Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Look at Etobicoke-Lakeshore

On August 1st, the provincial constituency of Etobicoke-Lakeshore will hold a by-election along with four other ridings across Ontario, including three of which I’ve already covered – Windsor-Tecumseh, London West, and Ottawa South – as well as Scarborough-Guildwood, which I’ll be covering later this week (hopefully).

Etobicoke-Lakeshore was previously held by the much-maligned former Education Minister Laurel Broten, who has apparently moved to Nova Scotia in order to be with her husband and enter into the private sector. Broten was a fairly controversial minister since 2011, given that she was the public face, alongside Dalton McGuinty, of the Ontario Liberal’s push against the teacher’s unions over pay, benefits, and so on, as well as the wildly unpopular Bill 115, which took away the teacher’s ability to strike.

After Kathleen Wynne’s ascension to the Premier’s office earlier this year, Broten was shuffled over to the Intergovernmental Affairs portfolio, but it seems pretty obvious this wasn’t enough to keep her in government. Her resignation opens up her riding in the southern portion of the old City of Etobicoke, a mixed urban/suburban district that promises to be the most interesting and high-profile fight in this set of by-elections, one that could have far-reaching consequences for the Wynne government. Lets take a deeper look into this riding and see why, starting with…

Riding History

Riding History Since 1977
Etobicoke-Lakeshore resides within the boundaries of the historical district of York West, a riding which covered basically the western half of pre-1970’s Toronto, when the suburbs were just starting to grow. Previous to the 1940’s, it had flipped between the Liberals and Conservatives, though the latter had held it straight from 1902 to 1934. The Liberals won it back 1934, though lost it in 1943 to labour/union activist Charles Millard, who held it for two terms (from ’43 to ’45, then ’48 to ’51) as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

The Liberal s and New Democrats had a hard time gaining traction in the area until the 1967 election, when the two successor ridings – Lakeshore and Humber – elected New Democrat lawyer Pat Lawlor and Liberal George Ben respectively. Ben didn’t last long, but Lawlor managed to build a strong New Democratic base in Lakeshore, a riding which covered the western portion of southern Etobicoke, going on to win three more elections quite comfortably. The PCs briefly took Lakeshore following Lawlor’s retirement for one term, but the riding was won back by Mimico alderman Ruth Grier for the NDP in 1985, the same election that saw the PCs booted out of government by a Lib-NDP pact shortly after.

Humber, covering the eastern half of the communities in Etobicoke, continued to elect Conservative MPPs until 1985 when Liberal Jim Henderson won, though unfortunately for the Liberals Henderson’s riding was redistributed in 1986 to be farther north, while the new riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore drew much more from Grier’s riding, helping her survive the 1987 Liberal landslide. After 1990’s surprise NDP majority, a re-elected Grier held two high-profile cabinet posts in Bob Rae’s government, first as Minister of the Environment, then as Minister of Health. However, in 1995 Grier was swept away with the rest of her colleagues, ending up third behind winning PC candidate Morley Kells.

Kells, who was briefly a cabinet member in Frank Miller’s government back in '85, played a fairly limited role in the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments, despite his experience. Kells faced off against Laurel Broten in 1999 in a reorganized Etobicoke-Lakeshore, though handily won by about 5,000 votes. Broten came back to defeat Kells in 2003 by a similar margin, and increased her majority in both 2007 and 2011 elections as a member of McGuinty’s cabinet.

An interesting note is that Etobicoke-Lakeshore has a history as a riding that was winnable for all three parties, though the NDP base has almost withered and died at this point. Also interesting to note is that the Liberals moved from a third party, to second party, then to first party as the riding grew into its more suburban character, spreading along the southern shores of Etobicoke.

2011 Election

Poll-by-poll map of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, 2011
A great example of the growth of this riding is the 2011 election results, which had Laurel Broten swamp her opposition in every community of Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

While a few polls swung to PC candidate Simon Nyilassy, Broten ran up her vote totals everywhere, sweeping communities ranging in demographics from the more urban, lower-income, and diverse areas in Mimico and New Toronto, to the middle-income, suburban homes in Eatonville, Norseman Heights, and Alderwood. There were no stark differences on the surface, though underneath the difference between the northern leafy suburbs and the apartment-laden south in the second-place race was noticeable, as the NDP tended to win much more often the more south you went, especially in Mimico and New Toronto.

Given the overwhelming win here by Broten among most demographics and communities, I had to jump to the federal results to see if I could get more insight. Etobicoke-Lakeshore is of course infamous (or famous, for some Liberals) for turfing former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff in May 2011. Ignatieff’s vote dropped over 10% and it showed when the 2011 map is compared to 2008’s, though there are some obvious areas of Liberal strength, including in the north at Islington/City Centre West, where there is a large cluster of apartment buildings, and in the south where Iggy’s support was able to outnumber the NDP in some New Toronto and Mimico polls.

