Sifting through the spin from last night, it seems there are a few objective truths buried beneath the partisan stench. I thought I'd do this analysis on a party by party basis.
I hardly think the Liberals getting thumped in a riding they once held, coupled with a prospects of a recount in a supposed "stronghold", represents a banner night. The victories in Toronto were great, and the margins were very impressive. But, the Toronto results are about as relevant to the big picture as the Conservatives winning in Calgary. That said, the real bonus for the Liberals, having two more high profile MP's in Parliament, giving the "team" great depth.
I would describe last night as a so-so proposition for the Liberals, bordering on disappointing. Yes, 3/4 seats won, but barely, and it still represents a net loss of 1 to the Conservatives.
Losing in Saskatchewan isn't a surprise, but the margin is noteworthy, and the reasons for don't paint Dion, or his tactics, in a particularly good light. Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River was handled poorly from the start, and in many ways, the Liberals lost this seat through their own actions.
In isolation, you can probably deal with Saskatchewan, but once you factor in the result in Vancouver Quadra, any talk of "a big night" for the Liberals should really evaporate. Yes, by-elections are tricky animals, but to go from a 20 plus % win in 2006, to basically a deadheat is a very disappointing result. Another supposed "safe" seat, proves to be anything but, which raises questions, beyond some convenient excuses.
I'm not suggesting a horrible evening for the Liberals, but to claim momentum out of these by-elections is a little too optimistic, and very selective, for my tastes. A net nothing for the Liberals, all things considered.
To my mind, the big loser from last night was the NDP. Battling for third place in three ridings should be a wakeup call to NDP strategists. The NDP likes to position itself as a different alternative to the two major parties, but clearly, voters who seek change, aren't drawn to the NDP, in fact they are looking elsewhere. People can play with the numbers, argue no erosion, but you still can't escape the optics of a dogfight for third, which used to be a given on the bottom end.
On the flip side, the big winner last night was clearly the Greens, who once again proved that they are establishing a beachhead with Canadians, shedding the "fringe" label. The biggest hurdle for the Greens, show real relevance to voters, last night was another important step in looking credible.
I would also say last night was a fairly good one for the Conservatives. On Tuesday, we now have one more Conservative MP than we did on Monday, hard to spin that as a negative. The fact that the Conservatives came within a whisker in a Liberal urban stronghold, offers some encouragement, a positive development. Obviously, getting no traction in Toronto maintains a common negative theme, but these two riding were always coronations, given the actors.
My scorecard, based on expectations: