Starved over the summer months, political junkies have been eating up any and all news emanating from the federal by-election in the Montreal riding of Outremont.
In any other time, a by-election in this Liberal stronghold would be a pro-forma affair – but not this time. Firstly, the presence of former Quebec Liberal environment minister Thomas Mulcair as the NDP’s star recruit has turned this into a real race. A NDP win here is by no stretch a given, but Mulcair is attracting support as he explained on CBC Radio’s “The House” this weekend:
“There is a strong social democratic base in Quebec. I come from the side of the Quebec Liberal Party where Claude Ryan was the leader. He was my political mentor. I have always had strong community involvement myself. And that is the type of experience that I am bringing to the job. And a lot of Quebecers identify with that. In the Outremont riding, the reaction we have been getting so far is great.”
Secondly, the race is being seen as a first electoral test for Stephane Dion as leader. A new leader holds the promise of reinvigorating and exciting supporters. But on this count, a sobering account comes from Liberal candidate Joceyln Coulon in The Hill Times as reported by Liberal Senator Jim Munson:
“Asked whether Mr Dion is receiving a war reception among potential voters in Outremont, Mr Coulon says they focus more on himself than the Liberal leader. They recognize him as a public figure and intellectual, and 'it’s very rare if they talk about Dion,' he said."
That’s right: the Leader of the Official Opposition comes to the door steps of Montrealers and their choice is to focus on the director of the university think-tank standing next to him.