Many of the pundits are already framing the looming by-elections as a mini-referendum on Dion's leadership, woven with that, some sort of empirical feedback on the Green Shift. You can debate whether that is a fair representation, whether by-elections are really indicative of anything, but in the end it probably doesn't matter, because the media class will run with what they want, objections aside. With that reality in mind, Liberals really have nothing to fear, if you take the view that the supposed risk, also has the opportunity for reward.
The Liberals should win in Westmount, it's a rock solid riding, so a loss would rightfully signal problems, particularly if Outremont is shown to be more than a one off. From a distance, it appears that the Liberal brain trust understands the stakes and an urgency exists that was absent last time around, complacency not an issue. If people want to frame this riding as a "test" of Dion's leadership, I say Liberals should welcome it, because after all, it's a particularly friendly "test". If the Liberals hold the seat, then all those raising expectations, will have to concede a Dion "pass". In other words, the Liberals really have nothing to fear, an attitude of should and will, let's flex some muscle, should win the day. It's a test on one of our strongest subjects, pardon me if people shouldn't be confident. Let them raise the stakes, maybe you get more political mileage from a safe riding than would otherwise be evident.
As it relates to Guelph, again I prefer to see the riding as an opportunity, rather than potential land mine. The party has a very strong, well established, polished organization, with a well respected, well known candidate, who has more established roots in the community than an old oak tree. Yes, it's a fight, and all the parties are making a serious play, but that just makes a potential victory all the more meaningful. The Conservatives threw the kitchen sink at us, and we still prevailed, the NDP ran their "star" and it fizzled on the horizon. A win brings the party honest momentum, a nice preamble to a looming election.
If the Liberals succeed in these two ridings, then all the punditry frame actually works to Dion's advantage. Another signal that the once weak and ineffectual leader has found his voice, a sense that the Liberals have shored up their earlier fragility, a shot in the arm for the grassroots that the Liberal brand is alive and well. Whether the media is fair or not, what's wrong with a challenge, after all, it's not like the Liberals face herculian odds. Stakes raised on relatively friendly turf, I'm okay with that. Just win baby.
Fast forward to September 9th, and you see a scenario that is nothing but good news for the Liberals. Sure, there is the spectre of more "problems", but you could also see this nice storyline- Conservatives shutout in by-elections, questions about Harper's government, what now?/ NDP make major play and come up short twice, Outremont in the rearview mirror, Guelph more evidence of potential problems in Ontario. I'm speaking of the media again here, so the partisan defences aren't necessary. Remember the Toronto by-elections?
A robust party isn't afraid of challenges, it reacts with confidence and says "bring it on". Media fairness is an elusive beast, I'd rather pivot and embrace the storyline, all the while seeing a potential positive, should the Liberals meet the "test".