Just following (or maybe just before) Dwight Duncan's announcement that he would be resigning from his seat, fellow Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Chris Bentley also decided he would resign from his seat, thus setting up a by-election in London West to be called alongside Windsor-Tecumseh - if we don't go to an election before then.
Bentley won his first election in London West in the 2003 election, the year of Daltonmania. The lawyer and Western University professor immediately became a cabinet minister, and has held several portfolios, from Labour to Energy, ever since. Bentley defeated incumbent PC MPP Bob Wood, a noted right-winger, who was originally elected in the riding of London South during the Harris wave of 1995, taking the seat from NDP MPP David Winninger, who was elected in 1990. Before then in London South, Peterson's Attorney General Joan Smith held the riding for two terms, who defeated former Davis and Miller cabinet member Gordon Walker in 1985.
Bentley held the riding by almost 8,000 votes in the 2011 general election, or 16.2%, over PC candidate Ali Chahbar. Thus, there is a lot of red across all parts of the riding, with only a smattering of orange or blue.
The strongest areas of Liberal support are in the communities of Oakridge, Old South London, and to a slightly lesser degree, Westmount, Southcrest, and Byron. White Hills and West London are more contentious, but were still won by a country mile by Bentley. The best NDP areas are in the southeastern communities and Old South London, a more urban area, while the PCs tend to do better in the southwestern communities and suburbs north of the Thames.
Federally, the riding is held by the Conservatives, so we can possibly get an insight to where any latent Conservative strength is. Federal MP Ed Holder managed to earn wide swaths of support in the suburban portions of the riding, while the Liberals and NDP won their polls in the urban areas. Essentially, your classic split. However, a strong Liberal candidate can turn the tables on the PCs, and keep the NDP at bay in the urban portions of the riding, as we've seen Bentley do.
While a PC win is not impossible, it doesn't necessarily look likely. Tim Hudak's party isn't going too well in polling, even if they're in first place most of the time; most polls have shown them underperforming the 35% they earned in 2011. If Hudak's party was polling better, I would actually be inclined to say they're the prohibitive favourites - but if it comes down to a Lib-PC fight, I'd place my bets on the Liberals.
Current Rolling Average for London West
34% Lib, 34% NDP, 27% PC, 4% Green
Innovative Jan. 27-29 Poll
37% Lib, 33% NDP, 25% PC, 4% Green
However, with the current upswing for the New Democrats in southwestern Ontario, they're the ones who could upset us! While the PCs haven't done as well in the region, the NDP have come up and their rise could threaten the Liberals in London West, especially in a by-election setting. The only reason we maintain the numbers we do is because of Bentley's strong performance in the riding; how much of that support is a personal vote for him, we don't really know. We could see the Liberals at a big disadvantage, or we could maintain steady support. Hard to know this far out, but we're going to have an interesting set of by-elections to be sure.
Finally, and somewhat related, Forum Research has come out with a quick by-election poll for the riding of Windsor Tecumseh. I won't go into too much detail, but here's the topline numbers:
42% NDP, 32% Lib, 19% PC (Rolling Avg.: 47% NDP, 30% Lib, 18% PC)
As I expected, the NDP have a good lead in the riding as of right now, though its not as far a spread as the current rolling average I have. However, with Pupatello running, it changes around to 44% Liberal to 31% NDP. Of course, Sandra's originally ruled out a return to politics - but hopefully she'll change her mind with Wynne's urging, we could use a strong voice like hers back in Ontario's government.