Friday, February 4, 2011

Rossimania to Hit Eglinton-Lawrence?

So, Rocco Rossi, the guy I thought would make the best Mayor of Toronto, who I've met personally and felt his energy and excitement and fantastic ideas for the future of party and city, and helped get the Liberals back on track in their fundraising, has decided he's going to run for the Hudak Tories in the next provincial election.

Fine, I have no real problem with that, though I'd like to point out that it's a complete turn-around for him, as noted by Kinsella and Bowie. How can you tell when someone is not only disloyal, but very insincere about his new colours?

Rossi has chosen to run in the Liberal-held riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, whose current MPP is Mike Colle, a former Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who was stripped of that portfolio when he was discovered to have given out wayyyy more government money than he ever should have. That being said, Mr. Colle is still a pretty active member of Queen's Park, introducing a couple of very worthwhile bills that both made an impact. So, despite the past, I'd be willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt in regards to his sincerity as a public official.

His riding, Eglinton-Lawrence (just E-L for short), however, has followed the same trend that its federal counterpart has. A fairly dramatic tightening of the race in the riding, no doubt some of it brought on by Colle himself, but otherwise simply being the victim of the riding's demographics (big immigrant population, coupled with certain part's historical connection to Toryism). However, as a Toronto riding where they have tonnes of available resources, manpower, and money to throw about, the Liberals have an automatic upper hand. But E-L is still one of the ridings that, if Toronto were to experience a Tory or federal Con. surge, would be one of the first to flip.

But, getting back to Rossi, one has to ask two things:

1) whether Rossi chose this riding, because he lives in it/knows the community, or if Hudak and his strategists plopped him there
2) whether or not Rossi is the right candidate for the riding

The answer to the first question, or at least part of it, is easily answered: no, Rossi does not live in the riding. He actually lives in St. Paul's, just outside of the border. Whether or not this becomes an issue - it will be for some, but maybe not for a whole lot in the ever-mobile Toronto - remains to be seen, but I doubt it'll play out into anything big. However, I'm fairly sure he doesn't have any roots down in the area, given that he grew up in Scarborough. Its possible he's lived in the area for the past few years and may have grown some roots in the community, but I really don't know. Not that it would really matter, as Toronto's mayoralty showed us. He's essentially a no-name brand, the only people he managed to excite with his jump into the election being us politicos and dupes.

Anyways, I think the logical conclusion is that most likely Rossi was shown E-L and said he would have a better chance to actually win there, versus St. Paul's, where he wouldn't have a chance. His proximity is useful and I'm sure he knows some of the local issues. It's a sensible choice for Rossi - but is it really the sensible choice for the Hudak PCs?

Think about this way: Rossi is a "star candidate" insofar that he has some notoriety for his failed run at the mayoralty. He's also a "star" because of his switching teams. It ends there. While he's done some great work with the Heart & Stroke Foundation and whatnot, again as the mayoralty election showed us, it didn't really factor in to anything. He's competent, I'll give him that, but so are a lot of people, including Mike Colle to a certain extent.

Leaving it there, I'd say that Rossi is a "good" catch, but not the best, and it would be a strain to call him a star candidate. So don't expect any major developments, riding-wide swoonings, or parades down Bathurst in his honour.

One thing I think the Hudak PCs might've catched on to is the entire ethnic thing. E-L has a fairly substantial Italian population, one that Joe Volpe used to launch him as MP for the riding, and one that the PCs have tried to play in the past. And as we all know, Rossi is Italian, and very proud of it. This seems like an obvious strategy to me. But, again, how big of a player is Rossi really in the Italian community, as compared to how much of a small fry he is outside of it? And would it be enough to launch him into victory? I'm leaning towards no.

In conclusion, my analysis is that, unlike Fantino's run in Vaughan, E-L will not depend too much on local factors. That Rossi's win, or loss, in the riding will be mostly down to how the voters feel about the McGuinty Liberals and the Hudak PCs. Rossi's own candidacy won't change that. If the PCs sought his nomination out in order to influence voters the way only a local "star candidate" can, they've failed; but if they're looking for a run-of-the-mill, relatively good candidate who knows most of what he's doing, then they succeeded. If the latter is true, then they better hope Hudak appeals a bit more than he has in Toronto.

Only time will tell which goal they reached for. In the meantime, if you're a Liberal that wants revenge, sign up here.

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