Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vaughan: Destined to go blue?

Warren Kinsella says it will, as are most Sun columnists. Even the notoriously Liberal-leaning Star thinks it'll fall into Harper's cold, steely grip. So is there any real hope left for the Liberals in Vaughan?

Call me naive, but I personally think that Tony Genco has a fighting chance in the riding. Fantino's star power aside, there's not much to offer in the way of a Conservative organization in Vaughan. What they have is the central party throwing the kitchen sink at the riding, calling in celebrity endorsements and keeping Fantino's positive name recognition from going to the shitter because of a stupid things he may end up saying, employing the famous "Dianne Haskett" strategy. Does this sound like a confident party machine to you? The media certainly makes it seem like it is.

But regardless, there's something I think a lot of these pundits are missing: the Liberals aren't exactly dead in the riding. Not by a long-shot. And it isn't because of Genco's amazing star power, or because the Liberal Party has done an amazing job keeping the riding on its radar, but because of cold, hard, and simple district politics.

In my first half-interesting post on Vaughan, I explained why it is the Liberals have the advantage here based simply on Bevilacqua's ability to win polls and get-out-the-vote in 2008. There is such a large base in Vaughan for the Genco campaign to have worked off of that it's impossible to not notice. Liberal support came out in all the right places, and if the Liberals did anything right in this by-election, they're working on those same areas again. Fantino might have the name recognition, but Genco's campaign has the numbers. Who's to say that smart strategy can't beat out flashy gimmickry?

But, consider this, as well: Fantino's name recognition is a double-edged sword. He has supporters, and he doesn't. He has people organizing direct campaigns against him, however pathetic they may be. He's not a saint by any means, and the voting population of Vaughan knows this. Parties, including the Liberals, want him because they think his name recognition is enough to win, but what if Fantino's name works in the opposite direction, and turns more people off than on? This is a risk no doubt that all parties considered, and the Conservatives decided to run with it. It may backfire yet.

What about Genco's own media star power as well? He may not be as well known as Fantino in Vaughan, but the Liberals, and Genco himself, are out there, trying their best to combat the notion that name recognition = hardworking MP. Surely, for those even interested in voting in the by-election, Genco's face popping up everywhere must make its mark.What of the Sorbara endorsement? One of the most prominent and popular politicians in Vaughan must surely be a boon to Genco's campaign, especially given that Sobara is a provincial Liberal, whose government heartily defended Fantino many a time. There is a high presence by the Liberals in media and community, so why should Fantino's name be assumed the best ticket to victory? Such an assumption is foolish.

These are just some of the things I can think of pertaining to this by-election itself. I could go on about recent poll results as well which show a consistent trend of the Liberals and the Conservatives neck-and-neck in Ontario, and how this trend can be reflected easily in Vaughan, or even be rebuffed, given the low turnout we see and the focus on local issues, for either party in either direction. There are thousands of factors going into this election, as there is in all elections, and I find the assumption that Fantino has an easy ride amusing. I don't think he will. If he wins, he'll have to fight for it.

I could be terribly wrong, of course, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if I was. But it just seems like there is so much more going on than what pundits say there is. Elections, even by-elections, are complicated beasts, and to assume any one outcome based on what I view to be little information is underestimating those beasts.

But, anyways, if Fantino does win, it'll be interesting to see how he won, or more accurately, how the Liberals lost. Only from that kind of information can we learn our mistakes, the gaps we need to fill in, and of course, who we can blame if it all goes wrong. We'll simply have to wait until tomorrow, and hope the voters of Vaughan,as well as Winnipeg North and Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, make their choices wisely.


  1. Two thoughts - My first thought is if Fantino wins it will bode very poorly for politics in Canada because it will further demonstrate the growing lack of content in the political system. All a party needs to do is obtain a high profile candidate and then make sure that he doesn't appear in public or say anything about politics. My second thought pertains to your question of "how the Liberals lost" this particular race. I say that they will have lost it the same way that have lost other such races in recent years - too many people just don't see the LPC as a real alternative to the CP. Under the current leadership the LPC is nearly a mirror image of the CP and both their policies and their approach is far too similar to constitute a genuine alternative, at least in public perception.

  2. The first point I agree with heartily. Politics up here is habitually mirroring American politics, where the candidate with the flashiest ads ends up taking the cake. Obama didn't just win on "hope," you know.

    But the second part, I'm not so sure. The question is whether or not the Liberals have ever been completely different from the Conservative Party, except in which electorates it ends up representing. The Liberals and the PCs mirrored themselves during the post-war era more often than they deviated, and even when they did, it was usually for electoral gain and not necessarily out of any passion for the subject (FTA is a good example).

    The reason why the NDP doesn't win elections is because it doesn't follow the trend that the two government parties end up following - waffling centrism, sometimes going right, sometimes going left. The NDP is dogmatic, not pragmatic. It's why, despite there being no "alternative" in the Liberals, they aren't making gains. People want the Liberals, they just want a more effective party, leadership, and ideas.

    Right now, we're severely lacking in those areas, both in truth and in perception. If we got a booster shot in the arm to combat that, we'd be in fighting form, and then maybe an election could be fought on differing ideals and positions. But right now, stability and consistency are key to knocking this electorate over the head, saying that hey, the Liberals can do this stuff to, and even better than the Conservatives.

  3. I disagree with KC, the CPC have not used this economic meltdown to cut Health, Education or Social Services as the Liberals did the last time.

    Voters have had seven contests to send a Liberal MP to Ottawa since Ignatieff became leader. Tomorrow we will find out what it means if he is 1/7, 2/7 or as damage control post lately by Liberals 0/7.

    If Liberals are not a team they will try to pin this on the leader. Is the leader responsible for recruiting stars and balance sheets or are the ridings, candidates, MPs partly responsible?

    This is a Liberal bastion 22 years and should not be tight race.

  4. Actually CS, they've only had 4 - the other 3 don't happen until tomorrow. You can't claim "they've had seven contests" when tomorrow's by-elections are in the future, not the past.

    That's your grammar lesson for today.


  6. Gotta ask, Gene, who put that up?