Byelections bring sharper focus to national poll: Candidates

While some federal candidates are frustrated with the election call, those who had recently completed campaign byelections see it as an opportunity to gain support.

Stephen Harper’s election call has thrown some federal ridings into disarray.  Some parties did not have any candidates in some ridings.  Four ridings in Canada had already experienced a byelection just six months prior.

New Democratic Party candidate El-Farouk Khaki ran against Bob Rae in the Toronto-Centre byelection on March 17 and lost.  But he ‘s back campaigning in the current federal election.

“A lot of people didn’t know about the byelection. People got it confused with the provincial election,” Khaki said.  “But I’m going door-to-door and people are getting to know me better and the response has been improving compared to last time out.”

As well former Willowdale Conservative candidate Maureen Harquail had a tough time getting the attention she needed to make significant gains in the March 17 byelection.

“Without a national campaign behind you, it’s a challenge,” Harquail said.  “There is opportunity to get better access to the media, but it’s a challenge.”

While Harquail thinks that getting the attention of voters is easier in a federal campaign, Darrel Bricker, from Ipsos-Reid, sees two elections in the same year as a potential benefit to the candidates.

“Byelections typically have a lower voter turnout than general elections,” Bricker said. “But there is an increased benefit of voter awareness of the candidates.”

Khaki hasn’t changed his tactics heading into the October 14 vote.  He still faces Rae and a Conservative party that had difficulty choosing it’s candidate for the riding. Chris Reid was the Conservative flag bearer in Toronto-Centre until controversial comments made on his blog forced his resignation on Sept. 22.

“We’re canvassing the neighbourhoods while Rae is canvassing with Dion,” Khaki said. “This is the second election in a row where the (Conservative) party has replaced its candidate mid-campaign.”