OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservatives recorded a useful victory on Monday by capturing a safe parliamentary seat from the main opposition Liberal Party, which is struggling in the polls.
Provisional results showed the Conservatives narrowly won a by-election in the constituency of Vaughan, a suburban city north of Toronto. The gain is likely to give them a boost ahead of a federal election that many political observers expect in the first half of 2011.
The news was not all bad for the Liberals, who unexpectedly won a seat in the western province of Manitoba. That result is likely to help relieve pressure on party leader Michael Ignatieff, who has struggled to impress voters.
Polls show the Conservatives would lose seats in the House of Commons if an election were held now, but still have a chance of staying in power.
The party -- which first took office in early 2006 -- only has a minority of seats in the House and to capture a majority it needs to gain more support in the once solidly Liberal suburbs that surround Toronto, Canada’s biggest city.
The Conservatives won Vaughan in part by choosing a high-profile candidate in former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino. Initial results showed Fantino won around 49 percent of the vote, with the Liberals on 47 percent.
The Liberals’ share of the vote held up stronger than many party and political observers had predicted, in part because backing for the left-leaning New Democrats dropped sharply.
There were a total of three by-elections on Monday, all to replace legislators who stepped down.
The Liberals notched a surprise win in the Manitoba constituency of Winnipeg North, which had been a safe seat for the New Democrats.
The loss capped a bad night for the New Democrats, who are competing with the Liberals for the center-left vote.
The Conservatives easily retained the seat of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette in Manitoba.
The party, which derives much of its support from the West and rural voters, does not hold a single seat in any of Canada’s main three cities -- Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Here is the current breakdown of the 308-seat House of Commons, including Monday’s provisional results:
Conservatives -- 143 seats
Liberals -- 77
Bloc Quebecois -- 47
New Democrats -- 36
Independents -- 2
Vacant seats -- 3
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Chris Wilson