What this means for us however is that we have a second vacancy in the House of Commons, alongside Bourassa. Toronto Centre is a riding which covers part of the downtown core of Canada's largest (and arguably most important) city, split between high-rise and low-rise condos in the south, mid-level apartment blocks in the middle, and expensive homes in the north, plus a smattering of businesses throughout and the provincial parliament buildings. Suffice to say, its an extremely diverse district with issues pulling any representative in every which way. Lets jump in and see how this all works out, starting with...
The riding of Toronto Centre in the past has mostly centered around the communities of Rosedale in the north, and a few of the downtown districts, with the riding being officially named after the wealthy community in 1933 and continuing on until 1996, when it was renamed Toronto Centre-Rosedale to take into account the growing population in the southern half of the riding.
|Riding History since 1968 - Click to Enlarge|
In 1993, with the rest of the country turning topsy-turvy, Rosedale voters elected Bill Graham as their representative. Graham, who would be re-elected in the successor ridings of Toronto Centre-Rosedale and Toronto Centre, was a popular cabinet member in the Chrétien government, including a stint as Minister of National Defence, and later on as interim leader of the Liberals following Paul Martin's 2006 defeat.
In 1996, the federal redistribution changed the politics of the riding drastically, cutting out portions of the more business-friendly and high-income communities in the north that remained friendly to the Conservatives and Liberals (quite a few of these voters ended up in St. Paul's), and supplementing them with dowtown urbanites and social housing residents in the south that were previously apart of Broadview-Greenwood, the predecessor to the late Jack Layton's riding of Toronto-Danforth. This shifted the riding's opposition from the Conservatives to the NDP, which was emphasized by former PC MP David MacDonald's party switch in 1997, when he ran as a New Democrat against Bill Graham (and lost horribly). The Conservative's vote never rebounded to its former glory, though the NDP's numbers were never necessarily strong either, only coming above 20% with MacDonald in '97 and star candidate Michael Shapcott in '04 and '06. Graham had overwhelming support from every part of the community at this time.
In 2008 following Graham's resignation, Bob Rae ran for the federal Liberals in Toronto Centre and swept away all the other party's candidates, with none of them ending up with more than 14% support. The by-election was also the first time the Green Party showed its residual strength in the riding, coming in third behind the NDP with 13.4%. Rae was re-elected in 2008.
The 2011 election was quite different from other previous elections in Toronto Centre, where it was either a two-party affair or an overwhelming one-party win (exceptions again being in 1949 and 1965). While Bob Rae won with a large margin, he only managed to do so with 41% of the vote to the NDP's 30% and the Conservative's 22.6%. Thus we can see what happens when both opposition parties in Toronto Centre reach their modern highs, which paints an interesting picture of a very divided constituency.
|2011 Map of Toronto Centre, Poll-by-Poll|
However, once we move more south, the NDP's Susan Wallace racked up wins. First in Church and Wellesley, Toronto's LGBT community central, where Wallace won nearly every poll; then to Upper Jarvis, more contested but still dominated by the NDP. Wallace also managed to wipe any competition off the map in Regent Park, a community which almost solely contains social housing, as well as the Garden District, a newer community with a mix of historical homes and new condos, as well as a substantial Francophone population (or so I'm told).
In the extreme south, the Rae won the historical community of St. Lawrence's Market, while the NDP won many of the apartment and condo polls, as well as the Distillery District.
Provincially, Liberal cabinet member Glen Murray dominates the riding, showing the potential for the Liberals to win big in the riding. The PCs won a few polls in Rosedale, while the NDP won a few in the Garden District; Murray dominated all the communities that Rae did federally, as well as Church & Wellesley and Upper Jarvis, where his LGBT appeal probably didn't hurt.
Much like Bourassa, Toronto Centre is definitely the Liberal's to lose. The party has the broadest appeal to the disparate parts of the riding, being acceptable to the high-income voters in Rosedale and the left-leaning urbanites in the core communities. In a way, Toronto Centre is a riding built for the Liberals to win.
That does not mean it will stay red, however. Much would depend on the turnout in various communities for each party, as well as the candidates chosen by each party. The big name bandied about for the Liberals so far is George Smitherman, an interesting choice given that his appeal to the riding's significant LGBT communities could possibly outweigh his links to McGuinty's administration and his failed run for Toronto's mayoralty. For some reason, I also have it in my head that former Liberal leadership contender George "I Like Trees" Takach was thinking about running here if Rae stepped down, though I don't know why - it may just be my imagination. If he did, however, he'd be a great fit for the riding- not too many trees around there.
Xtra News also bandied about some other names for the Liberals, including Pascal Dessureault, a former LPC(Q) board member who runs a local community centre; and Zach Paikin, a well-known Young Liberal activist and son of TVO's Steve Paikin, but whose somewhat centre-right politics may put him at odds with parts of the riding.
Whoever runs, I expect a hotly contested nomination ahead for the Liberals - we just need to keep it from becoming divisive.
Names for the NDP so far are former MuchMusic VJ Jennifer Hollett, trans activist Susan Gapka (also according to Xtra), and former provincial candidate and poverty activist Cathy Crowe. All seem to be well known names, though is their presence enough to win against someone like Smitherman, or even your generic Liberal candidate? I'm not so sure, especially given that the NDP's appeal in Rosedale and surrounding areas is next to none.
I have no clue as to who may be thinking about running for the Conservatives, but I'm not necessarily sure anyone cares. Though they have a strong base in the north, the Conservatives would struggle to win in most of the riding. They would need to hope for a three-way split between the Liberals, NDP, and Greens in the core areas and dominate Rosedale, Yorkville, and Cabbagetown for a chance at a win.
However, as with Bourassa, don't expect this to be called for quite awhile. I'll keep an eye on the candidates that come forward in the future and update accordingly.