Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ridings to Watch in Ontario 2014

While the provincial election has gotten off to a slow start so far, what with the promised "big issues" campaign so far focusing on itty bitty quibbles like this libel lawsuit between Wynne and Hudak, Horwath's $12/hour minimum wage, and pretty much nothing else, the political landscape has started to form up really well. I figured with today's writ-drop, we might as well take a look at a few ridings-to-watch in this campaign. There's a lot of them, but I narrowed it down to the top 10.

A lot of this is based on my projection model for the election, but also what I can see the local situation playing out as. If you have disagreements or better ideas about the situation on the ground in these ridings, let me know. Otherwise, lets get down to it, in no particular objective order:

1. Etobicoke-Lakeshore: This lakeside Toronto riding was snatched from the Liberals following Laurel Broten's retirement last year by former Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, who barely squeaked by City Councillor Peter Milczyn with a 1,500-vote margin. June 12th will feature a rematch between these two former municipal allies, and it promises to be a good show. If the Liberals can win this back, then its a good sign that their all-important Toronto base is there with them, while Holyday winning here for the PCs will guarantee Hudak his much-needed Toronto presence and may hint at other wins in the city.

2. Brant: Speaker Dave Levac holds this riding currently for the Liberals, but he could very easily lose it in this election as its a riding everyone wants. The PCs came close in 2011, and have nominated former 80's-era PC MPP Phil Gillies as their candidate (Gillies, in more recent experience, helped spearhead the effort to ban shark fin products in Canada). The NDP also has a pretty good shot in Brant if they can sweep polls in Brantford, and have nominated professional organizer (yeah I don't know either, but she is successful) Alex Felsky as their candidate. If the Liberals hold on to this, its hard to say if its just Levac's star power or if the downward spiral they're facing in Southwestern Ontario isn't as serious as previously thought. If the NDP win it, then Horwath might well be on her way to forming a government.

3. Kitchener-Waterloo: This is another riding that fell in a by-election, except this time from PC to NDP. Incumbent Catherine Fife stole this riding pretty convincingly when former PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer resigned. Much of Fife's win came from lost Liberal support, though the PCs also faltered a fair amount, either through the lack of a serious GOTV effort or because of a more serious trend away from the PCs and towards the NDP in SWO towns. Fife will face her by-election opponent Tracy Weiler again, and it really could go either way - this is not a natural NDP riding, however once you have an incumbent in there, it could easily shift. The PCs will really want this riding back. The Liberal's Jamie Burton, meanwhile, could play a spoiler role for either party as his numbers are expected to increase from the party's by-election disaster.

4. Ottawa West-Nepean: If you want a riding to keep your eyes peeled to throughout election night, OW-N is it. This riding will feature three big names go at it for the honour of representing the riding: Minister of Energy and former Ottawa Mayor Bob Chiarelli; Ottawa Citizen columnist Randall Denley (who faced Chiarelli in 2011) for the PCs; and former MPP, mayoral candidate, and current councillor Alex Cullen for the NDP. This riding promises to be a brutal fight for all three parties, and really any of them could win though the riding is not necessarily a NDP-friendly one.

5. Northumberland-Quinte West: This is another rematch riding (there is a lot of those this election), featuring incumbent PC MPP Rob Milligan squaring off against the incumbent he defeated in 2011, Liberal Lou Rinaldi. Milligan is expected to have a good fight on his hands as the Liberals will be pouring resources to paint this riding red again, and they have a good chance to. Rinaldi is easily more experienced and is potential cabinet material, while Milligan really only has the general trend working in his favour (he could be a really nice guy too, I don't know). However, the hill is clearly Rinaldi's to climb, and if he does in this riding back for the Liberals, I think it will overall be a really good night for them.

6. Scarborough-Rouge River: This eastern Toronto riding has one of the highest number of visible minorities residing anywhere in Canada (just under 90% according to the 2006 census, but it could have changed by now), and you think would normally be a strong lock for the Liberals and their incumbent, Bas Balkissoon. However in 2011, Balkissoon was almost knocked off by Neethan Shan of the NDP, a Tamil-Canadian and former school board trustee who was hoping to repeat Rathika Sitsabaiesan's success in the 2011 federal election. Shan is back for Round 2, and could very easily upset Balkissoon - however, there's a twist. Current Ward 42 Councillor Raymond Cho, who has some history with Balkissoon (the Liberal nomination during the 2007 by-election which elected Balkissoon was, let's say, not conducted well) and Shan (he faced him in his 2010 re-election bid in Ward 42) will be running for the PCs. This is going to be a very contentious riding that could go any which way.

