Category Archives: Ontario
Three federal by-elections were held in Canada on November 26, 2012. These three by-elections were to fill vacancies in the federal constituencies of Durham (Ontario), Calgary Centre (Alberta) and Victoria (British Columbia).
Durham is a large exurban constituency east of Toronto which includes the municipalities of Clarington, Uxbridge and Scugog (plus a small first nations community). Major communities include Courtice and Bowmanville, two major towns along the 401 east of Oshawa, and the smaller towns of Uxbridge and Port Perry in the north of the riding. Durham is nearly homogeneously white (95%) and predominantly Protestant (52.5%).
There are some local industries and employers in the constituency, including a nuclear power plant in Darlington, but the demographics of the constituency reflect a largely exurban population, which commutes to work in Oshawa or Toronto. The constituency has a large percentage of married individuals (57.2%, 31st in Canada), a lower percentage of people aged over 15 (79.9%), a fairly high median household income ($77,210 – 19th in Ontario) but a fairly low percentage of highly educated residents (12.7% of residents have a university certificate or degree) and a very high proportion of homeowners (88.2%). Only 22.5% of residents work in the municipality where they live, the 9th lowest in Ontario.
White, English and Protestant, Durham has historically been fairly Conservative. The Uxbridge and Scugog (Port Perry) areas, historically part of Ontario County, have a Liberal tradition while parts of former Durham County were more Conservatives. The Tories won handily in 1988, but throughout the 90s (from 1993 to 2004), the Chrétien Liberals held the seat with comfortable majorities although only because of the division of the right. The Liberals never won over 50% of the vote, and in all three elections the combined right-wing vote was higher than the Liberal vote. In 2004, Conservative journalist Bev Oda regained the seat, earning a small 2.5% majority over the Liberals. With the slow collapse of the Liberal Party in the exurban GTA in 2006, 2008 and 2011 Oda was reelected with larger majorities -17% in 2006, 31% in 2008 and 33% in 2011. In 2011, the NDP – which had placed fourth behind the Greens in 2008 – placed a distant second, ahead of the Grits.
Oda, who served as Minister for International Cooperation in the Harper government between 2007 and 2012, was compelled to resign in June 2012 after ethics scandals (in 2011, she had directed staff to add a handwritten annotation to a CIDA memo which resulted in a funding request from an NGO being ignored; in 2012, at a conference she turned down staying at the conference hotel and preferred a more costly hotel).
Oda won every poll in 2008 and she lost only one poll in 2011 (a mobile poll covering seniors’ residences). The Tories tend to perform best in the more rural parts of the riding, while the Liberals and NDP find some stronger support in urban areas – especially Courtice and Bowmanville, where the NDP broke 30% in a few polls in 2011 (including, interestingly, some newer middle-class subdivisions). The Liberals, in 2011, performed best in Uxbridge.
The Conservatives nominated Erin O’Toole, a local lawyer whose father is the incumbent PC MPP for Durham. The NDP unearthed a strong candidate, Larry O’Connor, the former mayor of Brock (a township which is outside of the riding) and a NDP MPP for the area between 1990 and 1995. The Liberals renominated their 2011 candidate, Grant Humes, while the Greens nominated Virginia Mae Ervin, who had run in 2006 and 2004.
Erin O’Toole (Con) 50.72% (-3.83%)
Larry O’Connor (NDP) 26.26% (+5.16%)
Grant Humes (Lib) 17.28% (-0.57%)
Virginia Mae Ervin (Green) 4.07% (-1.32%)
Andrew Moriarity (CHP) 1.28% (+0.49%)
Michael Nicula (OP) 0.39%
The Tories held Durham with a large, although slightly reduced, majority, as was expected. Turnout was 35.8%. The results in Durham are good for the Tories, who broke 50% and especially for the NDP, which maintained and improved on its second place showing in the riding. Prior to the Orange Crush in 2011, the NDP could only dream of finishing second in a riding like Durham (although it did have a few good results in the 70s and 80s). The next NDP breakthrough obviously won’t come from the exurban GTA, which remains a wasteland for the NDP; but that such ridings which had previously been Tory-Grit battles are becoming Tory-NDP places is good news for the NDP.
Calgary Centre (Alberta)
Calgary Centre covers downtown Calgary south of the Bow River. Major neighborhoods in the riding include the Beltine, Mount Royal and some surrounding suburban neighborhoods. Calgary Centre remains largely white (78.8%), with the largest visible minorities being Chinese (5.9%). Religiously, Protestants make up a narrow plurality (32.6%) of residents while 24.5% are Catholics and 30% claim no religion.
There is a fairly big contrast between the downtown core areas of the riding – neighborhoods such as Beltline, Cliff Bungalow, Connaught, Downtown East Village or Lower Mount Royal – and the suburban parts of the riding. The downtown, particularly the aforementioned neighborhoods, have a younger, more ethnically diverse and less affluent population. Most downtown residents are renters, living in apartments or some of the newer high-rise condos close to the Bow River. The downtown neighborhoods, particularly the Beltline, have pockets of deprivation and have struggled with poverty and social problems. On the other hand, the suburban portions of the riding tend to be more affluent. Upper Mount Royal, Scarboro, Elbow Park, Rideau Park, Britannia, Bel-Aire and Mayfair are all very affluent and educated residential suburban neighborhoods. Some of the riding’s outer suburban neighborhoods (Glenmorgan, Glenbrook, Rosscarrock, Killarney etc) are slightly less affluent, made up in good part of older post-war lower middle-class bungalow housing. The riding’s demographics reflect its diverse social makeup. It is the Albertan riding with the highest percentage of never married individuals (48.4%), there are not many households with children (only 14%, one of the lowest in all of Canada), it is highly educated (33.6% with a university certificate, diploma or degree) but not extremely affluent (median HH income is $49,042, the second lowest in Alberta) and a narrow majority of individuals rent their household (53.8%, the second highest in Alberta).
It has been said that a riding like Calgary Centre, if located anywhere outside of Alberta, would vote Liberal or NDP. In the context of Albertan federal politics, heavily dominated by the Conservatives (and their predecessors) due to the toxicity of the Liberal Party post-NEP, Calgary Centre is solidly Tory. The last time the seat went Liberal was in 1963, for a single term and the last time parts of the ridings were represented by a Liberal was in 1968. The Tories have held the seat with large majorities since then, taking over 50% of the vote in the 1970s and 1980s. The Reform Party won the seat in 1993 and 1997. The riding was closely contested in 2000, when former Prime Minister Joe Clark, a Red Tory who was the leader of the remnants of the PCs in the 2000 election, ran in Calgary Centre against the Canadian Alliance. The Liberal vote, which fell to only 9.8%, coalesced around Clark, allowing him to win 46-38.5 over the Alliance.
In 2004, former PC MP Lee Richardson won the seat for the new Conservative Party, with a 21% majority over the Liberals. Richardson, who had a moderate and pragmatic reputation as a Tory MP, retained the seat in subsequent elections with ever-larger majorities. In 2011, he won a 40% majority taking 57.7% against a paltry 17.5% for the Liberals and 14.9% for the NDP. The Greens have been strong in the riding, taking second with 16.6% in 2008 but dropping to right below 10% in 2011. At the provincial level, Liberals have been more successful - they hold the seat of Calgary-Buffalo. Richardson did very well in the suburban parts of the riding, especially the most affluent residential suburbs – where he took about 70% of the vote. The non-Tories (Liberals, NDP, Greens) have done best in the downtown area – the NDP won 2 polls there in 2011, the Greens won 3 polls in 2008 and the Liberals won a bunch of downtown polls in 2004 and a few in 2006 (and one in 2008).
Lee Richardson’s retirement to take up a job with Alberta Premier Alison Redford led to a crowded contest for the Tory nomination. Ultimately, Joan Crockatt, a journalist who was viewed as Prime Minister Harper’s favourite candidate and one of the more right-leaning candidates, won the Tory nod. For some reason, her choice went down pretty badly in Calgary Centre – was it because she was perceived as the candidate imposed by the PMO, because of her proximity to the Wildrose Alliance rather than the PCs in provincial politics or just other unsuccessful CPC nomination candidates who were particularly bitter? Polls showed the Liberal candidate, Harvey Locke (a conservationist and former provincial party president), within striking distance of the Tories and the Greens (their candidate was Chris Turner, a journalist and author) pulling over 20%. Crockatt retained a small lead in later polls, but this was the most closely watched by-election of the three. Liberals feared that their momentum might have been brutally halted late in the campaign, following the comments made by Liberal MP David McGuinty (he said that Alberta Tories should “go back to Alberta” and that they have a ‘protectionist’ view of the energy industry) and even Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau (in 2010, he said that Canada was not doing well because Albertans control “our community and socio-democratic agenda”).
Joan Crockatt (Con) 36.89% (-20.79%)
Harvey Locke (Lib) 32.67% (+15.14%)
Chris Turner (Green) 25.64% (+15.73%)
Dan Meades (NDP) 3.84% (-11.02%)
Antoni Grochowski (Ind) 0.51%
Tony Prashad (Libertarian) 0.44%
The Conservatives retained the seat, although with a 4.2% majority which is a very far cry from Lee Richardson’s 40 point margin in May 2011. However, what counts for them is that they retained the seat and averted a huge PR disaster – which the Harper government is always very keen on avoiding. Of course, the fact that they came within 4% of losing a seat which has been solidly Conservative for ages should be worrying for the Tories, though it would still be risky to extrapolate any provincial (let alone) national trends from this result. Crockatt was probably a bad candidate, despite being rather well known on the Calgary media circuit, and she is probably to the right of her fairly socially liberal and ‘Red Tory’ constituents. The Tories will need to dissect what happened, but I would wager that this by-election is one of those fluke by-elections which don’t portend any future trends.
The Liberals had a good result, but because they had focused their sparse resources on the riding to the exclusion of the two other ridings, a defeat – even if it is by a very close margin – will be disappointing for them. The Liberals have shown that, under particular circumstances and low turnout, they can come close to the Tories even in solidly blue Calgary. With such a close race, Liberals will be left wondering if they could have won the seat if McGuinty had not said what he said and the 2010 Trudeau tape had not been put back in the front light. However, no polls showed the Liberals actually leading in CC – even prior to the McGuinty/Trudeau comments – and their 32-33% of the vote on November 26 is basically where the polls had placed them.
Yet, the Liberals are not on the verge of breaking through Harper’s “Alberta Firewall”. Polls do show that Tory support has dropped from the 67% they won in the province in May 2011, but at 58-60%, it’s not really catastrophic for them and the fact that both the Liberals and NDP have definite problems in reaching out to Albertans makes it easier for the Harper Tories in Alberta. The Greens were the true winners, taking a very big 25% of the vote.
The NDP did very badly, which could be a reflection of the local unpopularity of Thomas Mulcair’s comments about the “Dutch disease” in relation to Alberta’s oil sands, but it is probably more a reflection of the fact that the NDP didn’t bother contesting the by-election, certainly not with a strong candidate like the Grits or the Greens.
Interestingly, turnout in CC was the lowest of the three by-elections at only 29.4%. As a urban core riding, it has always tended to see lower turnout levels, but one would have expected heavier turnout considering the high stakes and close contest. Did Tories unhappy with Crockatt choose to stay home? This seems likely a good explanation, considering the Tory raw vote dropped from 28.4k in 2011 to 10.1k in this by-election while the Liberals won about 400 more votes and the Greens took an extra 2.2k votes. The Greens, who have proven that they can attract ‘Red Tory’ voters with some success in the past, likely took votes away from the Tories and the NDP (they lost about 6.2k votes). This is one of those by-elections where poll-by-poll data will be warmly welcomed.
Victoria (British Columbia)
The riding of Victoria includes the city of Victoria, the provincial capital, the suburban district of Oak Bay and parts of the district of Saanich. The riding is predominantly white (85%) with the largest visible minorities being Chinese (4%). In Victoria, the largest religion is the lackthereof: in 2001, 40.5% of residents claimed no religious affiliation while 35.4% were Protestant.
Victoria is a popular tourist destination and an attractive city, with a growing lucrative high-tech sector. Home to the University of Victoria (UVic), the city has a large non-local student population. Like most of coastal Vancouver Island, the Victoria region is particularly attractive for affluent retireees who enjoy the temperate climate and the city’s usually relaxed pace. The city of Victoria itself has a diverse mix of unionized civil servants in neighborhoods such as James Bay and Fairfield, artists and students in Fernwood or downtown and young professionals who were drawn by the new high-tech sector in the city. Despite being a popular tourist destination and largely white-collar city, Victoria has pockets of deprivation and homelessness, loitering, panhandling and drug use continue to cause problem in some lower-income areas in downtown Victoria. Oak Bay, an old streetcar suburb, is wealthier and older. Parts of Oak Bay, notably Uplands and Ten Mile Point, are very affluent and popular with retirees. Some other parts of Oak Bay have some students, academics and public sector professionals. Parts of Victoria have seen pricey high-rise condo towers spring up, attracting more previleged retirees.
