The Feb. 25 by-election in Outremont, which includes the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, saw the victory of Liberal candidate Rachel Bendayan. In the past, Liberals have almost exclusively held the riding since 1935 until New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Tom Mulcair’s victory in 2007.
Bendayan won the seat with 40.4 per cent of the votes while NDP candidate Julia Sánchez came second with 27.5 per cent. Green Party Candidate Daniel Green came in third with 12.9 per cent, Bloc Quebecois candidate Michel Duchesne came in fourth with 11.1 per cent, and Jasmine Louras, the Conservative candidate, came in fifth with 6.1 per cent. The voter turnout was 21.35 per cent.
Daniel Minden, vice-president (VP) Communications for Liberal McGill, worked closely with Bendayan during her campaign. Other members of Liberal McGill helped by knocking on doors and hanging posters. Minden credits Bendayan’s victory to her efforts to make the campaign personal for the people in her community.
“She’s from the riding, and [she] really knows the community well,” Minden said. “She has a lot of connections with community organizations. She has been very involved with all those communities, and they came out to support her”.
Mulcair’s win in Outremont as part of 2011’s ‘orange wave’ saw the NDP earn official opposition status for the first time in Canadian history. However, in 2018, Mulcair resigned after the party voted to hold elections for a new leader, stating that that he would not run in Outremont again.
“We’re very excited that this riding has returned to the Liberal Party,” Minden said. “We hope that it is emblematic of something larger that’s going to come in October.”
Celeste Cassidy and Sarah Mikhail, co-presidents of NDP McGill, considered the historical tendencies of voters in Outremont to be a deciding factor in this by-election, in spite of their candidate and group’s efforts to mobilize NDP voters.
“It was a different candidate [this time around], and Tom Mulcair was the leader of the party, so that also holds some gravity,” Cassidy said. “The seat was traditionally Liberal, so it was not that shocking.”
However, both Cassidy and Mikhail remain hopeful for the party’s future following Jagmeet Singh’s victory in Burnaby-South, where he gathered 38.9 per cent of the votes.
“[Now that he is elected], I think that will really bring a shift into how his leadership is viewed and, hopefully, how the party fares in the coming months,” Cassidy said.
Ali Gürsoy, VP Finance of Conservative McGill, likewise explained the loss of the Conservative candidate, Mouras, as a symptom of the riding’s political history.
“In my opinion, many Conservative-leaning voters didn’t [come out to vote] because it was a safe Liberal seat,” Gürsoy said. “If it’s a safe seat, then turnout is low, and the opposition voters are just not interested in that campaign.”
However, the low voter turnout could also be a consequence of the vote being a by-election, which Minden, Cassidy, Mikhail, and Gürsoy all agreed tend to see lower numbers. Taharima Habib, communications coordinator at Apathy is Boring, a non-partisan charitable organization aiming to increase youth engagement in the democratic process, believes that by-elections are unfairly undervalued.
“By-elections indicate an empty seat in the House of Commons [since Mulcair left],” Habib said. “This means that [the Outremont riding] is not represented, and representation is important.”
The McGill clubs involved in the by-election, as well as Habib, also agreed that youth involvement in politics is crucial. Not only are youth the new voter demographic, but the current policies will affect their lives and should, therefore, include their input.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve seen campus clubs of all parties be involved in this election,” Minden said. “I think there’s a real sense on campus that politics, including federal politics, really affect students, and there’s a desire to get involved. As we lead up to the federal election in October, we hope that that sentiment only grows.”