Two by-elections will be held in Quebec next month to fill vacancies created by two Bloc Québécois MPs who left federal politics earlier this year to run in the provincial election.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced the by-elections yesterday, to be held June 16 in the constituencies of Témiscamingue and Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.
There are three vacancies in the 301-seat House of Commons. Another by-election is being held in the southwestern Ontario riding of Perth-Middlesex today.
Two Bloc Québécois MPs - Pierre Brien and Antoine Dubé - stepped down to run in April's Quebec provincial election under different party banners.
Mr. Brien, the former MP for the northern Quebec riding of Témiscamingue, left his seat in the Commons in January to join Mario Dumont's provincial Action Démocratique du Québec. The former Bloc Québécois whip was first elected to the Commons in 1993.
Mr. Dubé, former MP for the Quebec City-area riding of Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, left his seat in February to defect to the Parti Québécois. He was first elected to Parliament in 1993 before being re-elected in 1997 and 2000.
Both Mr. Brien and Mr. Dubé were unsuccessful in the Quebec election.
In the constituency of Perth-Middlesex, the Canadian Alliance and the Tories will battle it out today in an attempt to make inroads in Liberal Ontario with right-wing voters.
The mostly rural riding east of London has been Liberal since 1993. But the constituency is traditionally a Tory stronghold and the party finished second in the riding in 2000.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper and Tory Leader Joe Clark have been making appearances on behalf of the candidates. Marian Meinen is running for the Canadian Alliance and Gary Schellenberger is running for the Tories. Ms. Meinen's campaign has used radio ads to attack the Liberal government and the Tories. The right-wing vote has split in the riding the last two federal elections, giving the Grits a victory. In the last federal election, Liberal John Richardson - the riding's last MP, who resigned because of ill health - won 40 per cent of the vote and Mr. Schellenberger took 27 per cent.
Liberal candidate Brian Innes said he has focused on the riding's issues while the Tory and Canadian Alliance candidates have been busy attacking each other.
"There's no love lost between those two parties," he said. "Let them tear each other's hearts out. That's fine. We're here to discuss the issues."
The by-elections in Quebec, meanwhile, will be closely watched in the wake of the federalist Liberals winning the provincial election last month. With the defeat of the Parti Québécois, the Bloc lost its partner in Quebec City.
And in the past decade, the Bloc has slipped from 54 seats and official opposition status after its first general election in 1993 to 34 seats in Parliament.
The current overall standing in the House of Commons is: Liberal 169 seats, Canadian Alliance 63, Bloc 34, NDP 14, Conservative 14, Independent four.