7. Sudbury: I'm unsure whether to put this riding here, because thanks to the loss of their incumbent, Rick Bartolucci, the Liberals look to have a tough hill to climb here versus the NDP, who are constantly biting at their heels in this riding. However the Liberals have not held on to Sudbury simply because of Bartolucci, and their is a lot of residual support here for them. Goodies in the budget for unions and the city, the promotion of the "Ring of Fire" up north, and a good candidate (right now there is a nomination battle between Andrew Olivier and Elise Indani, to be settled May 8th) could keep the Liberals in the race here... but don't expect miracles. The NDP candidate is Joe Cimino, and his party will be eager to help his campaign as much as possible.

8. Peterborough: This riding is currently held by Minister of Rural Affairs Jeff Leal and will be an important hold for the Liberals, as its one of the few ruralish ridings the party holds or even has a shot in. The PCs knocked Leal down below 40% in 2011, but a strong presence from then-NDP candidate Dave Nickle (who isn't running this time) probably held them back a bit. Leal will face off against the PC's Scott Stewart, a local travel group president, and the NDP's Sheila Wood, a small business owner and community activist, so he has the experience and incumbent advantage, but that might not be enough. However, I personally feel the NDP will be less of a factor this time around, so that will shake things up.

 9. Brampton-Springdale: This is another riding put into serious contention thanks to the resignation of its incumbent. Linda Jeffrey, formerly Ontario's Municipal Affairs Minister, despite being the nominated candidate decided to jump into the mayoral race for Brampton versus incumbent Susan Fennell. That leaves this traditionally Liberal riding with its high immigration population in a contentious limbo, as the Liberals have yet to nominate a candidate (I'm not even sure who is running), while the PC's Pam Hundal and the NDP's Gurpreet Dhillion have high hopes. Hundal is the biggest challenge for the Liberals, while Dhillion is hoping his next-door success story, NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh, will show the normally Dipper-hostile Bramptonians that they can be served effectively by his party. Until we see who the Liberal candidate is, there isn't much more to say except that I hope they're ready for a fight.

10. Kitchener Centre: Like its neighbour Brant, this urban riding promises to be a fairly interesting fight, as its incumbent MPP John Milloy won't be running for the Liberals again. Also like in its neighbour, the PCs are following the school of "oldies are goodies," bringing back former MPP Wayne Wettlaufer to run in this election. The Liberals have nominated former local CTV host Daiene Vernile, who will face an uphill battle to retain support in this riding which is constantly in contention between the two parties, federally and provincially. The NDP could also play a spoiler role here, and if they get their support high enough across the province, actually win here, but that's more of a hypothetical than reality at this point.

There are a lot more than just these ten, but I figured this a good start. I would also keep an eye on Burlington, and not just because its my riding - it will feature incumbent MPP Jane McKenna versus Share the Road Cycling Coalition CEO Eleanor McMahon, who is getting a lot of support from Wynne and should be a close fight; the two Thunder Bay ridings, featuring two incumbent Liberal MPPs fighting a tide directed against them, will also be interesting; Niagara Falls also promises to be a really good rematch between MPP Wayne Gates and former MPP Bart Maves (oldies are goodies!), who Gates defeated in the by-election last year.

Like I said, if you have any other suggestions or ideas, criticisms or threats, feel free to comment below.

17 comments:

  1. Thunder Bay-Atikokan
    The NDP candidate Mary Kozorys only lost by 479 votes last time. Since then the Liberals have generally annoyed the heck out of people in my district. Mainly because of energy, because a large coal fired power plant is located in the district. Since about 10 years ago the Liberals have announced 1: The plant would be converted to natural gas. 2: The plant would close. 3: The energy would be supplied by a new east-west line. 4: The plant is dormant most of the time (not true) so who cares. And 6 The plant would be converted to biomass. Unlike the people in southern Ontario, people here would be happy with a gas plant. I know the couple of hundred workers at the plant are sick of the run around. This problems with energy are frequently the top story on the nightly news.
    The other big story is the “ring of fire” chromite discovery. This has been trumpeted by all politicians as being the saving grace of the region. Of course no progress has been made and one major mining company pulled out in disgust and closed their office. No jobs in mining have been created in the ring of fire.
    Also, Andrea Horwath had been a frequent visitor to the city. Considering the switch from federal Liberal to NDP representation in the city, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the city split and have the higher profile cabinet minister Michael Gravelle hold onto his seat in TB-superior north and Bill Mauro lose (or win by an even narrower margin) to Kozorys in TB-A.
    Sorry if this ran on a little long.

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    1. No worries, thanks for the insight! I thought the Thunder Bay ridings would be a bit of a fight this time around, but I know so little about what goes on up there or what the issues really are, plus I figured with two incumbents that maybe the Liberals would have a better shot at keeping them. I guess we'll see!

