Monday, November 18, 2013

Toronto - an electoral history

I made one of the terrible mistakes that all of us make from time to time here on the internet. I decided to read some user comments on a news article.

I know, it's not the smart thing to do unless you are trying to increase your blood pressure on purpose. One comment suggested that Ford's election win was illegitimate because, quote, Smitherman and Pantalone's combined vote was more. Sadly, for this person, that is not the reality. In fact, the combined vote for those two was 385,314 votes, slightly less than Ford's 385,501. You'd need to combine a third candidate (any, even the last-place finisher) for the total to over take that of Ford.

That got me thinking. See, I did not really mind Ford much at the time. Sure I knew he was... how to say... not the sharpest; but I was certain that council would never go along with his wacky schemes (man was I wrong)

This made me remember the 2006 election, in which I ran, and in which I voted for Jane Pitfield. She had one thing going for her; she was not David Miller. This won her over a third of the vote. Pitfield was not a terribly strong candidate - I'd venture to say that between 2007 and the time you read this post, you probably have not thought about her at all - but her "being not David Miller" brought in a number of votes.

This is when I started thinking. How many votes would a "not Rob Ford" have taken in an election held a year ago today? Sadly, I don't have a clear answer to that. In order to try to figure out an answer, I decided to find the old results of past elections, since municipal merger, and see if I can compare.

I decided to colour-code the candidates. Known PC members and supporters are Blue, known Liberal members and supporters are Red, and I've also given a Green colour to those who have been known to back the NDP. Why Green? A few reasons.

First, the Ontario NDP used to use Green. A quick check of the CBC Archive's asking Bob Rae "what now" when he won his majority will confirm that. As well, the federal NDP used to be associated with the colour Green, as evidenced by the 1968 election map found on the Canadian atlas. Lastly, it allows me to include Gomberg, Lastman's opponent of sorts in the 2000 election; as Gomberg was a member of the Green Party, not the NDP, but did well, in part, because of the lack of an NDP (or Liberal) candidate.

When stacked up against one another, candidates who took more than 50,000 votes, create a list like this:

Lastman 483,277 2000
Lastman 387,848 1997
Ford 383,501 2010
Hall 346,452 1997
Miller 332,969 2006
Miller 299,385 2003
Smitherman 289,832 2010
Tory 263,189 2003
Pitfield 188,932 2006
Pantalone 95,482 2010
Hall 63,751 2003
Gomberg 51,111 2000

What's perhaps most interesting is what happens when you compare them by year.

2010 383,501 289,832 95,482
2006 188,932 332,969
2003 263,189 63,751 299,385
2000 483,277 51,111
1997 387,848 346,452

Far from being the bastion of left-wing socialism that some would have you think, Toronto actually seems far more adverse to left-wing Mayors and candidates. While I don't have raw numbers, my estimate would be that if we had a November 2012 election in the city, that whomever the "Not Rob Ford" is would not have been able to take as many vote as Pitfield did. There does, it seems, exist a natural skew in the voter base in Toronto that means there are perhaps 75,000 voters out there willing to vote for anything that's "Not Left Wing", and when 3 of the top finishing candidates for Mayor in the last 5 elections did not even manage to take that many votes, that is nothing to sneeze at.


  1. You attribute Barbara Hall's votes to the red column.

    I always associated her with the NDP. She may not have run as an openly NDP candidate for mayor but neither did Miller.

    She was elected to council as a New Democrat and ran for the NDP in a provincial election, I think in St David's or one of its configurations.

    So if you colour her votes Green, as you should, instead of red this seriously undermines your argument.

    1. I'm not sure if that would be correct, Peter.

      Hall's 1997 run was heavily marred by the fact that she was the main "anti-amalgamation" candidate. She earned votes beyond what you'd normally expect because of this. She still lost to Lastman. That is an exception case, and in 2003, she was mainly backed by Ontario Liberals.

      Even if Teddy moves her over to the green column, his point still isn't lost. It is actually more reinforced - voters united behind a single non-left candidate to beat her, despite a strong base of support.

      My issue is that it is really hard to pin kind of race along ideological lines, unless we're talking with really stark candidates like Ford or... well, I was going to say Miller, but even he wasn't as ideologically far-whatever as Ford acts.

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