden that imprecise communication loads on our capacity to understand. It might be common to all humans to be kind, yet Canadians seem kindest of all the world’s people, so you must be quintessentially Canadian.

        By way of an experiment, I entered the term “risk-adverse” in Google. Try it, and you will know how rare mistakes really are, in spite of misinformed editors.

        Here is another pet peeve derived from too many BBC “House in the Country” telecasts featuring too many class-conscious victims:

        While and whilst

        In standard British English and Australian English, whilst is synonymous with while in meaning and usage.

        In American English and Canadian English, whilst can be considered pretentious or archaic.

        Some publications on both sides of the Atlantic disapprove of whilst in their style guides (along with “amidst” and “amongst”), for example:

        * Times Online Style Guide: “while (not whilst)”[4]
        * Guardian Style Guide: “while not whilst”[5]
        * Hansard: the Canadian Parliament record: “while not whilst”[6]

        Notably, there are no style guides that explicitly recommend the usage of whilst over while in any circumstance whatsoever. The general consensus among scholars of English is that whilst is an unnecessary and archaic word whose primary usage is by Britons who prefer what they perceive as a more ‘noble’ word. Its etymology derives from the early English whiles, and simply put, while is the word that has replaced whilst in modern English[7], just as thee and thou were replaced by you.

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          Skinny Dipper says:

          You’re giving me the whillies!

          I oppose the Conversative Party of Canada.

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      Namesake says:

      you’re right about that misusage, Mike, so, here’s some classic ‘adverse’ to relieve your dypepsia over that:

      “Pop, pop, fizz, fizz / Oh! What a relief it is”

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        Mike says:

        Thank you for reminding me of Alka-Setlzer’s efficacy in relieving hangovers of every sort — natural or induced. Somehow, my regular use of acetaminophen has left me humorless, craving a white pork-pie hat — extra-wide and brimless.

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    Paul R Martin says:

    LOL I did reach for my Tylenol this morning. Cheers!

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    Bill says:

    I don’t think it was a mistake to keep Fantino in the bubble…he would have been trounced otherwise.

    And in the next general where it’s not about alleged name recognition, he will be trounced.

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    Keith says:

    Ignatieff or some of his entourage even considered approaching Fantino to be a liberal candidate ? If I was the long standing liberal hard working candidate or one of Vaughn’s liberal riding assoc. I wouldn’t be pleased with your column or fox north article .
    A lot of liberals stuck out their chin for Iggy’s and / or his office boys ? Fantino was the sole top cop for G-8 / G20 with no other duties . Fantino’s views (esp.human rights) are well known even though he probably was the fall guy for Caledonia ..

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    Mike says:

    I don’t think that we’re anywhere near having a science of by-election analysis. While I see everyone point to the national picture, very few people are talking about the local picture. As a Winnipegger, my theory on Winnipeg North is that the Liberals didn’t win, Kevin Lamoreux won. He’s a popular MLA, he’s a former leadership candidate for the Manitoba Liberals (where he won far more votes but lost because of the strange voting system), etc…all politics might not be local, but my 2-cent theory of by-elections tells me that they are purely local.

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      Namesake says:

      You might be right that this is primarily a Kevin Lamoureux victory rather than a Liberal Party victory, but your conclusion that by-elections are “purely local” is way too hasty…:

      — …even for this one case. After all, Iggy did hold one of his first “Open Mike” appearances in that riding, thereby officially endorsing KL into the federal fold, which started giving him greater & more favourable press than he’d rcvd as a bit character on the provincial stage (one of just 2 members of the barely clinging to life provincial party that doesn’t even have an official party status, and has to resort to stunts to get noticed on anything but health issues [which its leader Jon Gerrard is listened to on since he’s a Dr.]); and Iggy made 3 more appearances in the riding since, to show he was serious about backing him as a credible candidate.

      — and esp. for Cndn. fed. by-elections as a whole. If they really were purely local, we might expect the rel’n b/w the winners’ & the governing party to be purely random, but, clearly, they’re not:

      – a couple of Political Scientists did a paper on this in ’08,* and found a sig. pos. association b/w the increased pop. vote the gov. party candidates in by-elections get compared to the last general election, when their parties were doing well in the polls nationally, at the time (for all the by-elections held b/w 1963 and 2008). And,
      – contrary to what so many of the pundits have been saying about by-elections being used to punish the governing party, they didn’t find that was borne out: there was no sig. neg. rel’n b/w gov. party candidates vs. the other parties among those who failed to win.

      – Similarly, if we examine the success rates of the governing parties recapturing their own recently vacated seats in by-elections, the commenter ‘WhigWag’** looked at all the by-elections held since 1945, and found that: the Liberals won 63 of its 95 seats at stake while it was governing (66%); the
      Prog. Cons.: regained 13 of its 23 seats while it was the governing party (57%); and of course the CPC batted 100% by recapturing its 1 seat.

