Set amongst the backdrop of a decade-old Liberal government facing some of its toughest days yet, Scarborough-Guildwood's by-election was probably the least expected. Margarett Best, the riding's former MPP, was not a member of former Premier Dalton McGuinty's inner-circle as Duncan, Bentley, and Broten were. Those four together held the highest positions in the lifetime of the former first minister's government, while Best made it into a minor cabinet role at best as Minister of Consumer Services from 2011 until 2013. Instead, Best's resignation was due to "undisclosed health reasons," though I'm sure some Sun News editor somewhere has assumed other things.
Lets not waste any time, and jump right into Scarborough-Guildwood's...
Scarborough-Guildwood’s original origins come from the pre-1955 riding of York East, which covered the entire township of Scarborough, along with the townships of Markham and parts of the County of York lying east of Yonge St, excluding (what was then) the City of Toronto, and as time went on it was whittled down to contain mostly Scarborough proper. It was at first dominated by Liberal MPPs from 1867 until 1905, coinciding with the provincial party’s domination of Queen’s Park under Oliver Mowat, Arthur Hardy, and George William Ross. The riding flipped to the Conservatives in 1905, first with MLA Alexander McCowan (1905-1913), and then George Stewart Henry (1913-1943), the latter who had served as a high profile cabinet member and then Premier from 1930 until 1934.
Following Henry’s departure, York East was won by the famous Agnes Macphail (the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament) for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, making her the first woman (along with another CCF member) to be elected to the Ontario legislature as well. She held the riding for two terms (1943-1945, and 1948-1951), before the Conservatives took back the successor riding of York-Scarborough. Much like many of Toronto’s ridings, the Conservatives held a tight grip on the area until the 1980s, with only a brief Liberal interlude between 1967-1971.
Liberal Ed Fulton, who was David Peterson’s Minister of Transportation from 1985 to 1989, held on to the riding for two terms until booted by NDPer Bob Frankford in the Rae wave of 1990, who was then booted in a massive pro-PC swing by Steve Gilchrist, who was briefly Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in the Harris government before having to step down to some sort of scandal/allegations. He is best known for pissing off Hamiltonians, Ottawans, and possibly Sudburians, but especially Hamiltonians, as being in charge of the forced amalgamations of those various cities into their current form. If he tried to run for election anywhere near Flamborough, he would probably be tarred and feathered.
Gilchrist was defeated by a rather large margin in 2003 by Liberal Mary Anne Chambers, who held two cabinet posts in McGuinty’s government before retiring. Margarett Best was elected in 2007 and 2011, who served in a minor cabinet role from 2007 to 2011, and then promoted to Minister of Consumer Services after the 2011 election.
One interesting thing to note about this riding is the prevalence of Libertarian party candidates, and their somewhat-steady base of support, averaging about 1% throughout the years (back as far as 1977), with their highest being 4.5% in 1985.
Margarett Best did quite well in Scarborough-Guildwood in 2011, increasing her support over her 2007 numbers by just under 6.5% and just over 1,000 voters, taking advantage of the swing to the Liberals in most Toronto area ridings (this despite decreased turnout). Her support was pretty much constant throughout the riding, with the PC candidate winning in only a few polls, with Best doing well in the major communities of Morningside, Guildwood, and Woburn.
An important note about Scarborough-Guildwood is that it is an extremely diverse riding, with over 61% of the riding being visible minorities according to the 2006 Census, mostly likely a number that has increased by now. Most are South Asian (28.6%), though a large black community also exists (14.1%), which I believe are mainly Jamaican. The Liberal’s last two MPPs, Best and Chambers, came from this community, as does their current candidate, Mitzie Hunter. The NDP’s 2007 candidate Neethan Shan was able to attract a lot of support from the South Asian community in that election, which he repeated in Scarborough-Rouge River in 2011.
Like with Etobicoke-Lakeshore, you have to go to the last federal election to see what a competitive scene here could look like. Liberal MP John McKay, our wonderful federal Defence critic, kept his seat just barley versus the Conservatives and even a large NDP surge. Looking at the federal map, you wouldn’t may not even have guessed that McKay won; aside from extremely strong polls in the Golfdale Gardens neighborhood surrounding Cornell Park, though I’m not sure which demographic it makes up – I believe its South Asian, but I can’t be too sure with the sources I have at hand. McKay’s support was also stronger in West Hill, where much of the Jamaican community resides.
The Conservative candidate did better in Curran Hill, the western portion of Morningside, Manse Valley, and steady support throughout Guildwood and Scarborough Village.
The NDP’s candidate did better in West Hill, as well as at the intersection of Eglinton and Markham, and Ellesmere and Markham, as well as many of the apartment polls, especially near the UoT – Scarborough campus.
This all being said, however, it’s a fairly patchy picture. I can say for sure that the Liberals and NDP do better among the Jamaican and parts of the South Asian community, while the Conservatives did well among South Asians and white communities. This being a relatively middle-class riding overall, you can tell there is some difference among income levels but that may be clouded over by the demographic differences.
This riding should, by most known standards, stay Liberal. It has a highly diverse community of recent immigrants, which tend to vote Liberal under most circumstances, and it isn’t exactly as if the Hudak has ingratiated himself among these “foreigners.” That being said, a recent Forum poll put the PC’s candidate Ken Kirupa within striking distance of taking out Mitzie Hunter, so the whole “tired government” schtick could sway enough voters to kick out the Liberals. Plus this was, after all, apart of a heavily Conservative constituency as recent as 1999, when the immigrant community was probably still over 50% of the population, and the federal results have shown that these communities are willing to embrace conservatives.
But, they also showed they may be willing to allow in some NDP influence, which brings us to Adam Giambrone. If you remember, Giambrone was a former Toronto City Councilor from Davenport and former Chair of the TTC who co-created the concept of “Transit City” with then-Mayor David Miller. Giambrone is also a former federal NDP president and candidate. He tried to run for Mayor in 2010, however his campaign was cut short by revelations about his personal life (aka, how Steven Fletcher would’veliked to have left cabinet), and promptly decided not to run for re-election.
He’s the NDP candidate in Scarborough-Guildwood for this by-election, a fact not without some controversyand grumblings from local party stalwarts, including accusations of fraud. Giambrone doesn’t exactly have ties to Scarborough, outside of his role as TTC Chair and the aborted run for Mayor. The former, frankly, may just be enough to give him a high profile in his run; with all the mutterings and fights over Toronto’s transit these days, Giambrone may just appeal to the voters looking for someone with his kind of credentials that can help sort out the mess. Yes, I know its not something he can really change as a provincial MPP, but voters aren’t necessarily going to take note of that.
However, as I see it Giambrone doesn’t really stand much of a chance, and Forum agrees with me (for now). The fight is likely going to be between Hunter and Kirupa, and depends upon who can get their supporters to come out and vote (turnout also works against Giambrone, as the NDP’s support comes mainly from low turnout groups in this riding, at least based on 2011).