prediction map in May, there have been a number of polls that have come out for the upcoming provincial general election in Ontario. While the election is not until October, the Tories have put out a lot of ads attacking Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, calling him the "tax man". These ads ran during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, which has to be compared to the Superbowl for Canadians. The Game was the 2nd most watched television program in CBC history. So, even though the game didn't feature an Ontario team, it's safe to say there were a lot of Ontarians watching it. The Tories must have a lot of money.
Anyways, their ads have worked. Not in terms of increasing the Tory support, but in terms of reducing Liberal support (similar to the federal election where even though the Tories got a majority, their increase in the vote was small compared to the collapse of the Liberals). Since the beginning of the year, the provincial Tories have polled consistently in the low 40s. Meanwhile the Liberals have dropped from the high 30s down to the most recent Forum Research poll which has them 26%. This support is going to the NDP and the Greens who in the most recent poll are at 22% and 8% respectively (up from the mid teens and lower single digits respectively, earlier in the year). Perhaps the Conservative plan is to divide and conquer, rather than attract voters to their camp. The media as of yet has ignored the NDP provincially, so it will be interesting to see if being in the limelight in the fall campaign season will boost their numbers even more. They certainly have some room to eat some Green and Liberal support like they had in the May federal election.
Ah, so let's take a look at my predictions then. First I'll discuss my methodology. Well, it's all about the gut instinct. But wait- there's more to it than that. I don't just poll numbers out of my arse, I factor in a number of things before I make a prediction. I look at what all the pundits say for local races, I look at polls (of course), and of course I look at riding history, etc, etc. After looking at all that, I make a call. Of course, at this point in the campaign, there is little information out there about local races and whatnot, so I'm really going to go out on a limb with some of these. For my analysis, I'll divide the province up into regions.
Firstly, let's look at Eastern Ontario. The Liberals have two retiring incumbents here. Jim Bromwell is retiring in Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry. This seat is very conservative, with the federal Tories winning here in landslides recently. It's pretty safe to say that this will be a Tory pick up. The other open seat will by Glengarry--Prescott--Russell where Jean-Marc Lalonde will be retiring. The federal Tories have done well here recently, in a seat that has been historically very Liberal. With the incumbent retiring, and based on the Liberal history of the riding, it will be difficult to predict. I will put it in the toss up category. On the Conservative side, there is just one open seat they are defending in the region. MPP Norm Sterling was defeated for the nomination in Carleton--Mississippi Mills by Jack MacLaren, the former president of the "libertarian" Ontario Landowners Association. Despite MacLaren's radical views, the riding is fairly conservative, and should have no problem re-electing him.
The Liberals are also vulnerable in three seats they hold in the Ottawa area. These three seats are held by different parties on the federal level. In Ottawa Centre, the Liberals beat the NDP in the 2007 provincial election by just 2,200 votes, and in the 2011 federal election, the Liberals finished a distant third, trailing the NDP by over 20,000 votes. This riding has been trending NDP recently, and while it may well be close, I predict at this point an NDP pick up. Next door is Ottawa West--Nepean which saw a close provincial by-election last year, where former Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli defeated the Tory candidate by just over 1,200 votes. Back then the Liberals were polling slightly ahead of the Tories province-wide, so it is a fair assumption that given recent polling numbers, that this will be a Tory pick up. Also consider that this seat as been held by the federal Conservatives for the last five years. Finally, the last race to watch will be Ottawa--Orleans. Liberal MPP Phil McNeely is running again. He won by 9,000 votes in 2007, but it will be much closer this time. The federal Tories have also held this riding for the last 5 years, but with closer margins. The 2011 election was won by less than 4,000 votes. At this point, the seat is a toss up.
There is just one MPP not running in Central Ontario. Aileen Carroll of Barrie is calling it quits. The former federal Liberal MP won the seat by just 1400 votes in the 2007 election. Barrie has been trending right recently, and even if she was running again, this would be an easy Tory pick up.
