The Fountain Pen, Guelph's On-Line News
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Who will win and what does it mean?

Web posted on August 27, 2008

If you listen to the pundits, our local by-election, to be held on 8 September, is very important to the fortunes of the various political parties. Guelph has been inundated with visits from some very high level political figures including Liberal leader Stephane Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he won't visit to support Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach because traditionally the PM does not visit a riding while an election is going on. However, Kovach did go to meet with Harper in Kitchener, missing a candidates' debate in the process. Good photo ops resulted.

So what's the deal? It seems that all parties are looking to the Guelph results to determine what happens next in the country. Guelph could be Anytown, Ontario - a good reflection of how the average Ontarian is feeling. This is important to the Conservatives as this is where they need to make inroads if they are ever to achieve a majority.

Guelph has been a Liberal stronghold for a long time, thus there is a strong desire by that party to hold the seat. However, the city also has a strong Green vote, fuelled by environmental consciousness and grass roots initiatives. And one cannot rule out a strong NDP presence with nationally known Tom King as its candidate. Was there ever an better opportunity for either of these parties?

With all of these possibilities in mind, here is The Fountain Pen's humble assessment of what local results may mean for the national parties.

Frank Valeriote should be the winner as this has been Liberal seat for a long time, and it seems he has the momentum to go the distance. Frank needs to work harder on explaining his leader's Green Shift strategy so we can understand it. If he wins, leader Dion gets to live and fight another day. If Valeriote loses, the Liberals will have to reassess their leadership. A Liberal win may be sign that it's time for the Liberals to force an election and keep the positive momentum going.

Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach is a high profile candidate who has served well on city council for 17 years. However, local Conservatives are still angry about the national party's ouster of Brent Barr. If Kovach does not win, Conservatives should run for the hills. Don't, repeat, don't call an election. Maybe that's what's behind Harper's general election talk - if he calls an election now he avoids the bad news when Gloria does not win. A negative in the Kovach campaign - too much follow the leader. We'd like to hear more of what Gloria thinks, not what Stephen Harper thinks.

The NDP must be disappointed. They have a strong candidate in Tom King, but the numbers just don't seem to be there. Perhaps this is another case of a national leader with image problems. Jack Layton may need Tom King more than Tom King needs Jack Layton. King is a popular candidate locally and has a chance to make a good showing. If King scores high and appears to take votes from the Conservatives, the Liberals should capitalize on their momentum and force an election.

The big story in this by-election could just be the Green Party. Green is popular in Guelph even though the party platform is not necessarily fully developed. We hear that some individuals who traditionally vote Conservative but can't stomach Harper are supporting Mike Nagy and the Greens. Certainly if lawn signs are any indication, there is considerable support. What if Guelph were to elect the first Green member of parliament? Even if Nagy is not elected but makes a good showing, it will be increasingly more difficult for the big guys to ignore the Greens. Good luck Mike. Diversity is always a good thing.

The prediction: If Stephen Harper holds off calling a general election and this by-election takes place. Frank Valeriote is the likely winner. This is good news for the Liberals and especially for Stephane Dion who needs all the support he can get.

The big news may be who takes second place. If either the Green or NDP manage to take this spot over the Conservative candidate, this is very bad news for the Conservatives. They can kiss Ontario support and a majority government goodbye. A general election looks more and more likely.


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