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Federal NDP, Liberals see different lessons from Ontario vote for Toronto byelection

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau speaks about his private member’s bill during a news conference Wednesday June 11, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld


The Liberals and NDP are offering differing takes on what the Ontario election results could mean for the federal byelection contest in a downtown Toronto riding that switched from New Democrat orange to Liberal red in the provincial vote.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the upset win by his provincial counterparts to snatch the Trinity-Spadina seat long held by the Ontario NDP is a good omen for candidate Adam Vaughan's chances in the federal riding — vacated by former NDP MP Olivia Chow — in the June 30 byelection.

"We're taking it as a very positive sign. During the provincial election Adam and Han Dong, who's now the MPP for here, worked very, very closely, combining volunteers, working to help each other out and to make sure that Trinity-Spadina turns red," he said while campaigning with Vaughan on Saturday.

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"Obviously there's a continuation of that."

But New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is reading a different lesson into the Ontario election tea leaves, saying the result on June 12 was solely reflective of campaign-specific issues — including some NDPers voting strategically for the Liberals to block the austerity-heavy focus of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, which inlcuded axing 100,000 public sector jobs.

"It was a provincial election. People had their own take on what was necessary to stop Tim Hudak and his mad idea of starting off his campaign by proposing to fire the breadwinner in 100,000 Ontario families. People made their own decisions based on that," he said alongside party candidate Joe Cressy outside a Chinatown grocery store in the riding.

"I realize a lot of people who were torn as they were voting in the provincial election are all coming back to the fold. They understand that the only progressive voice in Ottawa is the NDP."

With voting day looming both leaders gave their local candidates a shot of star power as they joined them campaigning Saturday — the second of three days of advance voting — in what is seen as a crucial battle in the NDP-Liberal war over which opposition party is the real government-in-waiting.

Trudeau and Mulcair have popped up in the riding multiple times since the byelection was called last month, and Mulcair also hit the hustings with Cressy on Friday.

And they both took shots at Prime Minister Stephen Harper for setting voting day on a Monday just before Canada Day Tuesday — a one-day gap many will likely treat as a de-facto long weekend, something that could weaken the number who show up at the voting booth.

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One other Toronto riding and two in Alberta are also up for grabs in byelections that day.

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