Alice offers up the definitive analysis of last night's federal by-elections, and I won't go over too much of the same territory. But I'll quickly add a few observations for each party - as everybody looks to have some reason for concern.
And yes, I include the Greens in that statement. They'll undoubtedly point to massive increases in vote share in Calgary Centre and Victoria as a key accomplishment. But a party with only one seat and a limited fund-raising base needs to take advantage of every opportunity to add to its resource base - and I have to wonder whether the Greens will be left asking what might have been if they'd focused on one riding alone, rather running campaigns which fell just short in two.
For the NDP, the major disappointment has to be Calgary Centre - where it lost ground despite a superb candidate due to a confused attempt at strategic voting. But given the common assumption that Ontario will largely determine which party forms government, I'm surprised there hasn't been more notice of the campaign and results in Durham. There, the NDP somewhat consolidated its second-place position thanks in large part to the type of candidate more easily recruited to an official opposition party - but still has some distance to go in catching up to the Cons.
Meanwhile, the Libs look to have lost the most on the night. While they put up a strong fight in Calgary Centre, the Libs dropped to fourth place in Victoria (which they held as recently as 2006) and lost ground in third place in Durham (which they held until 2004) despite ample promotion of fairly well-recognized candidates. And a fourth-place finish in the total vote only adds insult to injury for a party which still hasn't come to terms with its third-place standing in the House of Commons.
Finally, the Cons performed roughly to expectations other than the collapse of their support in Calgary Centre. While I'd like to think they'd learn some lessons from Joan Crockatt's near-loss in the heart of the Cons' home base, I'll leave it to them to prove they're actually willing to do so - and I'm not holding my breath.
In sum, last night's results serve first and foremost to confirm the dangers of taking anything for granted in Canadian politics. But we'll have to wait a few years to find out whether either that lesson or the support bases assembled for the by-election campaign result in any real change.