Demographically, this is a fairly old riding with the median age being 45 and the percentage of individuals over 15 being one of the highest in Canada (90%). Victoria has high percentages of widows and divorcees, but also a fairly large percentage of singles who never married (39%). There are relatively few households with children. The riding, unsurprisingly, falls in the upper tier of ridings in terms of education: 31% of residents have a university degree. In terms of income, however, the riding is generally ‘poor’ with a median HH income of $43,045, the second lowest in BC. 52% of residents rent their household.
Once upon a time, the famously monarchist and old English Protestant city of Victoria was a Tory stronghold. The Conservatives held both seats in the two-member riding between 1882 and 1902, in 1878 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald won the seat (despite having never even been to Victoria) following his defeat in his native riding of Kingston. The Tories held the seat again between 1908 and 1937. In later years, the Liberals and Conservatives played back-and-forth over the seat, with the Liberals holding the seat from 1937 till 1957 and again between 1963 and 1972. The Tories held the seat under Diefenbaker and then between 1972 and 1988, when they lost it to the NDP.
In the space of six years, Victoria has become a solid NDP seat, but 1988 was the only time prior to 2006 that the NDP held the seat. Between 1993 and 2006, David Anderson, a popular Liberal who served as Minister of the Environment between 1999 and 2004 held the seat with comfortable majorities. In 2004, Anderson defeated David Turner (NDP), the former mayor of Victoria, by 4 points. However, the Liberals failed to hold the seat in 2006, when the NDP’s Denise Savoie won the seat with an 11% majority over the Liberals. Since then, the Liberal vote has collapsed in Victoria, bleeding votes left and right. Savoie was reelected in 2008 and 2011 (with a 17% and 27% majorities respectively) but in both elections, the Tories placed second while the Liberals were relegated to third (with only 14% in 2011). The Greens have polled strongly in Victoria since 2004, most recently winning 11.6% in 2011.
In the 90s and early 2000s, the Liberals were dominant throughout the quasi-entirety of Oak Bay, doing very well in the most affluent areas, but they also had strength in parts of Victoria – including Fairfield and parts of James Bay. The NDP’s base was and remains the lower-income neighborhoods of Fernwood or North Park. Since then, however, the Liberals lost votes to the Conservatives in the affluent parts of Oak Bay and in the condo polls along the coast, while the NDP has secured very strong support throughout Victoria. In 2011, the Tories won the Uplands and Ten Mile Point neighborhoods of Oak Bay along with a few condo polls, while the NDP won practically everywhere else.
This by-election followed Denise Savoie’s resignation for health reasons. The NDP candidate was Murray Rankin, an environmental lawyer. The Liberals nominated Paul Summerville, who had ran for the NDP in St. Paul’s (Toronto) in 2006. The Conservative candidate was Dale Gann. Victoria is next door to Saanich-Gulf Islands, held since May 2011 by the Green leader, Elizabeth May. The Greens nominated Donald Galloway, a UVic professor. The Greens have targeted Victoria as a potential riding for a “second Green MP” in the 2015 election, and ran a strong campaign in this by-election.
Murray Rankin (NDP) 37.23% (-13.55%)
Donald Galloway (Green) 34.28% (+22.67%)
Dale Gann (Con) 14.44% (-9.19%)
Paul Summerville (Lib) 13.06% (-0.92%)
Art Lowe (Libertarian) 0.50%
Philip Ney (CHP) 0.49%
The NDP held the seat, but with a 2.9% margin it is too close for comfort. The NDP had been expected to retain the seat despite a strong Green challenge, but the Greens got closer to actually winning the seat (on election night, early results had the Greens leading) than anyone had expected. The NDP had likely not invested as much in this campaign as it should have, while the Greens – boosted by the presence of their colourful and energetic next door in SGI – targeted the seat and apparently ran a very strong campaign locally. The Conservatives and Liberals, who in the past had fought for the seat, fought for distant third and fourth place in this by-election. We should not read too much into the horrible Conservative result, given that the Tories generally see their vote share collapse in by-elections which they do not bother seriously contesting all while being able to poll very strongly in by-elections which they invest significant resources in. The Liberals should be worried by their result, but they too did not run a very active campaign.
Victoria had the highest turnout of the three seats contested, at 44%.
We hoped that a clear message could be drawn from these 3 by-elections on November 26, but as in so many by-elections it ended in an inconclusive night and mixed messages for all parties.
The one thing which is clear is that the Greens won the by-elections. Their vote share dropped in Durham, but they did extremely well in both Calgary and Victoria. Since 2011, the Greens have abandoned their old strategy of contesting every single seat and spreading their sparse resources across Canada. In the 2011 federal election, the Green Party’s campaign was basically all about electing Elizabeth May in SGI, and they were successful – but it was at the cost of losing support in almost every single other riding in the country. That strategy worked in 2011, and the Greens have opted to prioritizing and focusing their resources in the seats where they feel that have a solid shot at winning, even if that means seeing Green support drop even further in the other seats which they do not seriously contest. The Greens ignored Durham – their vote dropped – but they focused on Calgary Centre and especially Victoria. In both of these cases, their investments paid off. Victoria is now a prime Green target in the 2015 election, and Calgary Centre could potentially be promising. These by-elections will not lead to a sustained Green surge in the polls (besides – there’s no federal election until 2015), but the fact that the Greens have chosen to focus their efforts in a few ridings could be bad news for Harper’s opponents, who could see the centre-left/anti-Harper vote divided even further.
Could we count the Tories or the Liberals as ‘winners’ in these three by-elections? On the one hand, the Tories did well in Durham (showing that Fortress Rurban Ontario is still very solid) and they averted a PR disaster in Alberta but on the other hand, their vote collapsed in Victoria and CC was unacceptably close for them. Similarly, while the Liberals can pride themselves in a (very) strong result in CC, but on the other hand they did horribly in the other two seats and considering that CC had turned into a must-win for them, a loss stings. The Conservatives remain in a relatively solid position, even if Harper’s government is fairly unpopular and Tory support nationally is only a bit above their traditional floor (30-33%). The Liberals have lots of work ahead of them if they want to regain second place, let alone win power.
The NDP had a tough night. Victoria almost created a PR disaster for them, while their support fell off in CC. On the other hand, they did do quite well in Durham – maintaining a respectable second in a seat where second place for the NDP would have been unimaginable prior to the 2011 Orange Crush.
By-elections were held in the provincial constituencies of Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan on September 6 in Ontario (Canada), following a by-election in the provincial constituency of Fort Whyte in Manitoba (Canada) on September 4.
In the 2011 Ontarian provincial election, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals were returned to power for a third straight term but they won a minority government with 53 seat, one short of the “magic” 54 seats needed to form a majority government (the speaker is a Liberal, giving the Liberals an effective 52 votes against 54 votes for the opposition).
Governing in a minority environment for the first time, the Liberals have been forced to work with the other parties. With a struggling economy and huge deficit, the government introduced an austerity-minded budget earlier this year which includes a two-year pay freeze for public sector employees, including teachers and doctors. The budget also included cuts in government spending and government services.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives (PCs), led by Tim Hudak, rejected the budget out of hand, claiming the Liberal budget did not do enough to curb “runaway spending” and debt. The New Democrats were more open to compromise, and in April the NDP agreed to prop up the government in return for the inclusion of a tax on high incomes proposed by the NDP. However, Ontario was almost thrust into a snap election in July when the NDP – unexpectedly backed by the PCs – started voting down key planks of the budget in June. McGuinty threatened to call an election until the NDP finally blinked and abstained from the final vote on the budget, allowing it to pass in late June.
The PC MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, Elizabeth Witmer, resigned on April 27 following her appointment to head the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). Her resignation created a vacancy in the riding which she has held since 1990. Witmer was a fairly high-profile moderate “Red Tory” who served in Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eve’s cabinets. As a moderate and fairly consensual Tory, she built up a strong personal vote which allowed her to win reelection in her fairly swing-y riding in 2003, 2007 and 2011 despite the PCs losing at the provincial level.
Kitchener-Waterloo was created in 1996 and is composed of the northern parts of the city of Kitchener and the entirety of the city of Waterloo in southwestern (or midwestern) Ontario. Waterloo forms part of a larger urban conglomeration which includes the slightly larger cities of Kitchener and Cambridge.
Historically, Waterloo County had a large German population – the city of Kitchener was known as Berlin until World War I and was the centre of the German population in Ontario during the first decades of Confederation. According to the 2006 census, 27% of Kitchener-Waterloo’s population claimed German ancestry. Politically, this German influence in Waterloo County made Waterloo North a Liberal stronghold, at least at the federal level. The federal riding of Waterloo North was held by the Liberals between 1917 and 1958. With a few short exceptions, the provincial riding of Waterloo North was held by the Liberals between 1929 and 1990.
While Kitchener and Cambridge were historically major industrial centres, the city of Waterloo does not have a blue-collar industrial past. Today, Waterloo has developed a strong high-tech and knowledge-based economy. It is home to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, but also high-tech giant Research in Motion (RIM), the developer of the Blackberry. The riding’s has a predominantly middle-class, white-collar professional population. Median household income is in the upper tier provincially and nationally and 29% of the population has a university education.
In the past two decades, the Liberals have had the upper hand in Kitchener-Waterloo. Federally, K-W was represented by Andrew Telegdi, a maverick-y Liberal, between 1993 and 2008. In the 2008 election, Telegdi was surprisingly defeated by Conservative Peter Braid by a tiny 17-vote margin (36.1% to 36%). The 2011 results in Kitchener-Waterloo were skewed by the fact that Telegdi ran a strong campaign which coalesced the anti-Tory vote around his name. Even if the May 2011 election was a disaster for the federal Liberal Party, Telegdi, who hadn’t stopped running since his 2008 defeat, managed to increase his vote share to 37.6% but Braid simultaneously increased his vote share to 40.9%.
Provincially, Witmer won by relatively tight but still quite comfortable margins in the past three elections. Her most decisive victory was in 2007, she took 40.8% against 31.2% for the Liberals and 17.5% for the NDP. In 2011, she won by a slightly tighter margin, 43.8% against 36% for the Liberals and 16.7% for the NDP.
The NDP represented the federal riding of Waterloo (which included the city of Waterloo but also surrounding areas) between 1964 and 1979 with Max Saltsman. Provincially, however, the last time the riding had a New Democrat MPP was in 1943, when the present-day NDP was known as the CCF. That being said, the riding in its current incarnation would likely have been won by the provincial NDP in the 1990 election.
The NDP has usually been confined to a range of 15-17% support in the riding in the past eight years. The Greens have a strong potential in the riding, they took 9.3% in the 2007 provincial election and 12.1% in the 2008 federal election. However, their vote fell to only 2.6% and 4.8% in the last provincial and federal elections respectively.
The Liberals are usually strongest in downtown Waterloo and around the University of Waterloo in the centre of the riding. The downtown part of Waterloo is a largely middle-class young professional, highly educated and relatively affluent area. Telegdi dominated there in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections, and the Greens usually placed strong seconds or thirds in most polls in downtown Waterloo in the 2008 federal election. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have been strong the outskirts of the riding – largely upper middle-class suburban neighborhoods, a mix of both older developments and newer subdivisions. Federally, it was strong Tory inroads in these neighborhoods which had previously been reliably Liberal (until 2006) which allowed them to defeat Telegdi in 2008 and again in 2011. At the provincial level, Witmer won these areas easily in 2011 and certainly in 2003 and 2007. The New Democrats have found their strongest support in more blue-collar and lower-income neighborhoods of north Kitchener which are included in the riding, along with a handful of polls around social housing projects or apartment blocks.
Given the riding’s swing-y nature, Witmer’s resignation got the provincial Liberals excited at the opportunity for a gain, which would have given them a working majority of sorts in the Legislative Assembly. However, the by-election came in a tough climate for the governing Liberals. According to polls, the Liberals are languishing in the 26-28% range, in third behind the NDP (at roughly 28-30%) and the PCs (36-38%). In the past few weeks, the Liberal government has crossed swords with teacher unions, who have fought against the government’s two-year pay freeze for provincial employees, including teachers.
The Liberals had a contested nomination fight in the riding, but eventually re-nominated Eric Davis, a lawyer and their 2011 candidates. The PCs nominated Tracey Weiler, a local businesswoman. The NDP nominated their strongest possible candidate, Catherine Fife, the chair of the local school board and the president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association. Fife had run for the NDP in the 2007 provincial election, running a strong campaign and placing a decent third with 17.5%.
This election turned out to be a close three-way battle in which all three parties invested lots of resources. The Liberals heavily targeted this riding in order to win a working majority, the NDP fancied its chances with a strong candidate and favourable provincial circumstances while the Tories needed to maintain their hold on this key swing seat.
Forum Research polled the riding thrice. Right when the seat became vacant, they saw the Liberals ahead. A few months later, they showed the PCs on top with a 4% edge over the NDP and the Liberals, who were tied at 30% apiece. Right before September 6, their last poll showed the NDP surging way ahead of both the Tories and the Liberals.