By-Election Outlook

While looking over those federal results, you can’t help but see all the blue, and how easy it was for the federal riding’s current MP, the no-name Bernard Trottier, to wrestle a previously safe seat from the Liberal Leader.

Provincially, Etobicoke-Lakeshore is by all means more safe than the federal riding was, given that the provincial Liberals have a much more intact and well-funded machine, and in fact their support here grew over the previous election’s results. Hell, even with (a slightly) lower turnout, Broten won 2,000 extra votes over her 2007 numbers! Yet there is a very serious chance the Liberals could lose this Toronto seat.

The first, and most obvious, is the fact that the Hudak PC’s candidate is current Toronto Deputy Mayor (and former Etobicoke Mayor) Doug Holyday. He is widely respected as an honest, ethics-bounded politician, one that I know my co-blogger would have loved to seen become Mayor in his own right. Despite some iffy news coming out about whatever happened to former PC candidate Steve Ryan, news which I doubt anyone cares about, this is a major coup for Tim Hudak, who is desperately looking for a win anywhere, but especially in Toronto. Holyday is definitely his ticket to that dream state.

Holyday will be going up against Toronto City Councillor Peter Milczyn for the Liberals, another high-profile candidate, though he doesn’t have anywhere near the reputation that Holyday does. Milczyn’s Ward 5 covers the northern half of the riding above the QEW, which could give him something of an edge versus Holyday, since this would be the stronger base for the PCs to begin with, and Milczyn’s candidacy could lock up some of those voters that would otherwise go to them.

However, as with the other four ridings, the biggest issue is simply the fact the current government is pretty damn tired looking at this point. While the PCs and NDP don’t look ready for prime time yet, the governing Liberals, even under Wynne’s new leadership, are scandal-plagued and struggling to keep people focused on their governing agenda. Even without Holyday as the candidate, the PCs and NDP could probably make a strong play for this riding, though polling from Forum noted previous to Holyday’s entrance into the race was definitely the Liberal’s to lose.

But we do know that this riding can flip under the right circumstances, and by my count, Doug Holyday as the PC candidate has definitely created a very nice situation for the PCs. The issue of tying Holyday to Rob Ford wouldn’t even work, given that Milczyn himself is a Council right-winger, and a semi-ally of Ford. Plus this is Etobicoke, a city where Ford won with well over two-thirds of the vote in 2010, and over 50% in Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s two wards. I doubt throwing mud at Ford will help the Liberal cause here.

But the riding does have Liberal DNA, which means that Milczyn has a strong fighting chance. It’ll be an interesting fight to the very end, to say the least. But my best guess right now is that the PCs will wake up on August 2nd to find a little dollop of blue in Toronto’s map. It may even help people see Hudak as a leader who could win - the worst of all possible worlds, in my opinion.

Fun Fact! I grew up here, so I feel a special affinity for it. Which is why if the Liberals loose it, again, I'm going to be doubly sad. :(


  1. I work here, and may be able to provide insight based on sign strength.

  2. how much does sign strength really matter?

    1. Well, not much really - last election we in Burlington had put out more signs than in 2008, despite losing 10% of our vote in that election. But it could be a very key indicator if you start seeing lots of Holyday signs up in previously secure Liberal neighborhoods. While it *may* not say anything, as there could be shy Liberals or really active Tories, it could mean that Holyday has also made inroads among former Liberal communities.

      Plus its a fun metric.

  3. I live here in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. I think that it is fair to say that the historical sources of strength for the Dippers are long gone. Somewhere around 10,000 good union jobs have evaporated over the past 20 years, and those folks long ago moved out of the southern (Ward 6) part of the riding. Turnout amongst the very poor who replaced them will be single digits, although they will still favour the dippers, so that is New Toronto, Long Branch, some of Alderwood, and Mimico. Milczyn actually had a bit of a battle to hold onto Ward 5 last time out. He did far worse than an incumbent ought to. I think he will be in trouble along Bloor, and North of Bloor street around Royal York. That is the Kingsway area, and will fall into Holydays hands like a ripe plum.
    The new Condo buildings along the Lakeshore, and actually all over the riding will be the wild-cards. There are quite a few thousand of them, and they will typically not know Holyday from Milczyn from a hole in the ground. I will be looking at poll results in the towers very damned closely, as there will be another 10,000 + condo dwellers moving in before the 2015 Federal election.
    Then there is the Ford factor. The Fords have an awesome data collection, and Holyday will have free use. I think that Holyday has the best of both worlds in Etobicoke. He can rely on Ford supporters to vote for him, but he will not scare away the rational folks who would not touch Ford with a bargepole. Much as it pains me to say it, I think Holyday is going to win with a double digit cushion. Reason is simple, by-elections have crappy turnouts, and Holydays supporters are on the high turnout side of the column.