      * “By-elections in Canada: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know”:

      ** http://blunt-objects.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-of-day-by-elections-usually-have.html

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        Mike says:

        Are you suggesting WPG citizens have failed to progress beyond the smoke-signal phase of human development? What you’re intimating seems elitist and silly. Equating proximity to Toronto with the value of any citizen’s vote, for me, casts a pall on the worthiness of say, every Alberta vote, or every libertarian vote, or every progressive vote — as if you know how people of every persuasion actually WOULD vote. Vaughan is a newsworthy story ONLY because a controversial and widely known candidate challenged local, largely only narrowly known candidates.

        A lot of people (I am convinced) vote for the person whose name they last heard on CTV News.

        So, I disagree with you. Vaughan is the story rent-seeking pundits wish to draw out of the recent by-election — it is not a story anyone ought to give any weight in the broader context.

        Now WPG and Kevin Lamoureux is something else again. It could be the harbinger of a shift in voter sentiment; a uniting of intent toward ousting what many view as a completely unsatisfactory performance by incumbents of all stripes — especially those on the fringe.

        Canadians, by nature, seem champions of moderation — so are likely to wish for Justin Long disguised as Gael Garcia Bernal — not Stephen Harper as a fat Billy Joel or Michael Ignatieff as a Russian Fred Astaire.

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          Namesake says:

          what the?! never mind the internal inconsistencies in this rant & the false charges of my being Toronto-centric or elitist etc. from what I said above…

          I was just using the _actual_ data to address your thesis that “all by-elections are local.” And the data shows that there ARE positive correlations b/w the party affiliation of those who win fed. by-elections in Canada & the governing party and its popularity, and with the party affiliation of the previous incumbent, too, for that matter (even for all the non-governing Opp. parties) — which all run contrary to what you’ve now refined as the “only local name recognition matters” thesis, which would seem to predict no consistent correlation with the party affiliations.

          That’s “silly”? And, note, both the Wpg. & Vaughan upsets run _contrary_ to those overall patterns I just pointed to, so it could scarcely be said I think I know how everyone would vote. You’re ‘way too easily unhinged.

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    Greg says:

    I think Warren you made an excellent point by just listing the wide number of various opinions on what the results of these elections mean. In short, there is no consensus on what the impact is.

    On another note I want to thank-you for your blog. I find it very interesting and I respect that fact that you let all post here. There are times I have disagreed with your POV but you still put my posts up for all to read. Thank-you for that.

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    Dave says:

    Interesting that Sun seems to have turned off commenting on your columns – they must have gotten tired of dealing with lawyers and the police over some of the idiotic comments that their readers left on every one of your pieces.

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    Tim says:

    The simple truth is that the Liberals voter base is Ontario and the Maritimes and bits of Quebec and Manitoba. Rural Ontario
    has not decided to back the Libs in most cases and points west of Winnipeg would rather vote for Idi Amin than Iggy and the “League of Extraordinary Prevaricators” . I hope the Liberal party will become a distant memory to Canadian politics and languish in the Craigs List of failed dictatorships.

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      Namesake says:

      say, what? even giving your whole ‘Idi Amin’ crap a wide berth; and only half resisting the temptation to point out that it’s the current PM who’s shown far more of a dictatatorial tendency for, among other things, suspending Parliament twice to avoid confidence votes, than the current Lib leader who’s never actually ruled, yet; I have to point out…

      your simpleton truth seem to be mistaking the ‘first past the post / winner take all’ results for evidence of near zero popular support in the West.

      The fact is, even in the last rather lukewarm election, about 1 in 7 voters in SK voted Liberal, and 1 in 10 Albertans, and 1 in 5 BCers (see “Results by province” at:

      and acc. to the latest survey, anywhere from about 1/7th to nearly a quarter of decided voters in AB & BC would vote Liberal if the election were held soon, depending on the mood of the respondents or what’s been happening lately in the particular week the poll is taken (pp. 2 & 11 of

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    Paul R Martin says:

    Good afternoon Warren. I wonder when you will comment on the internal problems of the BC knee dippers. If you want to find a dysfunctional provincial party, they are the current standout.

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      Warren says:

      Jenny Kwan is going for broke, eh?

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        Paul R Martin says:

        It looks as if that party is broke and all the kings horses etc will have a tough time putting it together again. The B. C. Liberals have caught a big break.

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          Steve Gallagher says:

          The BC Liberals have caught a big break. Carole James is the best thing that ever happened for their party. She has never attempted to hold the governments’ feet to the fire on any of the many issues that have reared up during her time as leader of the opposition.

          Jenny Kwan knows a lot.

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    Cath says:

    The TorSun tags your piece “Liberals all the way, baby”
    London Free Press today caps your column with “Byelection shows peanut gallery is nuts” (no hyphen in by-election so for folks who don’t know how media works and that columnists don’t always have a say in the titles of their columns folks will think you can’t spell by then again, I’ve seen bye-election too so………)

    I like the LFP cap better than the TorSun’s

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      Warren says:

      …And the columnists have no say over headlines, BTW!

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        Cath says:

        I know – or the spelling errors they sometimes contain:-) What’s your thought on “byelection” or “bye-election” or “by-election”? two different dictionaries list two different spellings. Yes, I still use dictionaries.

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          Namesake says:

          You missed one, used esp. for To. mayoralty elections (like Ford’s & Lastman’s) & gubernatorial contests: buy-elections.

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