Ontario's Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced that five by-elections will be held on August 1st, ostensibly to replace five retiring Liberal MPPs.
I've already covered the "big three," that being former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's seat in Windsor-Tecumseh; former AG/Energy Minister Chris Bentley's riding of London West; and former Premier Dalton McGuinty's riding of Ottawa South. In addition, former Education Minister Laurel Broten's riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore also opened up, as well as MPP Margarett Best's seat in Scarborough-Guildwood (she stepped down for health reasons, not political/I'm off to a nice retirement reasons like the others), which I'll cover later in more in-depth detail.
With the exception of Windsor-Tecumseh, these ridings are all exceptionally "safe" Liberal seats. Leads range from Duncan's 10-point lead to Broten's nearly 22-point lead.
Recent polling actually bears that out as well. Taking the most recent poll into account (Forum June 26th), here is where all the parties sit in my projection system:
So while we may take a hit in two of the ridings, we're not completely disadvantaged and could go for a clean sweep, right?
Well, its possible if you go by the numbers alone that we could indeed win all five of these ridings. I would even say its an extremely safe bet to assume both of the Toronto ridings will remain with the Liberals. But there have been so many scandals recently that my guess is that someone, somewhere, will need to bear the brunt of the people's displeasure.
With that said, here is my 1st-day prediction, based off the numbers and my gut feeling of where the electorate is at right now.
Windsor-Tecumseh will go to the New Democrats. This is a riding that is ripe for the taking by Andrea Horwath's party, containing part of the industrial core that goes for the social democrats big-time. Without Dwight Duncan or Sandra Pupatello on the ballot, I have a hard time seeing this riding staying red.
London West will probably stay Liberal, simply because I don't see Hudak's party strong enough to take it outright. If they had a star candidate, sure, but they nominated 2011's candidate Ali Chahbar instead. The Liberals nominated Ken Coran, former president of the Ontario Secondary School Teacher's Federation, and if Catherine Fife's election taught me anything, teachers want to support their own. I can't see this riding flipping easily, though its possible. It does have a strong federal Conservative bent.
Etobicoke-Lakeshore is going to be safe for the Liberals, especially since Toronto Councilor Peter Milczyn is running for us there (I believe he's confirmed). The riding has been held by the NDP and PCs in the past, and it did go Conservative federally by about 5% (though who knows what effect Michael Ignatieff had on that race), but I just don't see it flipping now, not with a strong candidate like Milczyn in place.
Scarborough-Guildwood is the other safe riding for the Liberals, and for our candidate Mitzie Hunter, former CEO of Toronto CivicAction. It was retained federally by John McKay, and Best maintained a 20-point lead over the PCs fairly easily in 2011, despite this being one of the more affluent Scarborough ridings. The one caveat that may pop up is Neethan Shan, the NDP's 2011 candidate in Scarborough-Rouge River who nearly toppled us there. He ran here in 2007, and may be up for another go. He would be a formidable candidate, though Guildwood doesn't have the same demographics that Rouge River does.
Ottawa South, finally, is a riding that despite its strong Liberal pedigree, which I outlined before, I can actually see going blue, but for the simple fact of its symbolism as McGuinty's old riding. If it were not for that, I would say its very easily going to stay Liberal. The Liberals have confirmed that John Fraser, McGuinty's former executive assistant, as the candidate, so it isn't as if they're making a break of McGuinty's legacy either. I would put this as a tossup for sure.
I'll update everything further as time and the campaigns move forward.