Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to call the by elections this week in the Montreal-area ridings of Westmount-Ville Marie and St. Lambert and the southwestern Ontario riding of Guelph.
Opposition parties expect the vote in the three ridings will be held Sept. 8 but Conservative insiders suggest Harper may opt for Sept. 2, the earliest possible date.
The Westmount byelection must be called by Saturday under Elections Canada rules, but sources say the three vacancies will be bundled together.
No matter what Ryan Sparrow says, the Conservatives do have much at stake in these by-elections. The Conservatives have already brought all the heavyweights to the Guelph riding, they've shipped in volunteers from other ridings for canvassing, they've even slammed the Liberal candidate in Parliament. You don't play that hard without expectations, so Guelph serves as a litmus test for all involved, Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Greens. The Conservatives are also playing in St. Lambert, so the frame of no expectations won't fly politically.
The NDP has a great deal at stake in Guelph, their star candidate Tom King making noise, the party clearly focusing in on the riding. Ditto for the Liberal fortress of Westmount, where another NDP star candidate, Anne Legace Dowson, looks to prove Outremont wasn't a fluke. A very credible showing in Westmount, the NDP presence in Quebec starts to really take hold, the polls proved correct.
The Greens have done well in Ontario recently, in Guelph their numbers for the last provincial election where very impressive, so there is some pressure to keep up the appearance of momentum.
The Liberals clearly have much on the line, the Green Shift moves from proposal to practical, as voters weigh in and serious debate begins. Agree or disagree, in a sense this is a litmus test for Dion, the Liberals need a good night or the dead narrative may get a reprieve. From all accounts, the casual attitude of Outremont doesn't seem apparent with Westmount, and that's a good thing, because a loss would be the ultimate disaster. In Guelph, the Conservative smear campaign will test the Liberals, although the real danger comes from splitting the environmental vote, which is sizable, allowing a less than impressive Conservative showing to translate into a victory.
With an election looming, these by-elections have all the attributes to congeal into a crucial night for everyone. Let the games begin.