A consensus seems to be emerging among pundits that the big winner in Monday's by-elections was the federal Green Party.
And superficially this seems to be the case.
The Greens finished second in the Willowdale riding and substantially improved their vote totals overall.
But is this truly evidence of a Green Party breakthrough?
Forgive me if I am just a tad bit skeptical.
First off, you cannot really determine national trends on the basis of four by-elections, especially in by-elections with such poor voter turnouts.
Vancouver-Quandra had a turnout of only 33%, Willowdale, 24%, Toronto Centre, 28% and Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River, 25%.
When voter apathy is so high, political success usually boils down to good ground organization and getting the vote out.
And because they could focus their resources on a few key ridings, the Greens would have an advantage in this area, an advantage which would disappear during a general election.
Secondly, I suspect many Green votes were actually protest votes. People wanted to send out a message that they didn't like any of the main stream parties. Again, this is typical behaviour in a by-election, a dynamic which won't be in play in a general election when more is at stake.
Thirdly, voters weren't really paying attention to any of these races. There was no national campaign to focus on. No leadership debates. No real issues. So when people walked into the voting booth, many of them voted "Green" simply because they think the environment is important. If there was a party called "Health Care" on the ballot it probably would have received lots of votes too. In a general election, there will be lots of other issues on the table.
So it's way too early to get excited about the Green Party.