Yesterday, I saw the by-elections as pretty much a big nothing, in terms of Liberal party fortunes. This view assumed one thing, that the Bloc would hold on to their two seats in Quebec. That assumption was obviously wrong, and because of that I'd like to revise my earlier opinion. The Conservatives victory has, by extension, hinted toward Liberal failure. Had that riding stayed with the Bloc, the punditry would be left to chasing crumbs, around mostly empty storylines. The minor erosion in Liberal support, mostly meaningless "gains" by the NDP, pretty thin stuff that lacks "legs". The Conservatives winning a traditional Bloc seat, only a couple months after being declared dead in Quebec, well that does matter in the grand scheme (and perhaps rightfully so).
Last night was never going to be a good one for the Liberals, the terrain didn't lend itself to much. However, this poor performance does appear more noteworthy, when one considers a 2 seat pickup for the government. Generally, government's don't pickup support during tough economic times, so there is a useful narrative here. The fact the Conservatives went into Bloc heartland and siphoned off a seat- that completely changes the conversation in Quebec. Unfortunately, the "quirk" factor of by-elections, the low turnout, doesn't get proper credit- the headline speaks to a Conservative win, in a part of the country considered lost. That's big, no matter how you slice it, that allows for "resurgence", "game changing", "new battlegrounds", even a realistic reference to "majority".
With the damage done by Denis the Dufus, coupled with a rising Conservative presence, Quebec is a changed dynamic. Liberals on the decline, Conservatives rebounding, I'm afraid we're back to square one in Quebec. To say that is shocking for me, because I firmly believed the Conservatives were completely and utterly dead in Quebec. Now, holding onto their seats seems realistic, a new focus for expansion surely being considered within the PMO. Not overstating, because it's just a by-election, but the power of the symbolism shouldn't be lost on anyone, nor should one discount how this emboldens the Conservatives. We won't be hearing anymore stories from Quebec Conservatives about "giving up", "all is lost", we will hear spin which actually has a certain practical application.
The Liberals lost, because the Conservatives won, where it actually hurts the most. There's no denying that one.