The results were as follows:
Catherine Fife (NDP) 39.84% (+23.17%)
Tracey Weiler (PC) 31.82% (-11.95%)
Eric Davis (Liberal) 24.05% (-11.99%)
Stacey Danckert (Green) 3.25% (+0.61%)
Allan Detweiler (Libertarian) 0.33%
David Driver (Freedom) 0.2% (-0.05%)
Elizabeth Rowley (Communist) 0.19%
Garnet Bruce (Ind) 0.17%
Kevin Clarke (People’s) 0.1%
John Turmel (Pauper) 0.05%
The result was a major upset, one of those memorable by-elections which will be (or ought to be) remembered down the road. The NDP, usually weak in this riding, came out of a distant third place to win by a large 8% margin, handing both the Tories and Liberals disastrous results.
The NDP upset in Kitchener-Waterloo is the result of a number of factors, some local and others more general. At the local level, Catherine Fife was undeniably a strong candidate and she ran a strong campaign. The provincial NDP organization invested tons of resources into the contest, NDP leader Andrea Horwath visited the riding numerous times over the past few months and Fife’s campaign received the enthusiastic and influential backing of the teachers’ unions, which are locked in a fight with the Liberal government over the government’s controversial two-year pay freeze. The union apparently bused down tons of volunteers to help out with Fife’s campaign.
Fife was further boosted by ‘national’ factors. Premier Dalton McGuinty is unpopular and voters were in no mood to give him a majority, but PC leader Tim Hudak hardly has a better image with the wider electorate. During the budget shenanigans, the PCs received negative media coverage, highlighting their steadfast opposition to the budget (and their refusal to work with the government), while their decision to back the NDP in voting down key planks of the budget was fairly hypocritical given that in doing so they went against parts of their own platform.
Hudak is also a fairly mediocre leader. He could easily have won the 2011 election, but the PC campaign derailed as Hudak allowed McGuinty to paint him as a radical. Hudak lacks the charisma or political talent of his federal counterpart, Stephen Harper. During the campaign, Hudak tried to downplay expectations for his party, saying that K-W was more of a “Witmer seat” than a “PC seat”, which is correct but which isn’t a very savvy thing for a party leader to say during a by-election campaign. Following the by-election, Hudak blamed the defeat on “union bosses”.
While both Hudak and McGuinty have terrible approval ratings, NDP leader Andrea Horwath has, by far, the strongest ratings of the three leaders.
K-W is not weak territory for the NDP, but it is not easy ground for them either. While the NDP’s base in K-W is likely larger than recent election results might indicate, K-W kind of fits the “too rich to vote NDP, too smart to vote Tory” mold (the phrase has been used since 2011 to describe residual pockets of Liberal strength, primarily federally). However, Kitchener-Waterloo and similar ridings are the kind of places which the NDP must win if they are to form government, both federally and provincially.
To win in a what is traditionally a really longshot riding for the NDP, Catherine Fife likely assembled a coalition of core NDP supporters in lower-income areas, left-leaning Liberals (middle-class young professionals, students) in neighborhoods such as downtown Waterloo and around the universities and certainly some moderate “Witmer Tories”. Fife might have been helped by local economic concerns about the future of Waterloo’s top employer, RIM, which has recorded major financial loses in recent months.
The result is an unmitigated disaster both for the PCs and the Liberals, perhaps more so for the Liberals. Tim Hudak has been placed under some pressure to step down following this embarrassing defeat for the PCs, and at any rate it is unlikely that the PCs will be as eager to force a snap election following this disaster. The Liberals clearly invested tons of energy, resources and manpower into this campaign and they presented this as their top chance to win a majority government, but voters resoundingly rejected the idea of giving McGuinty a working majority. While this isn’t quite the end of the road for the Liberal government, McGuinty and his government are in really dire straits. They have been hit by scandals, the budget has generally been unpopular and his fight with the teachers’ union doesn’t seem to be doing them any favours. A snap election anytime soon for the Liberals would certainly be tough for McGuinty, especially given that Horwath and the NDP would have momentum. The Liberals, after nearly 10 years in power, are really starting to be hit by voters’ fatigue.
There was another by-election on the same day in Ontario, in the provincial riding of Vaughan. Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara resigned his seat on August 1.
The riding covers most of the municipality of Vaughan, one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Ontario located just outside Toronto. Vaughan is a very affluent suburban community – it has one of the highest household incomes in Canada. It has a fairly young population made up, in very large part, of middle-class families. On the 2006 census, Vaughan topped all Canadian federal constituencies on the percentage of houses which are owned (94.3%) and built within the last 20 years (80.5%). It also had the highest national percentage of married couples (87%) and second generation immigrants (37.3%).
Vaughan (especially the neighborhood of Woodbridge) is notable for its large Italian population. In the 2006 census, a full 54.4% of the riding’s population claimed Italian ancestry, and the riding had the highest Catholic population of all ridings in Ontario in 2001 at 77%. However, the riding’s character is changing somewhat. A quarter of the population are visible minorities, including a significant South Asian population (9.3% of the total population).
Politically, Vaughan has traditionally been a Liberal stronghold both at the provincial and federal level. However, since 2011, politics in Vaughan have been marked by a stark contrast between the federal and provincial levels. After longtime Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua resigned his seat in 2010, former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino gained the seat for the federal Tories in a 2010 by-election. In May 2011, he was reelected with a huge majority (26.5%), painting the entire riding Conservative blue. At the provincial level, Greg Sorbara has held the seat since 2003. Sorbara, who served in the David Peterson and later the McGuinty governments had originally represented the Vaughan region between 1985 and 1995, when he was defeated by the PC’s Al Palladini. Sorbara staged a comeback in the 2003 election, taking back the seat with 56% of the vote. He took 61.9% in 2007 and won 53% in the 2011 election. At the provincial level, the riding is still solidly Liberal red.
The seat’s voting patterns are rather homogeneous. In 2011, Fantino basically swept the entire riding, with the Liberals barely holding on to some decent showings in Woodbridge and Maples. In the provincial election, Sorbara, in contrast, painted almost all of the polls in Vaughan Liberal red.
The Liberal candidate was Steven Del Duca, director of public affairs for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. The PC candidate was Tony Genco, the PC candidate in October 2011, who had previously run for the federal Liberals in the 2010 by-election and for the provincial Liberals in 1999. The NDP candidate was Paul Donofrio.
The results were:
Steven Del Duca (Liberal) 51.2% (-1.82%)
Tony Genco (PC) 33.39% (+2.15%)
Paul Donofrio (NDP) 11.32% (-0.01%)
Paula Conning (Green) 1.78% (+0.37%)
Paolo Fabrizio (Libertarian) 0.96% (-0.92%)
Bart Wysokinski (Family Coalition) 0.45%
Stephen Tonner (Ind) 0.37%
Erin Goodwin (Freedom) 0.28%
Phil Sarazen (People’s) 0.24%
In contrast to the disastrous Liberal rout in K-W, the Liberals held up very well in Vaughan, holding the seat by over 17 points and losing only 1.8% off their October 2011 vote. However, the Vaughan by-election was much lower on the radar for all parties (besides, maybe, the Liberals, who in the closing days saw Vaughan as a good opportunity to save face). Tony Genco is pretty much a terrible candidate, and it does not seem as if the PCs invested much resources into this contest.
Affluent Toronto suburbia is still very difficult ground for the NDP, and it ignored this by-election to focus all it had on Kitchener-Waterloo. Therefore, considering that this is a by-election in a constituency with zero NDP groundwork and that the NDP ignored this by-election, the NDP can certainly be very pleased that it held on to its 2011 vote share. However, maybe, just maybe, this indicates that K-W was a result influenced primarily by local circumstances and that there is not (yet?) a massive Orange Crush in the works at the provincial level.
The greater 905 region is must-win country for Tim Hudak (as it was for Harper) if he wants the Tories to win the next provincial election, but Vaughan itself is not a must-win constituency. It remains, despite Fantino’s popularity federally, a structurally Liberal riding which is, at best, a long-shot target for the PCs unless they get some star candidate and the Liberals have a crummy candidate.
The overall results of these two by-elections in Ontario is a major victory for the NDP and a defeat for both the Liberals and the PCs. While the Liberals can be pleased by their very strong resistance in Vaughan, the result in K-W is still an unmitigated disaster for them which they can difficultly spin. The PCs had a terrible showing in K-W and a very underwhelming, mediocre result in Vaughan, two results which will place Tim Hudak’s hold on the PC leadership in question, even if he himself shows no willingness to step aside.
Fort Whyte (Manitoba)
A provincial by-election in the constituency of Fort Whyte was held in Manitoba on September 4. Fort Whyte’s incumbent MLA since 2005, former provincial Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Hugh McFayden, stepped down from the PC leadership and resigned his seat earlier this year.
Fort Whyte is located in southwestern Winnipeg, covering the suburban neighborhoods of Linden Woods, Linden Ridge, Bridgwater Forest, Fort Whyte and Whyte Ridge. The seat was created in 1999 from parts of Fort Garry and St. Norbert, the result of strong population growth in suburban southwestern Winnipeg. The riding is made up quasi-exclusively of newer affluent upper middle-class suburbs of Winnipeg. The riding has the second highest average family income in the province and some 30% of the population hold university degrees, once again one of the highest in the province.
Fort Whyte has been a PC stronghold since its creation in 1999, and this part of Winnipeg has been represented by PC MLAs since at least 1958. Between 1999 and 2005, Fort Whyte was held by John Loewen, a moderate Red Tory who resigned in 2005 to run for the federal Liberals in the 2006 federal election. In a by-election he was succeeded by Hugh McFayden, who became the leader of the PCs and leader of the opposition in 2006. McFayden led the PCs into the 2007 and 2011 provincial elections, but both times the PCs were defeated by the NDP, which has been in power since 1999. Following his defeat in the 2011 election, in which the PCs failed to increase their representation, McFayden announced his resignation from the party leadership.
In the absence of any other candidates, former provincial cabinet minister and federal Conservative MP Brian Pallister was acclaimed as the new PC leader. Brian Pallister served in Gary Filmon’s provincial Conservative government as Minister of Government Services between 1995 and 1997, resigning to run in the 1997 federal election for the federal PCs. A “Blue Tory” within the federal PCs, Pallister ran for the PC leadership in 1998 on a right-wing platform aimed at appealing to Reform Party supporters, placing fourth on the first ballot. In 2000, he left the party to run for the Canadian Alliance in the 2000 federal election in the constituency of Portage-Lisgar. He held that seat until 2008, and was a fairly unremarkable Alliance and later Conservative backbencher.
Pallister was the PC candidate in Fort Whyte. The Liberal candidate was Bob Axworthy, who is apparently the brother of former federal foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy. The NDP candidate was Brandy Schmidt. The results were:
Brian Pallister (PC) 55.18% (-7.29%)
Bob Axworthy (Liberal) 31.56% (+23.64%)
Brandy Schmidt (NDP) 11.25% (-18.36%)
Donnie Benham (Green) 1.72%
Darrell Ackman (Ind) 0.29%
There isn’t much to say about this by-election, except that Pallister, as everybody expected, held a Tory fortress by a landslide and that the Liberals did really well. Pallister did considerably worse than McFayden in the 2011 election, though he still beats the 52% which McFayden won in the 2005 by-election and 2007 election. Pallister doesn’t strike me as a particularly wise choice for the PCs, given that the NDP probably don’t like anything better than running against a guy who served in the government they always love to criticize.
The Liberals did really well, winning their best result on record in the riding since its creation in 1999. In the 2011 election, the Liberal vote had taken a major hit in the riding compared to previous elections, when the Liberals had managed to pull in around 15-20% of the vote in Fort Whyte. McFayden seemingly gained a good part of the 2007 Liberal vote in his 2011 reelection bid in his seat. Some of this vote likely returned to the Liberal fold, but given that Axworthy – a starlet candidate given his last name – likely was the most visible anti-Tory candidate in the by-election and managed to coalesce most of the anti-Tory vote around his name. In this vein, I don’t know how to interpret the NDP’s pretty terrible result. Is this a bad sign for the Greg Selinger government, or is it, as I suspect, because the NDP really didn’t put any effort in this by-election?
The NDP has been in power for 13 years, since 1999. Since 2009, Manitoba has been governed by Premier Greg Selinger. In the 2011 election, the NDP won reelection with a huge majority – 37 seats against only 19 for the PCs and a lone Liberal holdout – but the popular vote was relatively narrow, the NDP winning over the PCs by only 2%. The PCs’ problem is that their votes are homogeneously concentrated in a handful of rock-ribbed conservative rural ridings, especially those German Mennonite rural areas south of Winnipeg where the PCs win with majorities well over 40-50%. In contrast, the PCs have found themselves nearly shut out of Winnipeg, taking only four seats in the city in the last two elections. If the PCs are to win the next election (after 16 years in power in 2015, the NDP might be hitting voter fatigue), they will need to make some significant gains in urban Winnipeg, notably in more middle-class suburban ridings in the south of the city which have voted for Harper’s Conservatives by solid margins but narrowly reelected NDP incumbents in 2011. If they are not able to make some gains in Winnipeg, then they will confined to the opposition benches for another term. It is, of course, too early to say if Brian Pallister will the good leader to lead them to government, 16 years after Gary Filmon lost reelection in 1999.
