Friday, August 21, 2009

St. Paul's

In case you missed it, a provincial by-election is underway in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's. There are some in the media who want you to believe this race will be close. Don't listen to them. First and foremost, the Liberals have a great candidate in Eric Hoskins, the founder of War Child Canada. This is the first hurdle for incumbent parties in by-elections (see Tory, John). The second hurdle is making sure the party is actually behind the candidate (see Tory, John). While there may be dissenters out there (it was a contested nomination), the Toronto machine seems to be in full gear behind Hoskins.

Then there's the opposition. The Tories have fantasies about St. Paul's. They have for years. They run high profile candidates they think will sweep tony areas like North Toronto off their feet. In fact, if you drive around St. Paul's at election (provincial or federal) time, you will see a lot of Tory signs. Then something very strange happens: they lose by twenty or thirty points. The reason is that while the people in the beautiful old houses might be split Tory/Liberal, the people in the dense apartment buildings are strongly Liberal. Okay, it's a slight oversimplification, but it's basically true. The Tories also have not won a seat in Toronto provincially since 1999. They've gone 0-fer in two straight elections and in all by-elections. With a new leader who is supported by, and compared to Mike Harris, a Tory breakthrough in Toronto seems remote. The party that has had success knocking off Grits in the Big Smoke is the NDP. The Dippers have won by-elections in Toronto-Danforth (hold), Parkdale-High Park (Gain) and York South Weston (Gain). St. Paul's is just not NDP territory. In 2007, they hit a high watermark of just under 16%. They also don't have a candidate yet. One will be chosen Monday according to Wikipedia. In a short election campaign, the NDP is running out of time to create a York South - Weston type swing in St. Paul's. The Greens are currently leaderless and are undoubtedly more concerned about choosing a replacement for Frank de Jong than fighting a pointless fight in St. Paul's.

The conclusion for me is that the Liberals must work hard to be safe, but really shouldn't have to worry about St. Paul's. By-elections are weird little things, but I'm not sold this one is going to be weird enough to be competitive.

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