A guide to Monday's 5 federal byelections

Jonathan Rumley
From left, posts previously held by Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Stéphane Dion and John McCallum will be filled during a byelection on April 3. Photos from CP.

The popularity of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will be put to the test Monday when voters in five federal ridings head to the polls to cast ballots in byelections.

Candidates in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are running to replace some high-profile names, including former prime minister Stephen Harper, former Tory cabinet minister Jason Kenney and out-going Liberal cabinet ministers Stéphane Dion and John McCallum.

Here’s a breakdown of each race:

Calgary Heritage

This federal riding was won by Stephen Harper during the last election in October 2015. The former prime minister gave up this seat with his decision to step away from politics. Harper blew away competitors for this post by receiving 64 per cent of the vote for the Conservatives. The Liberals came second with 26 per cent of the vote, followed by the NDP and Greens at 7 and 2 per cent, respectively.

The Tories are pinning their hopes on Bob Benzen to keep this riding Conservative blue. The Liberals are countering with Scott Forsyth, the NDP’s candidate is Khalis Ahmed and Taryn Knorren is running for the Green Party.

The Calgary Herald reported last October that Benzen gave credit to Harper for creating the Conservative party that exists today and led a public campaign to thank him in print advertisements.

It should be noted that this part of Canada is generally considered to be a Conservative stronghold and it will take a mighty effort from another party’s candidate to change that in 2017, especially considering Harper’s lengthy time as MP. In 2011, Harper received 75 per cent of the vote for the Tories in the riding then known as Calgary Southwest.

Calgary Midnapore

Just to the east of Calgary Heritage, this riding was held by former defence minister Jason Kenney before he decided to throw his hat in the ring for Alberta’s Conservative leadership. Again, the Tories won this seat handily in 2015. Two-thirds of voters in the riding voted for Kenney, followed by 23 per cent for the Liberal candidate, 8 per cent for the NDP and 3 per cent for the Greens.

The Conservatives are hoping Stephanie Kusie can hold this seat for the Tories as the Liberals have chosen Haley Brown once again to potentially steal a seat for Trudeau’s team. Holly Heffernan will represent the NDP in a race that includes three women bidding for one seat. Ryan Zedic is the Green Party candidate, but the party appears to be a long shot in oil country.

Kusie has received endorsements from former foreign affairs minister John Baird and Calgary Shepard MP Tom Kmiec, according to the Calgary Herald. Brown, on the other hand, has been praised as “a passionate advocate for middle-class families” by Trudeau, the Herald reported.

Brown was also the Liberal candidate in the 2015 federal election while Heffernan previously received 12 per cent of the vote when she ran against Harper in Calgary Southwest six years ago.

Markham-Thornhill

This seat was held by former immigration minister John McCallum, who gave up his post to become Canada’s next ambassador to China. McCallum received 56 per cent of the vote during the last election, giving the Liberals a 24-per-cent advantage over the Conservatives, who finished second with 32 per cent of the vote. The NDP could only muster 11 per cent in this riding and the Greens were far behind with 1 per cent.

Mary Ng will represent the Liberals in this Toronto-area riding, Ragavan Paranchothy won the Conservative nomination, Gregory Hines is running for the NDP and Caryn Bergmann is leading the charge for the Greens.

The Canadian Press reported Ng, a senior aide to the prime minister, does not live in the riding but grew up in the Greater Toronto Area. The Liberal nomination process became a story following accusations of “dirty tricks” made by Nadeem Qureshi, who said the party was holding a “one-sided contest,” the Hill Times reported. Another Liberal candidate had similar criticisms of the party’s nomination process, adding calls for a fair process went unheard by leadership, the Times noted.

Paranchothy, a professional broadcaster who also does public relations consulting, actually resides in Markham, Ont., and says he’s heard concerns about the Liberal plan to legalize recreational marijuana, according to the Markham Economist and Sun. Hines is a small business owner, community support worker and supporter of the arts, the local publication reported.

Ottawa-Vanier

Longtime MP Mauril Bélanger won this post convincingly in 2015 before his death in August 2016 caused by ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He died at the age of 61 and was first elected to represent the riding in the nation’s capital way back in 1995. During the last election, the Liberals received 57 per cent of the vote, followed by the NDP and the Conservatives with 19 per cent apiece and the Greens well behind at 3 per cent.

Mona Fortier is the Liberal candidate in this riding and a University of Ottawa political science professor told the Ottawa Sun that this seat will likely stay Liberal. “It’s been a longstanding tradition to vote Liberal so I don’t think it will change,” said Prof. Pierre Martel.

Since its formation, the seat has always gone to a Liberal candidate. However, Martel noted the “overall discontent” with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s policies in the province “may affect the byelection,” but he still expects the riding to remain red.

Others in the race include NDP candidate Emile Taman, Adrian Paul Papara for the Tories and Nira Dookeran representing the Greens.

Saint-Laurent

Former foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion emerged victorious with this Montreal seat during Trudeau’s majority victory in the last election, but he’s moving on to become Canada’s next ambassador to Germany and the European Union. Dion got 62 per cent of votes during the last vote for the Grits. The Tories came second with 20 per cent, the NDP received 12 per cent, the BlocQuébécois accumulated 5 per cent and the Greens finished with 2 per cent.

In a surprising victory, 26-year-old teacher Emmanuella Lambropoulos was chosen to represent the Liberals in this riding, which she is favoured to win for the Grits, according to the Montreal Gazette. Global News reported that even Lambropoulos said she was shocked to win the nomination.

A strong local Greek community helped her defeat parachute candidates, such as former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Yolande James. The support could propel her to victory on Monday.

There are other candidates in this Quebec riding, including Mathieu Auclair for the NDP, William Fayad for the Bloc, Jimmy Yu for the Conservatives and Daniel Green for the Greens. Yu is the lone candidate running who also ran in 2015. Six years ago, the closest candidate to take down the Liberals was Maria Ximena Florez of the NDP, who received 29 per cent of the vote in the riding when it was called Saint-Laurent–Cartierville.