Tired of Canada? The Netherlands votes on Wednesday, September 12.
A federal by-election was held in the Canadian constituency of Toronto-Danforth in Ontario on March 19, 2012. The downtown Toronto seat fell vacant following the tragic death of NDP leader and newly-elected opposition leader Jack Layton on August 22, 2011. Jack Layton, the emblematic leader of the NDP who had just led the party to an historic victory in May 2011, forming the official opposition to Stephen Harper’s Tory majority, died after a fight with cancer in the summer of 2011.
Toronto-Danforth, which took its current boundaries in 2003, is located east of the riding of Toronto Centre and covers an area between the Don River and Coxwell Avenue, and between the lakefront of Lake Ontario and the Don River East Branch/Taylor Creek. The core of the riding, one of the most left-leaning in Toronto, was covered by the old riding of Broadview-Greenwood in the 1970s-1980s, a riding which elected current Liberal leader Bob Rae when he was a federal NDP MP.
The riding is ethnically diverse, with a 33% non-white (visible minority) population, including a large Chinese population (16%) which is concentrated in the southern half of the riding in the neighborhoods of Leslieville and East Chinatown. The north of the riding is noted for its large Greek population, located in Pape Village and Greektown. In 2001, at 11%, the riding had the highest percentage of Greek Orthodox in the province of Ontario (it also had the highest provincial percentage of Buddhists, 5.7%). Historically a fairly working-class or lower middle-class riding, Toronto-Danforth has seen its share of gentrification in recent years with traditionally low-income working-class neighborhoods such as Leslieville, Riverside (Queen-Broadview Village) and The Pocket becoming attractive areas for young professionals, artsy types and more middle-class inhabitants. The Studio District near the lakefront has become a magnet for artists, young professionals and film makers. Other areas, such as Blake-Jones, are poorer and more working-class. The India Bazaar and The Pocket have a large South Asian and Muslim population,
A good indicator of the riding’s gentrified nature is the irreligious-ness of the riding: at 31% in 2001, the lack of religion was the largest ‘religion’. The most irreligious areas were located in the southern half of the riding (Danforth Avenue acts as a divide between a fairly clearly defined north and south), especially in parts of Riverdale and the Studio District. The northern half of the riding concentrates the bulk of the riding’s Orthodox population (in the Greek areas of Greektown, Pape Village and Broadview North). Affluent, residential neighborhoods such as Old East York or parts of Riverdale (Playter Estates) has sizable concentration of mainline Protestants or Catholics.
Toronto-Danforth’s predecessor ridings – Broadview and Broadview-Greenwood (see the boundary history here) have a long NDP tradition. Broadview elected its first NDP MP in 1965, and the party held the seat until the 1988 election. Bob Rae was elected MP in a close by-election in 1978 for the NDP and was succeeded in 1982 by the NDP’s Lynn McDonald who was defeated in 1988 by the second ever Liberal to represent Broadview-Greenwood, Dennis Mills. Mills was easily reelected in all elections until 2004. In 2004, Toronto city councillor and newly-elected NDP leader Jack Layton (elected leader while out of Parliament) defeated Mills in a close contest with 46% to Mills’ 41%. As Liberal fortunes progressively collapsed in the next three elections, the Liberals no longer posed a real threat to the NDP leader in his own seat. In 2011, as the NDP surged into the official opposition, Layton won a landslide in his home turf with 61% of the vote against a mere 18% for the Liberals. The Conservatives won 14%, which was still their best performance since 1988 in a riding where they have never been a major presence since the 1980s – despite the area’s Tory history – it elected Dief-era cabinet minister George Hees between 1950 and 1963.
The Liberals have usually performed best in the northern half of the riding, especially in the affluent right-leaning areas of Woodbine Heights in Old East York, the predominantly Greek areas of Pape Village and Greektown and some of the affluent precincts in Riverdale. In 2011, the Conservatives outpaced the Liberals in Woodbine Heights and other parts of Old East York. The NDP has tended to do well in the southern half, especially Riverside, the Studio District, Leslieville, The Pocket, India Bazaar and Blake-Jones. In 2011, Jack Layton won every single poll in the riding.
Stephen Harper delayed dropping the writ until the very last moment, the first indication that the Conservative machine would not bother wasting resources on a by-election contest they would surely lose whatever they did. The climate was also somewhat unfavourable to Stephen Harper’s governing Tories, given that their support has declined somewhat since May 2011 because of a series of controversies including electoral robocalls and mishandled kerfuffles over pensions and internet surveillance.
Thus, the contest became an unequal battle between the NDP’s Craig Scott, a law professor and distinguished scholar; and Liberal candidate Grant Gordon, a marketing firm boss. Jack Layton surely cast a long shadow over the contest, as the NDP attempted to tap into a reservoir of sympathy for the riding’s popular star MP. The Liberals wanted to make people believe that they actually stood a chance (which they never did) and did invest some resources in the riding, which was to be the first test for the Liberal Party since the party’s historic electoral annihilation of sorts in May 2011.
The results were:
Craig Scott (NDP) 59.44% (-1.36%)
Grant Gordon (Liberal) 28.51% (+10.89%)
Andrew Keyes (Conservative) 5.37% (-8.95%)
Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu (Green) 4.69% (-1.77%)
Dorian Baxter (PC) 0.64%
John Christopher Recker (Libertarian) 0.41%
Christopher Porter (CAP) 0.24%
Leslie Bory (Ind) 0.24%
John C. Turmel (Ind) 0.18%
Brian Jedan (United) 0.17%
Bahman Yazdanfar (Ind) 0.11%
Turnout was fairly solid for a by-election at 43.4%, but still down a lot from 64.9% in the federal election.
The NDP and the Liberals came out of the by-election with reason to cheer. The NDP easily held the seat, as was expected, but held the seat by a very large margin and a percentage of the vote down only a bit from Jack Layton’s landslide in May 2011, when he obviously had won personal votes from traditional Liberal or Green voters. It would be hard to take anything out of this by-election, but it is still a very encouraging result for the NDP which heads into a leadership convention next weekend to replace Jack Layton and which has seen its numbers level off or drop off a bit since the party’s victory in May 2011.
The Liberals won a result which is nearly 11% better than their terrible performance in 2011, and the party actually won more raw votes than in May 2011 despite the major drop in turnout overall. This is not by any means an historic result for the Liberals, they are only returning to a level a bit below their 2008 level in the riding which was already fairly weak. The Liberals as a third party in the House have managed to do better than anyone expected after their thumping in May, and Bob Rae has proven a good interim leader for the weakened party. The post-election talk of their imminent death has shifted into speculation about their chances at returning to official opposition in a perfect storm by the time of the next federal election in 2015. They still have a long road to climb to return to even where they stood between 2006 and 2008, but their poll numbers have already increased a bit from the lows of May 2011.
The Liberals likely took back traditional left-Liberals who had voted for Layton himself in 2011 but also some more right-leaning Liberals or swing voters who had voted Conservative in May but shifted their votes, strategically, to the Liberals this year. The Conservatives had never put any effort into the riding, and won a terrible result at barely 5.4% – probably the lowest results for the Tories in the riding in recent electoral history. It would be hard to draw much from this, given that the Tories have proven that they can do terribly in by-elections they don’t care about and do spectacularly well in by-elections they heavily target. The weak result could be interpreted as a general decline in Tory fortunes since the highs of May 2011, which wouldn’t be entirely off the mark, but which is still a very tentative conclusion to make about such matters.
The NDP goes into a leadership convention next weekend, with the top contenders being Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair (the base’s favourite and the most Third Way-ish of the main contenders), backroom man Brian Topp (the establishment favourite, slightly to the left of Mulcair), Ontario MP Peggy Nash (fairly left-wing and backed by some unions) and Ontario MP Paul Dewar (more of a middle-of-the-road, centre-left figure). BC MP Nathan Cullen, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and Martin Singh are the other ‘smaller’ candidates’. The NDP leader will face the task of securing the party’s orange wave gains in Quebec – by now the party’s top base – but also reaching out to win more seats in Ontario and the West.
Provincial elections were held in Ontario on October 6, 2011. All 107 members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly were up for reelection. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and traditionally the political and economic heart of Canada, accounting for some 38% of the country’s total GDP and 39% of the country’s population. Ontario’s manufacturing economy once made it the uncontested economic centre of the country, but the progressive decline of manufacturing in recent years has weakened Ontario’s economic and political clout within Canada and transformed it into one of those “have not” provinces while the resource-based economies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland rake in profits.
Ontario has been governed since 2003 by Dalton McGuinty of the Liberal Party. McGuinty won two straight majorities in 2003 and again in 2007, a feat unprecedented for a provincial Liberal leader since Mitch Hepburn in the 1930s. Ontario’s provincial politics between 1943 and 1985 were marked by the uninterrupted of the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) and their famous Big Blue Machine. Conservative Premiers in this 42-year dynastic rule in the province were moderate centrists, with progressive views on social issues, the welfare state and social programs. Following their defeat in 1943, the provincial Liberals shifted into a small, right-wing rural rump operating out of southwestern Ontario and roughly tied to the NDP in terms of popular support. However, the PCs shifted right with the election of Frank Miller to the party’s leadership in 1985 and the defeat of the Big Blue Machine’s dominance of provincial politics in the 1985 election when David Peterson’s Liberals and Bob Rae’s NDP came to a deal allowing Peterson to govern. Reelected with a huge majority in 1987, Peterson, however, went down to defeat in the 1990 election, during which the NDP surged out of nowhere to win a strong majority government. That stunning victory, however, proved a political anomaly as the NDP’s support dwindled in the course of Bob Rae’s five-year term due to the political costs of a recession and unpopular austerity policies of a government staffed with inexperienced first-termers. In 1995, it was not the Liberal opposition but rather the PCs, reborn on the right with Mike Harris, a populist conservative and fiery advocate of a “Common Sense Revolution”, who succeeded Rae in office. The neoliberal policies and NPM-style reforms of government associated with Harris’ Common Sense Revolution were not unusual to Canada, but Mike Harris became its most famous proponent of such policies because of his ‘in-your-face’ style of governance. Under Harris, the budget was balanced and income taxes were cut by 30%, at the cost of major cuts in social spending, deregulation of the energy sector, hospital closures, nurse layoffs and labour disputes with teachers (over education reforms). Reelected in 1999 over an inexperienced McGuinty, Mike Harris’ popularity wore off in the wake of the Walkerton water contamination scandal and when he stepped down, it was the moderate Ernie Eves who replaced him on a platform of slowly doing away with the controversy and conflict of Harris’ aggressive Common Sense Revolution. The moderate Eves, however, could not resist the tide of change and was defeated in a landslide by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals.
McGuinty was not undefeatable going into the 2007 election. He had been dinged in 2004 for breaking a 2003 promise not to increase taxes, and the Liberals were weak in polls in the run-up to the 2007 election. The PCs had also gotten somebody who, initially, proved a popular and competent leader – John Tory. Tory was, like Eves, more on the party’s left and something of a Red Tory although favouring a larger role of the private sector in health care provision. However, Tory sabotaged the PC campaign when he came out in favour of extending public funding of separate religious schools to include religious schools of all denominations. In Ontario, Catholic schools are funded by the government just like public schools. The current system is unpopular, but extending the system to use tax money to fund Muslim or Jewish schools were even more unpopular. Tory misread the popular mood on the issue, and in transforming the election into a one-issue race about religious schools, he allowed the Liberals to run away with another large majority (the Liberals supported, like the NDP, the current system). Tory, who was running against a Liberal incumbent in Toronto, lost his race but did not resign the leadership of the PCs until 2009, when he was hilariously defeated in an attempt to return to the legislature in a safe Tory seat in rural Ontario.
Tory was replaced in 2009 by Tim Hudak, a Harris-era cabinet minister and a Blue Tory on the party’s right. Hudak’s strategy was to rebuild Mike Harris’ winning coalition of the 1990s uniting rural Ontario with affluent suburban voters in Toronto and the wider GTA. That same year, the NDP chose Andrew Horwath to succeed longtime leader Howard Hampton, who had failed to produce significant gains for the NDP in his three elections at the helm of the party.
At the outset of the year and after the May federal election, it looked as if it was likely that McGuinty would be defeated by Hudak’s PCs by a wide margin. McGuinty’s approval was pegged at just 16% earlier this year, and the PCs led the Liberals by over 10 points over the early summer. After eight years in power, voter fatigue was beginning to take its toll on the provincial Liberal government, and McGuinty had grown unpopular due to high taxes, a big budgetary deficit, an unpopular harmonized sales tax (HST), rising hydro bills and a eHealth scandal.
