TORONTO — Ontario Progressive Conservative House Leader Paul Calandra acknowledged the provincial Liberals are likely to add two seats to their ranks after voters cast their ballots in two Ottawa byelections on Thursday.
The ridings of Ottawa-Vanier and Orléans were two of the seven seats the Liberals managed to hold in the 2018 election. The women who represented those ridings in the legislature, Nathalie Des Rosiers and Marie-France Lalonde, respectively, both stepped down last year, leaving their party with only five seats — well-below the 12-seat threshold required for official party status.
Now as Ontario PC candidates Patrick Mayangi (Ottawa-Vanier) and Natalie Montgomery (Orléans) gear up for the final stretch of their campaigns, their party’s House leader is remaining realistic about their chances of winning the Liberal strongholds. Ottawa-Vanier has been Liberal since 1971 (when it was known as Ottawa East) and Orléans has been Liberal since 2003.
“I suspect that the Liberals will remain strong in that area, but our candidates have been working very, very hard,” Calandra told reporters on Wednesday.
Calandra noted that both Mayangi, a Parliament Hill staffer, and Montgomery, a women’s health advocate and researcher, had worked very hard in their respective campaigns and wished them luck in the elections.
“Really, congratulations to all the candidates who put their names forward. Byelections are always challenging not only for the governing party, but for everybody, because it’s hard a lot of times for people to be interested in a byelection.”
John Fraser, the interim leader for the Liberals, told reporters that despite “feeling good” about the byelections’ outcome “it’s never over till it’s over.”
“Everything comes down to election day. So you have to execute election day. Our challenge tomorrow will be executing election day in 30 to 40 centimetres of snow,” he said, referring to the major winter storm descending upon the region. “So we’ve got to get out there and do that.”
Fraser said that his party has worked hard on the byelection campaigns and that they were hoping to carry that momentum into Election Day.
“We’ve had good, solid representation in both of those ridings. We work them hard. We’ve worked them hard in this election.”
Liberal Des Rosiers stepped down from the Ottawa-Vanier seat last summer to accept a prestigious position as the principal of the University of Toronto’s Massey College. Fellow Liberal Lalonde resigned from her Orléans seat in the fall to embark on a successful run for the federal Liberal party.
To replace their colleagues that stepped down, the Liberals are running Lucille Collard, a government lawyer, in Ottawa-Vanier and Stephen Blais, an Ottawa city councillor, in Orléans. The Ontario New Democrats have candidates Myriam Djilane, an Ottawa International Airport employee, in Ottawa-Vanier and Manon Parrot, a translator and activist, in Orléans on the ballots.
When asked whether finishing lower than second would reflect a turn in the public opinion about the governing party, Calandra demurred on giving a direct answer.
“Regardless of where we finish, if we win both byelections, we’re always going to redouble our efforts … It’s about setting an agenda, which we will fight the next election on,” he said.
On the other hand, Fraser said that if the Progressive Conservatives finish lower than they traditionally would, it would be a good time for self-reflection.
“If the government finishes behind where I think they would normally land? I’d say that they should look at that and and understand what that message is, which is, ‘We’re not happy.’”
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