Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan - An Update

Never to be outdone by Quebec, Ontario politics have been gearing up for a showdown of rather epic proportions today: by-elections in Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan. In these two ridings hangs the future of the Ontario Liberals and the current McGuinty government, as well as that of the Ontario PCs as led by Tim Hudak, and the Ontario NDP led by Andrea Horwath.

Let's start with Vaughan, given that this by-election is of lesser epic-ness:

Six others (Green, Libertarian, Freedom, People's, Family Coalition, and an Independent)

Vaughan is a heavily Liberal riding that will more than likely stay Liberal - not like the federal riding of Vaughan, which fell to the Conservatives and Julian Fantino. How can I say then that the provincial riding will stay with the government? Well... the guy who ran as a Liberal in that 2010 by-election and lost against Fantino, is now running as a PC. He ran in 2011 against Greg Sorbara as well, and failed miserably. "Phony Tony" indeed.

Riding polls, such as they are, also point towards the Liberals retaining this riding by a fairly safe amount. This being said, its not set in stone; riding polls are not necessarily accurate, and the McGuinty government is definitely not at its greatest popularity right now. Yet even down in the polls, Vaughan remains a fairly solid Liberal riding; it has the right suburban demographics to make it a Liberal-PC riding, instead of what we'll see in Kitchener-Waterloo, where the demographics can make the NDP a factor in the right circumstances. Vaughan is suburbia, with more people that have income (usually higher incomes), mostly middle-management type with families and concerns relating to said families. It's prime territory for the McGuinty Liberals.

But again, it could also be a prime target for the Hudak PCs, who are looking for a win here. Can they do it, though? It's not out of the realm of possibility, but people have to remember that Tim Hudak is no Stephen Harper, and Tony Genco is definitely no Julian Fantino; they're both substandard personalities and representatives, and I doubt the amount of anger channeled towards McGuinty is enough to overcome the latent Liberal-ness of Vaughan, especially not when Hudak keeps voting with the government.

Now on to the exciting race, Kitchener-Waterloo.

Tracy Weiler (PC)
Catherine Fife (NDP)
Seven others (Green, Libertarian, Freedom, Communist, People's, an independent, and John Turmel)

I covered K-W before on this blog, so I won't spend too much time here, except to say that this race is intense. I recently made another post relating to complaints about the Ontario Liberal campaign here, and I found that some of the ideas behind those blogger's points, especially Flying Squirrel's, are more common that I thought: many people aren't necessarily opposed to the Liberal government and their current drive to tackle public sector unions (especially teachers), but they're not too keen on giving the Liberals a majority, nor are they exactly forgiving of the scandals and blatant political ploys of McGuinty's office.

But instead of giving the Hudak PCs their riding back, it appears that Catherine Fife, the Dipper candidate, has gained a lot of momentum. I've heard from two different NDP sources that she isn't the first choice of every New Democrat out there - but by all accounts she knows how to play up the "poor teachers" angle, and it seems to be working. Polls have put the NDP first in the riding, and while, again, you take them with a grain of salt, they do speak to what others are saying they see on the ground.

The demographics are also favourable to the NDP, in a way. It is a university town, it has a lot of young people, a lot of lower-income families, and it does have some rather large manufacturing and technology industries. It also has many Liberal/PC leaning areas, but the NDP have a much better chance here of appealing to voters than in Vaughan. Whether they can or not remains to be seen.

However, I give a warning to the NDP: don't confuse a win in Kitchener-Waterloo as Orange Wave 2.0, because it isn't, anymore than the win in Winnipeg North in 2010 ended up being the next great Liberal majority government. Fife is a good politician and right now the NDP are playing up the whole "friend to the unions teachers" angle, because the PCs certainly aren't going to, and this is paying off. But be warned, it will not pay off in most of Ontario - a look at what happened in Wisconsin should be a good example of why not. We are not a union province.

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