By September, however, the Liberals had managed to turn their fortunes around and transform a large deficit into a statistical tie with the PCs. Both Liberals and Tories remained statistically tied or marginally ahead of the other until the last stretch of the election, when the Liberals picked up steam and went into the final days of the campaign with a lead of 3-6 points over the PCs. McGuinty’s fightback from dead-on-arrival to a consistent lead over Hudak’s PCs lead in the final days was a pretty impressive fightback. The NDP, which won 17% in 2007, remained over their 2007 result during the course of the campaign and saw their support increase to an impressive 24-26% in the final days of the campaign after Horwath came out of the debate strengthened.
This race was Tim Hudak’s to lose. He started the pre-campaign with a wide lead, and there was no reason why he should have had trouble defeating a government with a 16% approval rating. The entire Liberal brand, furthermore, had been dealt a pretty huge blow in May (especially in Ontario), and it wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities that the provincial Liberals awaited a fate similar to that of the federal Liberals. Hudak’s campaign, undeniably, went wrong somewhere, because he turned a big lead into a tie and later into a polling deficit. Part of it might have been his past in the Harris cabinet, which is an easy target, and part of it might have been his penchant for sound-bytes rather than coherent policy. A lot of it comes from a poor platform (Liberals talked of a $14.8 billion ‘hole’ in the PC platform which would require massive cuts in health and education) and a poorly-managed populist campaign focused way too much on wedge issues like “high hydro bills”, “tax grabs” and the “tax-man” boogeyman rather than on stronger issues like a high deficit and unemployment. His insistence on transforming the Liberal pledge to give tax credits to businesses which hire new Canadians (less than 5 years in Canada) into an issue over “foreign workers” and “foreigners” went awfully wrong. A pamphlet attacking a Liberal anti-homophobia sex-ed policy was perceived as homophobic. Hudak failed to appear as a competent economic manager who could rid Ontario of a large deficit, and instead appeared as an amateurish populist who ran his entire campaign on sound-bytes and cheap catchphrases (and defending himself and his party from controversial statements). Hudak was unknown to voters before the campaign started, but he was unable to define himself before the Liberals did it for him.
To keep his party together like John Tory before him, Hudak was forced to tack right and please the most right-wing faction of the PC Party, a rural wing led by Randy Hillier. Hillier, a former boss of the very right-wing Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) had managed to get the PC nomination in the eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington in 2007. In the 2009 leadership race, Hillier’s votes had given Hudak a major boost on the second ballot. This year, the OLA’s Jack MacLaren had managed to defeat longtime PC incumbent Norm Sterling in a nomination battle in the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills. Hillier and the OLA’s influence forced Hudak to take some starkly right-wing social conservative positions such as abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This in turn alienated some moderate Red Tories and led some old Tories like Norm Sterling, Ernie Eves or John Tory to worry about the PC Party’s shift to the right, perceived by some as a transformation of the PCs into a “Canadian Tea Party”.
McGuinty, in contrast, ran a generally well-handled campaign, despite his government’s wide unpopularity. The Liberals ran very much on a series of facts which McGuinty incessantly repeated in the campaign and in the debate (to the point where it grew annoying): more jobs created in Ontario than anywhere in Canada, shorter hospital wait times, more hospitals, smaller class sizes, no teacher strikes since taking office, opening more schools and leading the country in green energy jobs (which Hudak called ‘tax grabs’). In addition, in wake of tough economic times, McGuinty, like Harper in May, ran on his experience and warned voters of uncertain change in uncertain times. Like Harper’s campaign in May, thus, McGuinty’s campaign was about the need for an experienced and proven government in tough economic times. This proved a winning strategy, as it did for Harper’s Tories in May or for the recently reelected NDP government in Manitoba.
The Liberals also had two other things helping them out. Firstly, the provincial Liberals have a much stronger organization and GOTV machine than the pathetic federal Liberals have. Secondly, Ontario voters have historically shied away from electing two governments of the same colour in Toronto and Ottawa. When Mike Harris was in power in Toronto, Ontario voted solidly Liberal federally. In the later days of the Big Blue Machine, voters placed Conservatives in power in Toronto but voted Liberal federally. After reelecting McGuinty in 2007, voters in Ontario then voted Conservative federally in 2008 and 2011.
Turnout fell to an all-time low of 49.2%, meaning that over half of voters did not go out and vote. A field of three mediocre leaders, a boring campaign with no real issue and uninspiring talking points meant an historic low in turnout, which had already been an historic low of 52.6% in the 2007 election – which, similarly, was boring with no real inspiring party or issue.
Liberal 37.62% (-4.63%) winning 53 seats (-17)
PC 35.43% (+3.81%) winning 37 seats (+12)
NDP 22.73% (+5.96%) winning 17 seats (+7)
Green 2.94% (-5.08%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 1.28% (-0.12%) winning 0 seats (nc)
With a 2.2% edge in the popular vote, the governing Liberals won a third term – the first term in nearly a hundred years that a provincial Liberal government is able to do so. However, it will be a minority government and not another of the huge majority governments of 2003 and 2007. The Liberals fell one seat short of winning another majority government, so their minority will be a ‘strong minority’ where the support of only one or two opposition MPPs will be enough to carry the day. Bringing down this government would also require all opposition PC and NDP MPPs to vote against the government on a matter of confidence. Hudak’s PCs have sternly warned McGuinty that he better heed their advice or they will bring him down, but Horwath’s NDP has taken a far more conciliatory approach, saying that all parties should work together to guarantee stability and prevent a snap election too quickly.
The Liberals won this election in seat-rich Toronto and the larger GTA region. It was Conservative gains in this same region back in May which gave them a landslide victory in Ontario and guaranteed them a majority government. This election, however, the PCs remained completely shut out of the city of Toronto and failed to gain any seats in the larger GTA region. The suburban ridings in the GTA were crucial to Harris, and Hudak’s attempt to replicate the Harris coalition of 1995 and 1999 was dependent on major gains in these ridings and similar affluent suburban ridings in the Ottawa region. The PCs did put a lot of effort into these ridings, running strong candidates in their target ridings including Rocco Rossi, a former national director of the federal Liberals, in Eglinton-Lawrence. It was thus in these must-win seats like Eglinton-Lawrence, Don Valley West, Oakville, Ottawa West-Nepean or London West that the Conservatives really lost this election.
Two people can be blamed for this: Hudak himself and Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Elected in 2010, Toronto’s conservative mayor Rob Ford (although officially non-partisan, he is openly conservative) has grown quite unpopular with Toronto voters because of his controversial efforts to trim the city’s budget by cutting local library services, among other things. Stephen Harper coming out alongside Rob Ford and calling for a “hat trick” and electing Hudak provincially to “clean up the mess” didn’t help Hudak’s cause much. But Hudak himself is the one who deserves most of the blame. His amateurish populist campaign focused excessively on sound-bytes about tax grabs and foreign workers, and stuff about how Ontario is doing very badly didn’t resonate with crucial affluent, well-educated suburban voters. These voters like Harper because they believe Canada has done well in the recession, so they don’t really like Hudak’s talk about how hard life is in Ontario these days. If he had run a well-managed and coherent campaign about the deficit and the need for a more balanced budget, and in the process appeared as a moderate and competent economic manager, Hudak would likely have carried these voters. His populist campaign of sound-bytes, talking points and jumbled up ideas with little coherence didn’t appeal to those voters.
In May, Harper had done so well in Ontario because he had won those suburban voters in the GTA and traditionally conservative voters in rural Ontario – the same thing Mike Harris had done in his two elections. Hudak only managed to do one of those things: win the traditionally conservative voters in rural Ontario, a region where his social conservatism and economic populism plays out better. The PCs scored the bulk of their gains in rural Ontario, especially rural southwestern Ontario, an historically Liberal-voting block which the provincial Liberals had carried in 2007. In a lot of these ridings, they were helped by the retirement of popular long-time Liberal MPPs. The Conservatives won rural ridings such as Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Chatham-Kent-Essex, Elgin-Middlesex-London and Nipissing by wide margins after the retirement of incumbent Liberals. They also managed to knock off, although more narrowly, Liberal incumbents in Huron-Bruce, Perth-Wellington, Prince Edward-Hastings or Northumberland-Quinte West. They fell short, however, in the Francophone eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, an old Liberal fortress weakened by the retirement of the popular Liberal incumbent. In Essex, the death of the longtime Liberal MPP before the election helped the NDP gain the seat with a narrow margin over the PCs while the Liberals placed a distant third.
In must-win suburban ridings, however, the PCs often fell short. In much of downtown Toronto, there was a net swing towards the Liberals, and, by consequence, oftentimes a swing against the PCs or NDP. The PCs had not won a single seat in Toronto in 2007 either, but came within 6% in Eglinton-Lawrence and winning 11% in Don Valley West. This year, the Tories were 21% short in Eglinton-Lawrence a full 28% short in Don Valley West, both ridings in which the Liberal incumbent improved on his or her 2007 result by a significant amount. They came a bit closer in York Centre, but the swing against the Liberals and to the PCs in that riding was still below the provincial average. In Oakville, the Conservatives fell short by 10% and other targets such as London West or Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale weren’t even close. In Ottawa, the Conservatives failed to knock off incumbent Liberal MPP and former mayor Bob Chiarelli in Ottawa West-Nepean by a much closer 2.3% margin despite having a pretty high-profile former columnist as their candidate. In my own riding of Ottawa-Orleans, where the Liberals won by a bit less than 6%, the Conservatives could not defeat an incumbent Liberal despite a string of endorsements from newspapers and two local councillors. All of these ridings are held federally by Conservative MPs, and all of them are some of the must-win ridings for a Conservative majority in Ontario.
The result of this strange state of affairs is that the four best Liberal results in all of Ontario come from affluent, well-educated urban/suburban ridings: St. Paul’s (58.4), Don Valley West (58.3), Toronto Centre (54.9) and Eglinton-Lawrence (54.3). What’s more, both Don Valley West and Eglinton-Lawrence are held by the Tories federally. Urban voters were definitely put off by Hudak’s feisty rural populism, and similar voters in suburban ridings preferred to stay the course with the Liberals – just like they had preferred to stay the course with the Conservatives federally. In other similarly well-educated, generally affluent and urbane ridings such as Kingston, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo or Ottawa Centre there was a net swing to the Liberals. This year’s Liberal coalition is thus affluent, highly educated, very urban or suburban and whiter than before.
The NDP did well in this election, gaining seven seats and improving their popular vote by nearly 6% to win the best result for the Ontario NDP since the end of the Rae years. It was perhaps not as much as they could have hoped for, with polling giving the NDP up to 26% support, but it is still a rather significant result for them. Horwath performed strongly in the debate and her “putting people first” platform appealed to some voters who disliked both McGuinty and Hudak. The NDP’s results, however, were quite interesting. They won big in rural northern Ontario, but failed to perform as well as expected in urban areas in northern Ontario such as Sudbury or Thunder Bay. They performed well in industrial Hamilton, where they won the last Liberal held seat, or in London where they picked up London-Fanshawe. In both Windsor ridings, they fell far short of winning, but they did score a surprising upset in neighboring Essex. In Toronto, they picked up Davenport, largely on the back of a collapse in the Green vote. One of their most significant gains was Jagmeet Singh’s victory in the suburban multicultural riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Singh had come within 539 votes of winning the same seat in the May federal election, and managed to do so this election, in the process becoming the first NDP representative either federally or provincially from the Peel region.
There are other strong performances in the NDP’s results across the province, indicating room for growth. The NDP did well in rural Ontario, and also performed rather well in poorer, multicultural ridings in Toronto such as Scarborough-Rouge River (the NDP came within 6% of knocking off the Liberals) – a formerly solidly Liberal seat now held federally by the NDP, or York West. At the same time, poor Liberal showings in parts of Mississauga, Brampton, Scarborough and Vaughan should be cause for concern for the Liberals. Poor Liberal showings in the bulk of rural Ontario should also concern some Liberals, but Liberal majorities without strong performances in rural Ontario are certainly not impossible.
In other ridings, however, the NDP did not do as well as expected. Former MPP Paul Ferreira failed to win back his old seat of York South-Weston, but most significantly the NDP came within 2.8% of losing the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina to the Liberals. The Liberals also performed threateningly well in other NDP-held seats in Toronto including Parkdale-High Park and Beaches-East York. Another heartbreak for the NDP was Ottawa Centre, which is held by the NDP’s Paul Dewar federally and which the NDP came within 4% of winning in 2007 against then first-time candidate Yasir Naqvi. Despite a strong NDP effort, Naqvi increased his vote by over 11% and turned a marginal hold on his seat into a 17.7% margin. The NDP also performed poorly, when compared to its May 2011 result, in next-door Ottawa-Vanier.
Why did the NDP perform so poorly in these downtown ridings in did so well in back in May? Andrea Horwath led a very populist campaign, and her key points: taking the HST off gas/hydro or cancelling a Toronto commuter rail project because the trains are made in Quebec – did not do the NDP much favours in bobo-type well educated urban ridings such as Trinity-Spadina or Ottawa Centre. Cancelling light rail didn’t go down well in downtown Toronto, and voters in such urban ridings don’t really benefit from taking the HST off the price of gas, because most of them don’t drive to work. The NDP platform appealed much more to old manufacturing towns such as Hamilton or eastern London, and not as much to downtown urban ridings where Horwath’s shift away from the NDP’s traditional pro-environment positions left some traditional NDP voters out in the dark.
