It's byelection day in Canada today with voters in three electoral districts — Victoria, Calgary Centre, and Durham — heading to the polls.
If you've read the newspapers and watched the political shows over the weekend, you've noticed that there's no shortage of political spinsters who want to tell you what these byelections mean and what they foreshadow for the 2015 federal election.
But, with the utmost respect, 'give me a break.'
Byelections are generally not a good indicators of what is to come especially when what is to come — the next general election — is at least two and a half years away.
In Victoria, for example, this byelection has become about a local issue — specifically sewage. (insert joke about sewage and Ottawa here). In Durham, the Tories are expected to win because — they've always won there. And in Calgary Centre, the Conservatives will likely retain their seat despite a rift between the Progress Conservatives and the Wildrose gang.
A 2008 study for the Canadian Journal of Political Science found that while byelections can act as a referendum on the government, the results tend to be skewed because of lower turnout rates and higher levels of support for lesser-known parties and independents.
If you're still not convinced, note the two byelections in November 2010 — just six months before the last federal election. The Tories won in Vaughan while the Liberals won in Manitoba. According to the Canadian Press, "the Liberals showed unexpected signs of new life."
"The results were grim news for Jack Layton and his NDP. They were never in the race in Vaughan and surrendered Winnipeg North to the Liberals' Kevin Lamoureux after owning the riding for 13 years.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the closer-than-expected results demonstrate the next election will be a two-horse race between the Tories and Liberals.
'These byelections show the clearest sign yet that in the battle to defeat the Harper Conservatives, there is only one alternative party that can deliver change — the Liberal Party of Canada,' Ignatieff said in a written statement."
For those that missed it, the 2011 election saw the NDP's Orange Crush and the Liberals relegated to third-party status.
My advice: don't read too much into the byelection results.