Monday, Nov. 26 will be awash with election action as three ridings in three different provinces host federal by-elections. The parliamentary seats for Victoria (B.C.), Calgary-Centre (Alberta) and Durham (Ontario) are all up for grabs.

With one NDP and two Conservative seats available, these by-elections present a chance for the Liberals and Greens to gain ground on the ruling and opposition parties. 

Each by-election features candidates looking to shake up their ridings, and overcome traditional party allegiances and reputations.


 In Victoria, where the NDP have been in power since 2006, the Green Party’s Donald Galloway will challenge Liberal Paul Summerville, Conservative Dale Gann, and New Democrat Murray Rankin for a seat. Galloway is hoping to ride to victory on voters’ dissatisfaction with the bigger parties. “People are crying out for change in Parliament,” he said. “There’s a [feeling] they are not being adequately represented either by the governing party or by the opposition parties.”

Galloway contended that Canada’s larger parties stand in the way of direct representation by holding MPs to strict party lines. By contrast, he said, if elected he would be motivated by Green Party principles, but ultimately act as an independent voice speaking on behalf of his constituents. “People are attracted by that prospect,” he said.

The Greens are definite underdogs, but Victoria’s voters have gradually shifted their allegiances leftward over the years, cycling through Conservative and Liberal MPs before electing the NDP six years ago. And it was the neighbouring Saanich-Gulf Islands riding that sent the first Green MP to Parliament in 2011.


 In Calgary-Centre, Conservative Joan Crockatt will try to maintain her party’s regional stronghold against the Greens’ Chris Turner and the Liberals’ Harvey Locke

Locke is trying to rebrand the riding as Liberal by representing its more progressive elements. “Calgary is a city full of progressive people and it’s time we showed Canada we are progressive by electing … a Liberal to Ottawa,” he said. 

Locke’s platform, which stresses that environment, economy and society are integrated concerns, not competing interests, has drawn attention from across the country. Prominent Liberals Bob Rae and Justin Trudeau have been campaigning with Locke in Calgary and former PM Paul Martin is scheduled to join Locke on Friday. The Grits are so eager to unseat the Tories in Stephen Harper’s adopted hometown that campaign donations have come in from as far away as Nunavut’s Western Arctic Liberal Association.  

Most encouraging to Locke, though, is the response he has gotten from former Progressive Conservative supporters who are siding with him over the far-right, Wildrose Party-influenced Crockatt. Earlier this month, the Calgary Herald reported that Pat Moore, a prominent local Conservative backer and wife of a former advisor to Albertan PC Premier Ralph Klein, had thrown her support behind Locke.

“The Conservative Party … is now really the Reform Party dressed in blue,” Locke explained. “And the Progressive Conservatives don’t like that because they are progressive people.”

Ultimately, Locke said, he wants Calgary to have a seat at the head table as the Liberals rebuild for the 2015 elections. 


 In Durham, Conservative Erin O’Toole, Liberal Grant Humes and the NDP’s Larry O’Connor are vying for the resigned seat of ex-Minister of International Cooperation Bev Oda. Oda stepped down earlier this year amid an expense account scandal. She had previously come under fire for the altering of Canadian International Development Agency documents to deny funding to Kairos, a foreign aid agency. 

But despite the spectre of Oda’s misdemeanors, a Nov. 12 poll showed fellow Conservative O’Toole was leading candidates with 46 per cent of voter approval. O’Toole has also garnered the support of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, who made appearance at an October fundraising event for the candidate. 

Another Ontario riding, Etobicoke-Centre, very nearly became Monday’s fourth by-election. Conservative MP Ted Opitz, who won his seat by a minute 26-vote margin in 2011, had seen his victory overturned by the Ontario Superior Court due to “procedural irregularities” on 79 ballots.

But on Oct. 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada voted four to three in favour of granting Opitz’s appeal of the lower court decision, and reaffirmed the original election results. Had the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, Opitz would have been ousted as MP and the Etobicoke-Centre seat would have gone up for by-election.


Peter Goffin is a writer and recent political science graduate living in Toronto. His work has appeared in The Toronto Star, OpenFile, and This magazine.