The Greens, with less than 3%, returning to the 2003 lows. The Greens were hurt by the lack of media coverage for their campaign and their exclusion from the debates. The closeness of this election likely encouraged a lot of their voters to vote strategically for either the Liberals and NDP, who both benefited from a collapse in the Green vote in various constituencies. The Greens tend to perform much better when the election’s outcome is not in much doubt or when no other party is able to connect with voters. The Green leader Mike Schreiner won only 8.8% in Simcoe-Grey and the best Green result was 14.6% in Dufferin-Caledon.
Three federal and one provincial (in Quebec) by-elections were held in Canada on Monday, November 29. Of the four total by-elections, three were close and one of those three was a major surprise. At the federal level, the constituencies of Vaughan (ON), Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette (MB) and Winnipeg North (MB) fell vacant following the retirement of their sitting members to run in the October municipal elections in Ontario and Manitoba. Ultimately, only Vaughan Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua was successful in that race, with Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Tory MP Inky Mark and Winnipeg North NDPer Judy Wasylycia-Leis being unsuccessful. In Quebec, the provincial riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata fell vacant after the resignation and death (the same day) of provincial cabinet minister Claude Béchard, a Liberal who had held the seat since a 1997 by-election.
The federal series ultimately didn’t include a Quebec riding (Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia fell vacant on October 22), but given that all three major parties were defending a seat, it was seen as a good test for all three parties and especially Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals. In Quebec, the traditionally safely Liberal riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata was seen as a test for both unpopular (understatement) Liberal Premier Jean Charest and slightly less unpopular PQ leader Pauline Marois.
Vaughan covers the rapid-growth suburbs of Toronto in the electorally crucial 905 belt. The riding is the most Catholic, least Protestant and least non-religious riding in Ontario; is largely white (25% or so non-white) and quite wealthy. Nearly 54% of residents claimed Italian ancestry according to the 2006 census, a statistic supported by the high percentage of Catholics (77%), married couples (87%) and second-generation immigrants (37% – the highest in Canada). Vaughan has seen rapid growth, a lot of it from visible minorities, with a population of 154,206 in 2006 – a full 37.6% increase on 2001. It will likely be divided into two ridings following the 2011-2012 redistricting.
Vaughan’s Italian-Catholic tradition explains its reputation as a Liberal stronghold. The Liberals, Maurizio Bevilacqua in particular, have held this riding since the 1988 election, and always with double-digit majorities and oftentimes with 50-70% of the vote. However, since 2000, as has happened in similar ‘ethnic suburban Liberal stronghold’-type ridings, the Liberals have consistenly shed votes. From a 62.6% majority in 2000 (on redistributed borders), the Liberals fell to a 14.8% majority in 2008 (in 2006, they still had a 33.7% majority).
The Conservatives nominated a star candidate in former police chief Julian Fantino, who ran a mud-slinging campaign focused around the theme of law-and-order. The Liberals, on the other hand, continuing with their knack of nominating horrible candidates, found only generic businessman Tony Genco after a long search. Certainly not the best choice against a star candidate, who turned into the frontrunner. Fantino, however, was dogged by the fact that he didn’t campaign much and seemed to lead an invisible campaign which ignored all-candidate meetings.
Julian Fantino (Conservative) 49.10% (+14.46%)
Tony Genco (Liberal) 46.65% (-2.53%)
Kevin Bordian (NDP) 1.68% (-7.94%)
Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain (Green) 1.22% (-5.64%)
Paolo Fabrizio (Libertarian) 0.64%
Dorian Baxter (PC) 0.28%
Leslie Bory (Ind) 0.28%
Brian Jedan (United) 0.14%
The media seems to have considered Fantino the overwhelming favourite, so some counted his narrow win as somewhat of a setback for the Tories. Pragmatically, it’s still an important win for the Tories and one which comes in the electorally crucial 905 belt which is key to a Tory majority government. However, sensational headlines about the fall of a Liberal stronghold are a bit off the mark. As noted above, the vote has been shifting away from the Liberals in ridings such at these at a rapid pace since 2000 and there were some massive swings in ridings like these in 2008 (Dion played really, really poorly in the 905 suburbs). Of course, there is also the high possibility that a popular long-term incumbent like Bevilacqua artificially inflated Liberal numbers and may have hid the fact that Vaughan was really a marginal riding in the end. The NDP and the Greens were crushed very badly, winning just over 1% of the vote each. A case of strategic voting if you’ve ever seen it, especially amplified because the race was covered as an exclusively Liberal-Tory affair.
The percentages may throw us off a bit, but the NDP and the Greens’ squeeze probably helped the Liberals more than the Tories. Turnout was only 32%, 20 points less than in 2008, but the Tories held on to all but 130 of their 2008 votes. That might indicate that Fantino was really good at maximizing Conservative turnout, but in the end might not have gotten a lot of votes from 2008 Liberal or NDP voters. The bottom line here is a Conservative victory smaller in size than originally anticipated, a decent Liberal defense effort and a total collapse of other votes.
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, a rural riding in western Manitoba, was the least interesting of the contests. It is a typical western rural riding, with 27% employed in agriculture, 24% of aboriginal ancestry with most residents claiming distant European, in this region often Ukrainian, ancestry. The Liberals won this riding in 1993, but only with 32% of the vote against a split right and a strong NDP. The CCF and NDP also held this riding in the distant past, most recently in 1980. Retiring MP Inky Mark was elected for the Reform Party in 1997, reelected for the Alliance in 2000 and for the Tories since then. Since this riding took its current form in 2000, the Tories have never won by less than 27% and Mark won by a 45% margin in 2008 over the NDP.
Robert Sopuck (Conservative) 56.73% (-4.81%)
Denise Harder (NDP) 26.26% (+9.71%)
Christopher Scott Sarna (Liberal) 10.28% (-3.59%)
Kate Storey (Green) 5.61% (-0.9%)
Jerome Dondo (CHP) 1.11% (-0.1%)
No surprises here. Despite low turnout – only 26.9% (lowest of the 3, likely caused by bad weather) – the Conservatives held on by a big margin. The NDP also won its only good showing of the night, winning nearly 10% more than in 2008. While the Liberals saved their deposit, they collapsed to a new low, which certainly isn’t a good sign. These numbers seem to show that the Liberals are becoming increasingly irrelevant in rural areas – especially those out west, where the non-Tory vote is shifting to the NDP at a rapid pace since 2004 or so. The Greens did best here, probably helped a bit by Inky Mark’s endorsement.
Winnipeg North is a inner-city urban riding in northern Winnipeg, was supposed to be safe NDP. Covering most of Winnipeg’s north-end, which is a cosmopolitan impoverished working-class area, the seat has a long CCF-NDP history. The riding has the highest percentage in western Canada of manufacturing jobs (19%) and is only 48% white with 20% aboriginal and 32% of visible minorities. Notably, Winnipeg North has the country’s largest Filipino population – 21%.
CCF founder and labour activist J.S. Woodsworth represented part of the present-day seat between 1925 and 1942, and the NDP has been dominant since then with a few exceptions. A Liberal, Ray Pagtakhan, represented a part of the current seat in the 90s. The current seat of Winnipeg North has been held by Judy Wasylycia-Leis since its 2000 creation (she represented the old Winnipeg North Centre, which makes up 73% of this riding, between 1997 and 2000). The Liberals were within 10% on redistributed results in 2000, and within 12% in 2004. But in 2008, they won only 9.2% while the Tories managed a ‘record’ 22.4%. Winnipeg North was the NDP’s second-best seat overall in 2008 with 63% of the vote. Amusingly, the Communists have always done ‘well’ here, sometimes breaking 1%. They had won 27% in 1945, but their vote collapsed shortly thereafter.
The Liberals had a star candidate, provincial Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux, who has managed to win rather easily in the traditionally NDP seat of Inkster for a few years. The NDP nominated Kevin Chief, an aboriginal with roots in the aboriginal community. The Conservatives nominated Julie Javier, a Filipina, in an attempt to hinder the Liberals and NDP with the Filipino vote. The Conservatives thought they stood a chance, running a law-and-order campaign, and even sent Harper to make a visit.
Kevin Lamoureux (Liberal) 46.32% (+37.11%)
Kevin Chief (NDP) 41.17% (-21.42%)
Julie Javier (Conservative) 10.45% (-11.90%)
John T. Harvie (Green) 0.72% (-4.06%)
Jeff Coleman (Pirate) 0.60%
Frank Komarniski (Communist) 0.45% (-0.22%)
Eric Truijen (CHP) 0.29%
This is a seat which the NDP had absolutely no business losing. The Liberals were going to do well no matter what because of their star candidate, but the NDP had no excuse for losing their second safest seat and the safest in the Prairies. The Liberal win was a major surprise, which almost nobody had predicted. Part of it, a lot in fact, comes from a top-notch candidate who has managed to win elections here (well, part of the riding) as a non-Dipper and has done so pretty convincingly. Another thing is that low turnout by-elections (31% in this case) here are detrimental to the NDP, whose electorate is poorer and thus more likely to turn out (but – turnout was only 43% in 2008 and the NDP still won by 40%) especially when the weather is bad (like it was on Monday, apparently). It remains to be seen if this result a by-election fluke as the NDP would like to believe, or if it is confirmed in a general election. Still, Lamoureux will be very vulnerable in a higher-turnout general election.
The overall narrative of these by-elections are favourable to the Conservatives (thought not as much as some think), mixed-bag for the Liberals and poor for the NDP. Winning Vaughan is definitely a good thing for the Tories, which proves that they are still very competitive in the 905 and that they still stand a decent chance at picking up seats there on their route to a majority. That being said, it remains to be seen if Fantino won only by a strong Tory turnout organization effort or if he genuinely broke through with ancestrally Liberal voters. If it’s the former, it’s bad for the Tories which means they still need to work on appealing beyond their base. If it’s the latter, it’s good news for the Tories overall. For the Liberals, losing Vaughan is definitely bad but they remain competitive there despite nominating an awful candidate against a star candidate. Vaughan certainly isn’t Ignatieff’s Outremont. Winning Winnipeg North cancels out the loss in Vaughan, but it remains a shaky win which is more likely than not to be a fluke, but it shows that local Liberal candidates are still very much competitive even in non-traditionally Liberal areas and in urban areas out west (where they’ve suffered a lot since 2006). For the NDP, it’s bad (with the exception of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) and losing Winnipeg North is beyond awful. For the Greens, it’s bad, but by-elections are awful things for them as a rule.
A by-election was also held in Kamouraska-Témiscouata on Monday. This seat had been held since a 1997 by-election by Liberal Claude Béchard who was a popular cabinet minister until his death/resignation on September 7. Kamouraska-Témiscouata is 99% French, and is a typical rural Quebec constituency. But it gave only 53% of the votes to the YES in the 1995 referendum, and has been held by the Liberals since 1985. The Bas-Saint-Laurent region is not hardcore nationalistic, especially when compared to the North Shore (and places like Lanaudière), but it isn’t a federalist stronghold either (unlike Beauce, for example). While this is not a swing riding per se, the PQ certainly needs to do well here (not necessarily win, it only won in 1976 and 1981) and in the general area in order to win provincially. The region is definitely conservative, and the ADQ did well here in the past. Béchard did really well in 2008, winning 53.7%, perhaps a number artificially inflated a bit by sympathy over his battle with cancer. The ADQ won 36.7% here in 2007 (against 39.7% for Béchard) and managed second in 2008 with 21.6% (against 21.1% for the PQ).
The Liberals nominated Béchard’s predecessor in this seat, France Dionne, who held the seat between 1985 and 1997.
André Simard (PQ) 36.85% (+15.70%)
France Dionne (Liberal) 35.85% (-17.85%)
Gérald Beaulieu (ADQ) 23.03% (+1.47%)
Serge Proulx (QS) 2.67% (-0.27%)
Frédéric Brophy Nolan (Green) 1.60%
The PQ’s victory is certainly very bad news for the Liberals. It isn’t surprising, given that Charest has a 16% approval rating and that 77% of people want him gone, but some had thought this seat was too safe for the Liberals for them to lose it. The Liberal’s hope was that the anti-Liberal vote would split evenly between the PQ and ADQ, but in the end while the ADQ gained a bit of ground, the anti-Liberal vote coalesced around the PQ. The Liberals suffered a massive swing against them, a swing which, if repeated provincially, would kill off most Liberal MNAs except those on the West Island. The ADQ, on its side, managed to hold its head up high a bit, a respite in their collapse since 2008. They could benefit a bit of the Liberal’s collapse in ridings such as this one, but the reality is that they’re still dying (and would really die if a new centre-right party is created as the buzz says) and that the anti-Liberal vote is still coalesced around the PQ. PQ leader Pauline Marois can breathe a sigh of relief, given that a lot of people had said that if she managed to lose this by-election for the party, her leadership might be at risk. She isn’t very popular, and few people are truly enthusiastic about the prospect of having her replacing Charest by 2013, but she is more popular than Charest who is well on his way to be less popular than the plague by the New Year.