The Liberals hold four other seats in the region, and they are all in jeopardy. The lowest hanging fruit for the Tories to pick off is Haliburton--Kawartha Lakes--Brock. This riding was actually won by the Tories in the 2007 election, but was picked up by the Liberals in a by-election in 2009. The Tories vacated the seat to give then leader John Tory an easy seat to run in, as he lost his bid for election in the general race in Don Valley West. It turned out to be anything but easy, as the unpopular Tory lost the race by just 900 votes to the Liberal's Rick Johnson. In contrast, the Tories had won the 2007 race by 10,000 votes. With a new leader, and a new candidate, this will be an easy Tory pick up, never mind the fact that the federal Conservatives won this by nearly 22,000 votes in the 2011 federal race.
The three other seats the Liberals are defending are Prince Edward--Hastings, Northumberland--Quinte West and Peterborough. All three seats are safe Tory seats on the federal level but were won by the Liberals in the 2007 election by 6,000, 7,000 and 11,000 votes respectively. It will take some large swings to take all three of them. By contrast the Liberals were around 20,000 votes behind in all three seats in the 2011 federal race, finishing third in 2 of the three seats. While many of these numbers seem insurmountable, I predict all three will be Tory pick ups.
Northern Ontario is a very different place politically in 2011 than it was in the last 2007 election. What was once a Liberal vs. NDP region has turned into an NDP vs. Conservative region on the federal level. Whether that will translate provincially is a different story. The Liberals hold 7 seats in the north while the NDP holds 3. In contrast, the NDP holds 6 federal seats while the Tories hold 3. (There is one less federal seat in the region, as it is the only region of Ontario that has different riding boundaries on a provincial level then federally).
Northern Ontario has a history of being more pro-incumbent. This is changing somewhat, but it did take the NDP several election cycles to get a majority of the seats here federally. There are two open seats in the region for the 2011 election. David Ramsay is retiring in Timiskaming--Cochrane, while Monique Smith is retiring in Nipissing. Both faced tough battles in the 2007 election. Ramsay defeated the NDP candidate by 600 votes while Smith defeated the Tory candidate by just 400 votes. With the Liberals tanking in the polls, both seats should be pick up for the opposing parties. Timiskaming--Cochrane will be an NDP pick up and Nipissing a Tory pick up.
Due to the changing dynamics in the region, every seat in Northern Ontario will be one to watch. Algoma--Manitoulin was won by the Liberals by just 1600 votes in 2007 over the NDP. The NDP should be able to pick this one off. Kenora--Rainy River will be an NDP hold, as long as former Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton runs again. Kenora voted Conservative federally, but Hampton is very popular, having won the riding by 9,000 votes in 2007. Nickel Belt has been somewhat close in recent provincial elections, but it has been held by the NDP for 40 years, and federally the NDP won it by 12,000 votes. NDP hold. Sault Ste. Marie could be interesting. The Liberals defeated the NDP here by 11,000 votes in 2007 while the Tories were third, 17,000 votes behind. Federally, the Tories actually hold the seat, having recently picked it off from the NDP. "The Soo" may turn into a real three way race, but the Liberals have the incumbent advantage, and I can only see them holding the seat. Down the Trans-Canada highway is the riding of Sudbury, where the Liberals defeated the NDP in 2007 by over 10,000 votes. While the NDP holds the area provincially, it came as a big surprise when they won it in the 2008 federal election, and it would take an even bigger surprise to win it in the provincial election. Liberal hold. In Thunder Bay--Atikokan, the Liberals won in the 2007 election by just 50 votes over the NDP. While the NDP candidate at the time, John Rafferty is currently the MP for the area will not be the candidate, the NDP should be able to win the seat, which is safe NDP territory federally. Across town is the riding of Thunder Bay--Superior North where the Liberals defeated the NDP by 2400 votes in 2007. This is also NDP territory on the federal level, and 2400 votes wont be enough to save the Liberals here either, except another NDP pick up. Finally, Timmins--James Bay will be an easy NDP hold, as it currently is probably the most pro-NDP seat in the North.
The former base of the Ontario Liberal Party is located in this region. The area is fairly socially conservative, but that has done the Liberals just fine in the past, when they were to the right of the Tories on the Ontario political spectrum. Things are different now. While Mike Harris made inroads in the region, McGuinty gained back many of the seats in 2003 and 2007. Now, they are in danger of going back to the Tories.
