The collapse of the Liberal vote in Monday's by-elections played to the Conservatives' advantage in Québec. However, in British Columbia, the same phenomenon contributed to the hefty NDP margin of victory in New Westminster, which does not bode well for Prime Minister Stephen Harper in that province.
Still, aside for steering the Liberal ship onto the rocks since the summer, Mr. Harper has another reason to be unambiguously grateful to Michael Ignatieff.
No doubt Official Opposition strategists thought they were onto a good issue in pursuing the Conservatives for pork-barrelling with stimulus funds. However, MPs would have been wise to consult with party veterans before taking the plunge with door knobs and such. Have they never heard of Allan MacEachen? Former MPs could have told them about him, and about successive waves of Liberals who've been elected in Nova Scotia for bringing home the bacon. And they could have explained to any Anglophone strategists who had visions of the sponsorship scandal dancing in their heads that Quebeckers were not offended by the pork or even by fishy contracts, but by the notion that their loyalty could be bought for "bargain basement" prices.
Mr. Harper - whose relations with the press gallery have been difficult - should also thank the media for their coverage of the issue. Once polls showed the Conservatives heading into majority territory, reporters and pundits took on the role of slowing the Conservative climb in public opinion. Considerable resources and sweat labour were expended in demonstrating the obvious.
Veteran observers of Canadian politics were heard to say "d'oh" at the revelation that spending was skewed to ridings held by the government or to swing ridings. And British Columbians carried on with their jogging and sailing and began to turn their minds to the latest in after-ski fashion. In Montmagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup and Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, on the other hand, voters eager to be on the wining side marked their ballots for the Conservative candidate, making Stephen Harper the big winner on Monday night.
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