Municipal elections were held throughout Ontario on October 25. Though I don’t often cover municipal elections – especially nonpartisan ones – these ones are close to home and I can offer a decent analysis and rundown of the main races with some amount of detail. This year’s electoral contests in a lot of cities were tightly contested and featured some interesting contests.
Partisan and ideological affiliations are a pain to pin-down in these nonpartisan contests, because a partisan affiliation doesn’t mean much (for example, a Conservative can vote to the left of a Liberal, and even an NDPer can become a right-winger) and candidates campaign on issues like transit, nice parks, low taxes and accountability which are hard to pin-down ideologically.
In Toronto, incumbent mayor David Miller (close to the NDP) was retiring after being in office since 2003. He was rather unpopular and the city council was attacked for its tax and spending policies, something which opened the field for right-wing councillor Rob Ford, who has made racist comments in the past and could be considered Canada’s equivalent of a tea-bagger. Rob Ford seized on public discontent with high taxes and council’s spending to build a right-wing populist campaign. The centre and left was originally split, but in the end after two high-profile candidates (Rocco Rossi and Adam Giambrone) the two main other candidates were former MPP George Smitherman (a Liberal, and former deputy premier in the McGuinty cabinet) and councillor Joe Pantalone (NDP). Smitherman had a very hard time finding his voice in the campaign and botched his campaign, even if some people rallied to him late in the game to stop Rob Ford. Pantalone was endorsed by David Miller, but the incumbent is quite unpopular. Some people thought Smitherman could emerge late as the anti-Ford candidate and some polling showed that he had narrowed the gap, but in the end Rob Ford won, and not because of voter apathy: turnout was 53%.
Rob Ford 47.11%
George Smitherman 35.61%
Joe Pantalone 11.73%
I am not a specialist on the politics of Toronto City Council and other sources will tell you more, but there does not seem to have been a major shift to the right in the makeup of the new council. Here are a few key results of interest:
- Rob Ford’s brother Doug Ford has held his brother’s seat in north Etobicoke.
- Vincent Crisanti, a populist Ford conservative also picked up north Etobicoke’s other seat from a centrist incumbent.
- Giorgio Mammoliti, a former NDPer but who has transformed into a somewhat insane populist right-winger in York West was reelected, but only with 43.8% because he faced a billion other candidates.
- In the other York West ward, the perennial bloody contest between NDP incumbent Anthony Peruzza and former Liberal incumbent Peter Li Preti was won by Peruzza with 41.5% against 38.4% for his enemy.
- In Parkdale-High Park, vaguely left-leaning Sarah Doucette knocked off right-wing Liberal Bill Saundercook by a big margin of around 10 points.
- An interesting contest in an open seat in Davenport between Liberal Ana Bailão, NDPer Kevin Beaulieu and former Green Party leader Frank de Jong was won by Bailão with 43.75% against 34.23% for Beaulieu, while de Jong took a mere 6.06%.
- Jack Layton’s son, Mike Layton, won Joe Pantalone’s open seat in Trinity-Spadina with 45.39% against 20.93% for another NDPer, Karen Sun. A more right-wing Liberal candidate, Sean McCormick took 18.16%.
- Surprisingly, in Don Valley West, incumbent Conservative Cliff Jenkins was defeated by Jaye Robinson, who seems to be centre-right (but probably is a Liberal) as well, which isn’t a surprise in the city’s most affluent ward.
- NDP candidate very narrowly leading in Toronto Centre, where Smitherman’s aide was expected to pick up this open seat.
- In Beaches-East York, Mary-Margaret McMahon (who is probably right-wing) has defeated NDP incumbent Sandra Bussin by a crushing margin, taking over 65% of the vote.
- A number of incumbents who were thought to be safe either lost or came very close to doing so, indicating an anti-incumbent mood of some sort in some areas.
In Ottawa, incumbent mayor Larry O’Brien (a Conservative) was running for re-election after winning his first term in 2006 by a sizeable margin and on record turnout. O’Brien’s popularity dwindled as a result of council’s inefficiency at doing anything, a 3-month transit strike which was badly handled by the city and the federal government, and finally a corruption case in which he was alleged to have bribed a potential mayoral candidate in 2006 to drop out. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but he still suffered considerably from having to go to court while being in office. He was challenged by former mayor and Liberal MPP Jim Watson, an ally of Premier McGuinty; and also by two smaller candidates: councillor Clive Doucet (NDP) and former regional chair Andy Haydon (Conservative). O’Brien’s campaign was very negative on Watson, but he never had much of a chance against a popular former mayor and MPP who started his campaign very early. Andy Haydon, running to the right of O’Brien on a platform designed around opposition to light-rail, also didn’t help much. Voters generally wanted change, accountability and efficiency; something which Watson could deliver without being seen as an inexperienced novice. That being said, some have noted that since Watson supports O’Brien’s two main projects: light rail and Lansdowne Park revitalization, not much is likely to change in those areas. Turnout was around 44%, high but not as high as the record set in 2006. Here are the results:
Jim Watson 48.70%
Larry O’Brien (inc) 24.06%
Clive Doucet 14.89%
Andy Haydon 7.01%
Mike Maguire 2.45%
Turnover was rather high on the city council, a good indicator that a fair share of councillors aren’t as popular as they used to be. Incumbents haven’t lost in Ottawa since 2000 or so, but this time six of them went down to defeat. Here’s a rundown of the interesting contests:
- In Bay Ward, incumbent councillor Alex Cullen (NDP), former mayoral contender, was defeated by Mark Taylor (Liberal), who took 37.8% to Cullen’s 30.3%. Terry Kilrea, a right-winger, who ran for mayor in 2003 (and was allegedly bribed out of doing so in 2006 by Larry), took a paltry 8.2% and finished fourth behind George Guirguis.
- An open seat in Knoxdale-Merivale was won by Keith Egli, who seems centrist/centre-left, with 32.7%. The three other main candidates were far behind, with James O’Grady (Liberal) taking 19.3%, Rod Vanier (Liberal) taking 17.5% and right-winger James Dean with 15.8%
- In Beacon Hill-Cyrville, incumbent councillor Michel Bellemare, who seems rather centre-left was narrowly defeated by 181 votes by Tim Tierney, a right-wing Liberal. A strong margin for Tierney in well-off Anglo suburban Beacon Hill likely helped him pull off this narrow win.
- In the downtown ward of Rideau-Vanier, incumbent councillor Georges Bédard (left-wing Liberal) was very narrowly defeated by a young university graduate, Mathieu Fleury, who seems progressive as well. Fleury took 45.69% over Bédard’s 44.84%, a margin of only 88 votes. Perhaps Fleury’s Facebook-Twitter oriented campaign helped him in a ward which includes the University of Ottawa.
- An open seat in Rideau-Rockcliffe was won by right-winger Peter Clark, who took 25.8%. The other candidates were also varying shades of centre-right or right, with Maurice Lamirande placing second with 17.4%. The most left-wing candidate, Sheila Perry, took 16.2% while Bruce Poulin, a former provincial PC candidate in 2007, took 16.1%.
- Kitchissippi ward councillor Christine Leadman, a centrist or centre-leftist, narrowly lost taking 40% to Katherine Hobbs’ 44.2%. Katherine Hobbs seems to be more right-wing than the outgoing incumbent, though in municipal politics where everybody wants low taxes, it’s hard to say.
- Another open seat in Capital, Clive Doucet’s old ward. David Chernushenko (Green) won easily in the end, with 41.3% against 19.5% for Liberal Isabel Metcalfe. Bob Brocklebank (NDP) took third with 17.1%
- In Cumberland, Red Tory incumbent Rob Jellett was defeated by Stephen Blais, who seems to be a moderate and has been endorsed by Liberals and Tories alike. Blais took 52.4% to Jellett’s 43.5%.
- In Rideau-Goulbourn, a rural ward, an old name in rural conservative politics, councillor Glenn Brooks was easily defeated. His main opponent, Scott Moffatt, who seems to be more left-wing than Brooks (such a thing is easy) and is pro-amalgamation took 52.6% to the incumbent’s 26.5%. A left-wing candidate, Bruce Webster, took 12.3%
- The open seat in Kanata-South was taken by centre-right candidate Allan Hubley who won 48.8%. Aaron Helleman (NDP), supported by 2006 mayoral candidate and Kanata’s favourite sun, Alex Munter (also NDP), took 36.4%.
The overall shape of the new council has been described as being slightly centre-right, sort of Red Tory or blue Liberal, which should be generally favourable to Jim Watson. Watson’s proposal to cut council from 23 seats to 14-17 seats, however, probably won’t work given that incumbents don’t tend to vote in favour of abolishing their own seats.
In other races across Ontario, a few incumbents went down to defeat. Hamilton‘s mayoral contest, scheduled to be a rematch of the 2006 contest between Red Tory incumbent Fred Eisenberger – who was endorsed by NDP MP (and former mayor) David Christopherson in 2006 – and former mayor right-wing Liberal Larry Di Ianni on the other hand was hijacked by Bob Bratina (NDP?) running to the left of both. Bratina won easily with 37.3% against 28.4% for Di Ianni and 27.4% for Eisenberger. In London, incumbent mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best (in office since 2000) lost a rematch against former right-wing Liberal MP Joe Fontana (described by some as a teabagger) who won 47.2% against 44.8% for the incumbent. In hilarious Mississauga, 89-year old incumbent Hazel McCallion (in office since 1978) won ‘only’ 76.4%. In Greater Sudbury, NDP incumbent John Rodriguez lost to right-winger Marianne Matichuk, also described as a teabagger, who won 46.1% to the incumbent’s 36.5%. Finally, in Vaughan former Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua defeated corrupt incumbent Linda Jackson and former Liberal MPP Mario Racco. Bevilacqua took 64.2% against 14.5% for the incumbent and 14.4% for Racco.
There were two provincial by-elections in Ontario on March 4, both of them in Eastern Ontario. In Ottawa West-Nepean, MPP Jim Watson (Liberal) retired to run in the fall municipal elections in Ottawa; while in Leeds-Grenville, long time PC MPP Bob Runciman was appointed by Harper to the Senate. Ottawa West-Nepean’s by-election was by far the most watched of the two, the riding being one which the Conservatives will need to win in 2011 if they’re to return to power.
Ottawa West-Nepean is located in the western part of Ottawa, including the inner suburbs of the city, such as parts of Nepean. Like most of Ottawa’s west-side, the riding is largely Anglophone (63%) and generally well-off, though it has a significant visible minority population (around 25%) and describing it as a ‘wealthy white suburban riding’ would be quite off the mark. It’s a upper middle-class area, along the lines of Etobicoke in Toronto. The riding, which has a large population of federal government employees, has been a swing riding. John Baird has represented the riding federally since 2006, having previously served as MPP in Queen’s Park since 1995. Provincially, former popular Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has held the seat since 2003, winning re-election in 2007 by an exceptionally large margin, undoubtedly because of his local popularity. The PCs held the seat between 1999 and 2003, but Bob Chiarelli held the seat in the Mike Harris landslide of 1995, due more to personal and local factors than anything else (arguably, it would have gone PC were it not for these factors). With PC leader Tim Hudak counting to win the 2011 election on the same coalition which carried Harris in 1995 and 1999, this is certainly one of the ridings which the PC would need to win in 2011: a middle-class suburban seat.
The Liberals nominated another former Mayor of Ottawa, Bob Chiarelli (defeated in 2006), Chiarelli having previously represented the area until 1995. The PC candidate was Beth Graham, the NDP candidate was Pam Fitzgerald and the Green candidate was Mark Mackenzie. John Turmel contested his 73rd election here.
Bob Chiarelli (Liberal) 43.46% (-7.16%)
Beth Graham (PC) 38.99% (+7.26%)
Pam Fitzgerald (NDP) 8.43% (-1.26%)
Mark Mackenzie (Green) 8.31% (+2.03%)
John Turmel (Ind) 0.81%
The reactions to this results have been a bit all over the place, with the Liberals claiming that it’s a very strong result for them in a swing riding which is blue federally; but PCs have said that their little-known candidate’s good result is a sign of a swing back to them. Some Tories also referred to this as a ‘traditionally Liberal riding’, which is obviously intellectually dishonest. The 4-point margin is about the margin I was expecting, after the retirement of a popular incumbent with probably a large personal vote. But the truth remains that the PCs will need to actually win ridings like Ottawa West if they’re to win in 2011. Doing relatively well in them and losing by a 4-point margin won’t be enough.
I mentioned in my previous post, available here that the nomination race for the PCs in Leeds-Grenville was interesting, featuring a race between Steve Clark (former mayor of Brockville), the candidate supported by the establishment; and Shawn Carmichael of the radical Ontario Landowners Association (OLA), a group of feisty rough rural rightists. I mentioned the possibility of the OLA candidate running as an independent, but in the end Clark won and Carmichael didn’t run as an independent. Leeds-Grenville, located in rural eastern Ontario on the shores of the St. Lawrence, is a very rural (and all the things that come with it, Protestant and English) conservative area. Its previous long-time MPP, Bob Runciman, had won re-election in 2007 with 56% of the vote, after facing a surprisingly tough race in 2003. However, it is interesting to note that federally this riding went Liberal in 1988, the free-trade election won by Mulroney’s Tories. The Liberal sacrificial lamb was Stephen Mazurek, the NDP’s was Steve Armstrong and the Green candidate was Neil Kudrinko. The Libertarian Party ran in this seat with Anthony Giles.