There are a number of open seats. The open seats being defended by the Liberals are Essex, Chatham-Kent--Essex, Elgin--Middlesex--London and Windsor West. The first three are held federally by the Conservatives will the latter is held by the NDP. Essex is currently vacant due to the death of its MPP, Bruce Crozier. He defeated his Tory opponent by 9000 votes in 2007, but the Liberals were a distant third in the federal election. Expect the NDP to make an effort here as well, as they have done well here recently. I do expect the Tories to pick up this open seat. In next door Chatham-Kent--Essex, MPP Pat Hoy will be retiring. He defeated his Tory opponent by 8000 votes, but that wont be enough to protect the Liberals here, who were 16,000 votes behind in the federal election. Tory pick up. And next door to that riding is Elgin--Middlesex--London. Outgoing Liberal MPP Steve Peters won in 2007 by 7500 votes. This should be a Tory pick up as well, as the federal Conservatives defeated the Liberals by 22,000 votes. It should be noted the NDP finished 2nd in both these seats in 2011. Finally, in Windsor West, Liberal MPP Sandra Pupatello is retiring. She defeated her NDP opponent by 8000 votes in 2007, but Windsor is now an NDP town- at least federally, and I expect the NDP to be able to pick this one up. The Liberal candidate in the 2011 federal election finished third, 17000 behind the NDP winner, Brian Masse.
Two Tories in the region will not be running again. MPP Gerry Martiniuk will be retiring in Cambridge, a seat he won by just 3000 votes. That was in a bad Tory year however, and federally there was little opposition for the Conservatives. Tory hold. In Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound, Tory MPP Bill Murdoch is retiring. This race was the Green's best riding in the province in 2007, when their candidate, Shane Jolley lost by 6000 votes. However, he is not running again either, and the Greens disappointed here in the federal race, finishing in a distant 4th. This is a safe conservative seat, and I expect a Tory hold.
The Liberals are defending 11 other seats in the region. Only one of which (Guelph), do they hold federally. Guelph is a Liberal town, and I expect they will keep the seat. Windsor--Tecumseh should also remain Liberal. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan defeated his NDP rival by 9,000 votes in 2007, though it will be closer this time. It is a federal NDP seat, but Duncan is popular there. In London West, Attorney General Chris Bentley defeated his Tory rival by 13,000 votes. Again, while this is a federal Conservative seat, his popularity there should keep it in Liberal hands. London North Centre is held by Minister of Health Deb Matthews. She won by 10,000 votes in 2007. This race will be much closer, but I think it is less of a conservative seat, as it was held by the federal Liberals until 2011 where they lost it in a close race. Liberal hold. Kitchener Centre is held by John Milloy, another cabinet minister. He won by less than 8,000 votes in 2007, and is therefore more vulnerable. The Liberals were less than 6,000 votes behind in the federal election. This could go either way, so I'll call it a toss up for now. London--Fanshawe will be an interesting race. The Liberals beat the Tories by just 4,000 votes in 2007. The NDP, which holds this seat federally was just 400 votes behind the Tories. Anyone can win this race. Federally, I see it as being more of an "Irene Mathyssen" seat (the riding's MP) rather than an NDP seat, and I am bearish on the NDP's chances here provincially- unless they have a really good candidate. At this point, I feel the Tories will come up the middle, and I would say it leans Tory. Another close race to watch will be Brant. The Liberal MP Dave Levac won this seat by nearly 10,000 votes in 2007 over the Tories. Brant is more of a moderate seat compared to most rural seats in the region, so it will be very close. The Liberals finished 3rd here federally, over 19,000 votes behind, but Conservative MP Phil McColeman was held to a minority of the votes. I'd say at this point Brant leans Tory.