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    2. Simple swing riding on the math between the NDP and Liberals IMHO.

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  2. Another typically swing riding to watch is London West that was held by Chris Bentley. Wynne appointed her candidate for the by-election angering the local Liberal association and the Liberals got hammered, coming in a distant 3rd. The NDP actually won that by-election.

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    1. Yeah I considered London West for a bit, but I'm fairly confident Sattler is going to win - I don't see the Liberals making a comeback, nor the PCs winning the riding without further Liberal collapse, or a collapse on the NDP's part in SWO.

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    2. Liberals should retake, Bently was "Scandal guy" and this is a general, not a by.

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    3. I could see London West becoming a close three way race, but where the NDP take it narrowly due to incumbent and organizational advantage. They won the by-election by a comfortable margin.

      Both the Liberals and PCs fielded candidates without name recognition. So the vote will be more for the party than for the candidate.

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  3. Where do you get NQW from Rinaldi is a retread far past his best buy date - only running because a, he can't let go and b, nobody else wanted to run

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    1. He only lost his re-election bid once, and by an extremely slim margin - I'd hardly call him a "retread."

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    2. If Rinaldi is "past his best buy date" then so is whomever that Kitchener Sexist PC guy is.

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  4. As for Kitchener Center there is that little twitter thing that Wayne Wettlaufer did.
    http://warrenkinsella.com/2013/07/ontario-pc-deep-thinker-kicks-off-by-elections/

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    1. Ha, I remember this - I wonder if he'll have anything else to say? I bet Hudak and his staffers told him to stay quiet pretty quickly.

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  5. The two most important ridings to watch in my opinion are the ones that can be described as bellweathers. Those two ridings historically have been Peterborough and Kitchener Centre. The old saying with bellweathers, as goes the riding, so goes the province. Last election, KC was a close one, which reflects the end result of a minority, and Peterborough was won fairly easily by the Liberal, hence a Liberal victory in the last election. All other ridings are merely window dressing for the most part, even though they certainly will be close at the end or have some very interesting personalities running.

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    1. Here's my opinion on bellweathers: they can be somewhat accurate on a general scale, but when you get right down to it they're just one of 107 races (or 308, or whatever) that are affected by national trends and local factors like anything else. They can be used as semi-reliable markers for how things go, but I wouldn't bet the farm on them. I certainly would not call the other ridings "window dressing," given that it isn't as if those two ridings alone are going to determine the race for the other 105.

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  6. I had clicked on this and thought to myself "alright lets see which riding or two Kyle got wrong (IE I know stuff he does not) and what riding or two he missed"

    Lo and behold, this is a perfect list! Not only can I say any one of these is missing information, but I can not add anything either!

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  7. Great list. All those ten ridings will be interesting to watch.

    On top of individual ridings, I would be looking to see if there are any trends among a group of ridings with similar demographics.

    1. Can the NDP retain the three ridings they won in by-elections that they are traditionally have weak roots in? Kitchener Waterloo, London West and Niagara Falls are all urban ridings in Southwestern Ontario held by the CPC federally. If the NDP goes 3 for 3 in these ridings, it would silence a lot of their naysayers.

    2. Can the Liberals expand into the outer parts of the GTA - Halton, Burlington and Newmarket Aurora? (Whitby-Oshawa is safe for PCs without exception). All three ridings have strong Liberal candidates (a former TVO host, cycling coalition CEO and local councillor), while the PC candidates will be relying more on their parties traditional strength in these communities. The Liberal transit policies will play well in these places. I can tell for sure the Liberals are making a serious play for Halton, that was one of their first major campaign stops. Internal polling numbers are probably good. Liberals have only lost these ridings in narrow margins in the past.

    3. Can the PCs move further into the GTA? They have Thornhill due to the Jewish vote, they have Etobicoke Lakeshore due to the Ford Nation/Doug Holyday vote. But can the PCs win in vulnerable Liberal ridings such as Brampton Springdale, Oak Ridges Markham, Mississauga Erindale, Oakville, Etobicoke Centre and York Centre?

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    1. Thanks!

      I think the Liberals are really betting on your latter two points - that they can expand into the GTA ridings they don't currently own (though, being in Burlington I can tell you that transit will probably not be as important of a factor as you may imagine, with the slight exception of the GO Train), while keeping the PCs at bay in their vulnerable ridings. I don't think you will see a lot of Liberals clamouring to get the ridings they lost in SWO, unless the winds significantly change (in their direction) in the next few weeks. The idea is to hold what they have in order to keep a minority government, and offset any losses with targeted gains like you mentioned.

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