Scott Clark (PC) 66.60% (+10.36%)
Stephen Mazurek (Liberal) 20.05% (-8.62%)
Neil Kudrinko (Green) 7.70% (+0.51%)
Steve Armstrong (NDP) 5.18% (-1.79%)
Anthony Giles (Libertarian) 0.46%
Unsurprising large PC win, but I’m somewhat surprised by such a good result for the PCs, which even beats the 58.4% amassed by federal Conservative MP Gord Brown in his 2008 landslide victory.
There was a provincial by-election for Ontario Legislature in the riding of Toronto Centre last night held after the resignation of incumbent MPP George Smitherman (Liberal) to run for Mayor of Toronto in the Ontarian municipal elections scheduled for the fall.
Toronto Centre covers part of the downtown core of Toronto and is a diverse riding in terms of income and ethncity, including both the exclusive affluent area of Rosedale in the northern part of the riding but also some of Toronto’s oldest poor neighborhoods such as Regent Park and St. Jamestown. It also includes more wealthy but liberal areas such as part of the University of Toronto or the city’s gay neighborhood, Church and Wellesley. The riding has been held since its creation in 1999 by the Ontario Liberals, and the federal riding is held by Bob Rae of the Liberal Party.
The Liberal candidate was former Winnipeg Mayor Glen Murray, the NDP candidate was Cathy Crowe, nurse and homelessness activist and the PC candidate was Pamela Taylor, lawyer and 2007 candidate. There was also a Green candidate and the perennial independent, John Turmel. In the 2007 provincial election, Smitherman won 47.8% against 20.4% for the PCs, 18.9% for the NDP and 9.7% for the Greenie.
Glen Murray (OLP) 47.04% (-0.71%)
Cathy Crowe (NDP) 33.14% (+14.28%)
Pamela Taylor (PC) 15.38% (-5.03%)
Stefan Premdas (Green) 3.08% (-6.58%)
Raj Rama (Ind) 0.39%
Heath Thomas (Libertarian) 0.38% (-1.11%)
Wayne Simmons (Freedom) 0.34%
John Turmel (Ind) 0.26%
The results were rather surprising. The overall result is great for the NDP, decent for the Liberals (especially considering they’ve been struggling in polls these last months) and bad for Tim Hudak’s PCs.
While no polling seems to have picked this up nor have any major journalists, this could indicate that urban discontent over the Liberal government’s anti-recession efforts is turning to the left – the NDP – and not to the right. The Liberal economic policies have been criticized for being too right-wing. This could also indicate that the PC replacing their old leader – John Tory – who had a more urban and liberal image with a more rural conservative like Tim Hudak has cost them votes in urban ridings where their vote comes from well-off voters. Obviously, this is only a by-election and nobody knows if these are trends or electoral flukes.
The PCs under Tim Hudak face a tough time and Hudak’s efforts to assemble a second Mike Harris coalition is easier said than done, as he’s finding out. Hudak, a right-wing PCer, has sidelined the urban Red Tories (liberal PCers, more like John Tory) in a way which is potentially dangerous. To win in 2011, Hudak must break through in suburban ridings in the GTA and other similar ridings in the Ottawa area, where most Ontarians now live. Voters here aren’t likely to be a fan of Hudak’s brand of more rural conservatism from the Niagara area, and he needs to appeal to more centrist urbane Tories as well as multicultural voters, something which the federal Conservatives have managed to do generally well in the GTA, especially in the 2008 election.
Hudak’s strategy faces a double-test on March 4, with two by-elections scheduled for Ottawa West-Nepean and Leeds-Greenville. Held federally by the Tories (under John Baird), but provincially by McGuinty’s Liberals, Ottawa West-Nepean is a suburban and affluent riding west of downtown Ottawa. It is an absolute must win for Hudak if he wants to prove that he’s able to win with his current strategy in 2011. And the Red Tories come in here. Despite the PC candidates in this by-election and St. Paul’s last year being Red Tories, both were attached far too closely to Hudak and Hudak’s PC sidelined their centrist credentials and forced them to take on his anti-HST blue Tory posture.
But, at the same time, there is a by-election in Leeds-Greenville on the same day after Harper appointed the incumbent Tory MPP, Bob Runciman, a long-time MPP and Hudak’s likely finance minister, to the Senate. Leeds-Greenville is a very white (98%) – WASP (58% Protestant in 2001), very rural riding in eastern Ontario, the most conservative area of Ontario. Runciman won 56% of the vote in 2007, and the area has always been Conservative – at least in the last 20-30 years. The danger here for Hudak is a challenge from the right, and the candidate of the far-right Ontario Landowners Association in the PC nomination race scheduled for February 7. In 2007, the Landowners got their loud-mouth leader Randy Hillier the PC candidacy in Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, after threatening to run independent candidates in 2007. Tory in his time and Hudak must appease Hillier, but the nomination race in Leeds-Greenville pits the candidate supported by the establishment and the former MPP, but also Shawn Carmichael, vice-president of the Leeds and Grenville Landowners Association and a close ally of Randy Hillier. Hudak must appease the radical right enough so that the feisty Landowners don’t run a dissident candidate to the PC’s right which could open up the road to a Liberal win due to vote-splitting on the right. The Liberal Scarf blog notes that in a 1982 provincial by-election in the same area, a Libertarian running to the PC’s right won 13.4%, though the PCs still won.
At the same time as he tries to appease the Landowners, Hudak must appeal to more urban conservative voters, who will provide his bulk of support if he’s to win in 2011. On March 4, he must win in Ottawa if he’s to prove to his skeptics that he can re-assemble Mike Harris’ coalition including suburban voters, but at the same time he must not lose Leeds-Greenville or even allow the election there to be close. If he doesn’t satisfy both of these conditions, he could come under increasing fire within his party from the Red Tories and the radicals, and his strategy of presenting himself as Mike Harris’ reincarnation might not be such a great idea.
St. Paul’s, a provincial (and federal, by this concerns the provincial) constituency in northern downtown Toronto (Ontario) held a by-election yesterday to replace Michael Bryant, the incumbent Liberal MPP who got into hot water in the last days or weeks after killing a cyclist (the incident was not the cause of his resignation, he resigned in June). The constituency, a rather affluent one with a strong Italian community and a large young professional population is considered a Liberal stronghold since around 1999, when Bryant won the constituency from the Progressive Conservatives. However, there was a lot of talk in recent days that the PC might give the Liberal candidate, Eric Hoskins, a sweat or even win it themselves due to a tough summer for the Ontario Liberal government and controversy over the HST, Harmonized Sales Tax (merging the federal 5% Goods and Services Tax with the 8% Retails Sales Tax). Those who predicted a PC win in this urban Toronto riding have quite an epic fail on their hands.
Eric Hoskins (Liberal) 47.60% (+0.17%)
Sue-Ann Levy (PC) 28.33% (+1.79%)
Julian Heller (NDP) 16.88% (+1.14%)
Chris Chopik (Green) 5.47% (-2.87%)
John Kittredge (Libertarian) 0.58% (+0.05%)
Danish Ahmed (Special Needs) 0.34%
Marius Frederick (Independent) 0.30%
Paul McKeever (Freedom) 0.22% (-0.04%)
John C. Turmel (Independent) 0.19%
Raj Rama (Independent) 0.09%
Liberal hold (Swing: 0.98% from Liberal to PC)
A poor showing for the PC, which seems to have hoped that there would be a large vote against the Liberal government and the HST, which they and the NDP oppose. Either these voters, assuming they exist in important numbers, didn’t turn out, which would be surprising since these kinds of anti-government voters are more likely to turn out than pro-government voters are; or or there is simply little to no negative reaction to the HST or the various scandalish issues which dampened the Liberal mood over the last days of summer. In addition, another instance of a major flop for a so-called star candidate, Sue-Ann Levy, a Jewish lesbian journalist (for the Toronto Sun) but also an ultra-conservative (which isn’t popular in Toronto). And a poor start, possibly, for the new PC leader, the conservative Tim Hudak, who’s been called by detractors the second coming of Mike Harris. Does this mean that the PC’s shift to the right hasn’t received popular approval? Possibly, but one Liberal stronghold in Toronto is not a good sample, and also, it’s a by-election (you know what that means).
September is a busy month here in Canada for electoral politics, both at the provincial and federal levels. I’ll wait until the end of the week to see what is in store for us at the federal level, with the possibility of a snap federal election around the corner. However, there are a total of five provincial by-elections being held in September, in four different provinces. There has been no national media coverage of any of these elections, obviously, not even one here in Ontario. However, that doesn’t make them any less interesting.
Calgary-Glenmore (Alberta) votes tomorrow, September 14, to replace outgoing Progressive Conservative MLA Ron Stevens. Calgary-Glenmore is an affluent safe Conservative seat in southwest Calgary, which is represented federally by Stephen Harper. In 2008, Ron Stevens won 50.67% of the vote against Avalon Roberts, the Liberal candidate, who won 33.17%. The Wildrose Alliance, a right-wing provincial party (to the right of the PCs) won 8.07%. The Greens won 4.33% and the NDP won 3.76%. Avalon Roberts, renominated as the Liberal candidate, will face Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart of the PC. Two party leaders are also candidates, Paul Hinman for the Wildrose Alliance and Len Skowronski for SoCred. There is a NDP candidate, but no Green candidate. Most analysts doubt that this seat will change hands, but the PC could be in for a cold shower due to rising discontent with the provincial government’s handling of the economic crisis. In addition, Paul Hinman, a businessman, is a good candidate for the Wildrose Alliance, which hopes to drop its rural redneck image for a more cosmopolitan profile. A good showing by Hinman on the back of PC voters could make this race an interesting race to watch, for once that Albertan elections are interesting.
St. Paul’s (Ontario) votes on September 17. St. Paul’s is a relatively white (by local standards) and affluent constituency in the northern area of downtown Toronto. While it used to be Conservative provincially except for the period between 1987 and 1995 (Liberal until 1990, NDP until 1995), the Liberals won it in 1999 and have held it with nice margins since. The Liberals win the heavily Italian areas to the west, but also the east of the riding, which is home to relatively affluent young professionals. The Conservative polls are mostly in the centre of the riding, in the uber-rich area of Forest Hills. If the Conservatives appealed to young professionals, they could definitely win this seat again. In 2007, the Liberal won 47.5% against 26.6% for the PC, while the NDP and Greens won 15.7% and 8.3% respectively. The Liberal candidate is a former federal Liberal candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk and a former CEO of War Child Canada. Sue-Ann Levy, a Jewish lesbian but strongly conservative, is the PC candidate. The NDP and Greens are also running candidates, in addition to a host of independents and joke party candidates, including John Turmel running for the 70th time (and his 69th actual election). The Liberals will win it handily.
Rousseau (Quebec) votes on September 21. The riding of Rousseau is a largely rural riding on the north shore (of the St. Lawrence), with some parts in the Laurentides region and others in Lanaudière. The riding is strongly nationalist, voting with over 60% of the vote for independence in 1995, but, like most of the region, quite conservative. The incumbent MNA was the Pequiste (nationalist) François Legault, a Air Transat executive-turned-cabinet-minister who became known for his dislike of being in the opposition (despite being, imo, a fine representative) and his soft nationalism. After sweating a bit in 2007, when most of the surrounding ridings went from PQ cyan to ADQ navy blue, he was handily re-elected in 2008 with 56.77% against 22.33% for the Liberal candidate. The conservative ADQ won 16.41%, Quebec solidaire (QS, a nationalist and democratic socialist party) won 2.44% and the Greens 2.05%. The PQ candidate is Nicolas Marceau, an economist. The Liberals, ADQ and QS are running their 2008 candidates, while the Greens are running their leader, Guy Rainville. The ADQ seems to have put a bit of effort into the riding, though with the party declining ever so slowly into irrelevance, they’ll probably have a cold shower. The PQ should have little trouble winning this seat, despite a Liberal lead provincially.
Regina Douglas Park and Saskatoon Riversdale (Saskatchewan) also vote on September 21. Both seats were held by the opposition NDP, Saskatoon Riversdale being the seat of former NDP Premier Lorne Calvert. While Regina Douglas Park is a mid-income slightly artsy place, Saskatoon Riversdale covers a mostly low-income area of Saskatoon. In both seats, the NDP blew the conservative Saskatchewan Party and the irrelevant Liberals and Greenies out of the water in 2007 – and broke 60% in Saskatoon Riversdale. Despite SaskParty Premier Brad Wall’s popularity, the NDP should face little trouble in either by-election and will likely see its new leader, Dwain Lingenfelter win Regina Douglas Park in a landslide.