The remaining four Liberal seats in the region will not be as interesting, as I expect easy Tory pickups. The most likely pickup will be Kitchener--Conestoga. In 2007, this race surprised many as it went Liberal, by 2000 votes. Perhaps the Tory candidate being named Michael Harris hurt him? The next hanging fruit is Lambton--Kent--Middlesex. Easy Tory pick up, as they only have 3000 votes to make up. Perth--Wellington will be more difficult, as the Liberals won by 6000 votes, and finally in Huron--Bruce there is 7000 votes to make up. Actually, I may be a little presumptious about Huron--Bruce, as it is an incumbent friendly riding. It stuck with Liberal MP Paul Steckle until 2008 when he retired, when all the seats around him were going Conservative. Could the same thing happen provincially with Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell who currently holds the seat?
This region is represented by all three parties. The Liberals are defending 4 seats, the NDP 3 and the Tories 1 (the riding of Tory leader Tim Hudak). The only open seat is Welland which is held by the NDP's Peter Kormos and he had decided to not run again. Federally, this riding has been very close with the NDP's Malcolm Allen winning the last two elections by a close margin. Since this seat is open, the incumbency factor will be lacking for the NDP. It is a marginal NDP seat, yes, but Hudak is from the region, and the Tories will be targeting this seat. For now, this is too close to call.
While the NDP may lose Welland, it is sure to gain Hamilton Mountain. The NDP lost this race in 2007 by less than 2,000 votes, and it has been held by the NDP for the last 5 years federally. In the 2011 federal election, the Liberals ran a star candidate in Marie Bountrogianni, but still finished a distant third. NDP gain. Next door in Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Westdale will be an easy Tory pick up. The Tories lost by just 3,000 votes in 2007, and beat the Liberals here in the 2011 federal election by over 15,000 votes. Niagara Falls will be a tougher battle for the Tories. While the seat was won by the Conservatives in the 2011 election easily, they have to overcome over 7,000 votes they lost by in the 2007 election. With Hudak from the region however, I think they Tories will be able to pick this off.
The final seat to watch in the region will be St. Catharines. It is represented by Liberal cabinet minister Jim Bradley who has held this seat for the last 34 years. He won the 2007 election by over 12,000 votes. He will be in for a fight this time, but my guess is he will hang on. The biggest reason why this is a race to watch is because the Conservatives won this in the 2011 election by a lot, and the Liberals finished 3rd, 15,000 votes behind. But, they didn't have a popular incumbent running. Liberal hold.
Suburban Greater Toronto Area
This region of the province is what many political commentators see as Canada's bellwether- that is the area that a party must win to win the nation- or in this case the province. Harper's Conservatives nearly swept this region, winning all but one seat (Markham--Unionville). Provincially, the Tories won just 7 seats here in the 2007 election, mostly in the more exurban ridings- that is the suburban fringe. I think it's safe to say considering the federal election results in this region, every Liberal seat is up for grabs.
There are two open Liberal seats in the region. One is Pickering--Scarborough East where Wayne Arthurs is retiring. He won in 2007 by 7,000 votes while this seat was picked up by the Tories in the federal election in a close race, where the incumbent Liberal MP, Dan McTeague lost by just under 1,200 votes. I think for the 2011 provincial race, this will be a lean Tory seat. The Other open Liberal seat is Mississauga East--Cooksville where Peter Fonseca is retiring. He won by over 13,000 votes in 2007. While the seat did go Conservative in the federal election- it was a close race where the incumbent Liberal MP was not running for re-election either. But, who was the Liberal candidate? Why, it was Mr. Fonseca himself. This will be a very interesting race. For now, a toss up. The Tories will be defending one open seat, in Burlington where Joyce Savoline is retiring. I expect an easy hold for the Tories here.
And now for the other seats the Liberals are defending. Let's start in Oakville. The Liberals won this seat by 7,000 votes in the 2007 provincial election, but federally it's a Conservative riding. The Liberals lost in the 2011 federal election by 12,000 votes. I expect a Tory pick up here.
Next to Oakville is the ever growing Peel Region cities of Brampton and Mississauga where the Liberals swept in the 2007 provincial election, but the Conservatives swept in the 2011 federal election. We already mentioned Mississauga East--Cooksville, but what about the others? Part of the reason for the success of the federal Conservatives here was their work in courting the ethnic vote. I don't think that will translate quite as well for Tim Hudak (though there will be some residual support). In Brampton, the most conservative riding is Brampton West, where the Liberals won by just over 5,000 votes in the 2007 election. I think this will be enough for the Tories to overcome and win.7,000 votes separated the Liberals and the Tories in neighbouring Brampton--Springdale, which I think might just be enough as well, so I'll call a Tory pick up there as well. And finally the most interesting race will be in Bramalea--Gore--Malton, where NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh will be running. He ran for the NDP federally, and came within 600 votes of winning. While I expect him to do well, I can't see him winning in a provincial election, with different dynamics and no Jack Layton coat tails. These dynamics will help the Liberals keep the riding, albeit in a close three way race.
Let's move south to Mississauga now. We'll start with Mississauga--Brampton South. The Liberals won this by 10,000 votes in 2007. It's too early to tell whether the Tories will be able to overcome this deficit, so I'll say this is too close to call. Next door Mississauga--Erindale, was the only seat in Mississauga or Brampton to vote for a Conservative MP in the 2008 federal election. The Liberal candidate won by just over 6,000 votes in the 2007 provincial race. Given these facts, I expect a Tory pick up. The most conservative riding in Mississauga, Mississauga South will likewise go Tory, having only lost the 2007 race by 5,000 votes. Finally in Mississauga--Streetsville, the Liberals won by 9,000 votes in 2007. This is borderline as well, and for now I'll wuss out and call this a toss up.
Moving into York Region now, the Liberals are defending four seats. The only seat they hold federally is Markham--Unionville, which is a majority minority riding (meaning a majority of its inhabitants are a visible minority). It was a close seat in the 2011 federal election, but I think I'll give the Liberals some credit that they can at least keep this one seat. Another seat the Liberals should win is Vaughan. Federally, we have seen some massive vote swings here where the Tories were able to win this "safe" Liberal seat in a late 2010 federal by-election. Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara won this seat by 20,000 votes in the 2007 election, and while that wont happen again, I find it hard to believe the Tories will be able to overcome this so for now, this will be a Liberal hold. Next we have Oak Ridges--Markham. The Liberals won this by 7,000 votes in 2007 - but the Tories won by 20,000 votes in the federal election. I expect a Tory pick up. Finally, only a 5,000 vote difference separated the Liberal winner and the Tories in Richmond Hill in 2007. Easy Tory pick up.
Finally wrapping up the GTA suburban belt is Durham Region. The Liberals hold two seats here, one of which (Pickering--Scarborough East), we already discussed. So that leaves Ajax--Pickering. Not even 7,000 votes separated the Liberals and Tories here in the 2007 election.The seat was close in the federal election, with the Conservatives winning by 3,000 votes. I will give the edge to the Tories here, but it will be a close race.
The City of Toronto in recent elections has been a fortress for the Liberals. Provincially, "the 416" has not voted for a Tory MPP since the 1999 election, when they won 8 seats to the Liberals 11 (3 went NDP). Since then, only the NDP has been able to win seats in Toronto against the Liberals, keeping those three seats in 2003 and expanding on that by picking up 2 more in by-elections before losing one of them in 2007, to sit at 4 now. Federally, Toronto has not elected a Tory MP since 1988, before electing a whole slew of them in the 2011 race. Couple that with the election of right wing mayor Rob Ford last year, the city of Toronto is very much a different place politically now that just a few years ago. The most recent Forum Research poll has the Tories at 33%, the Liberals at 31% and the NDP at 25% in Toronto. The recent federal election gave the Liberals 35%, the Conservatives 31% and the NDP also at 31%.
There will be one open seat in Toronto for this election. In Scarborough--Agincourt, Gerry Phillips is retiring. It is a safe Liberal seat though, so expect no change. All the other seats in Scarborough will be ones to watch. Scarborough--Rouge River is perhaps the safest Liberal seat in the area. The NDP picked it up in the federal election, as it was an open seat. The riding is another "majority minority" district with a high percentage of Tamils, helping to elect the NDP's Rathika Sitsabaiesan. The riding has little history with the NDP however, and barring another popular candidate, the Liberals should hold on to it. The only other seat the Liberals hold federally in Scarborough is Scarborough--Guildwood, which they won by just 600 votes. Provincially, the won by 5,000 votes. This one is a toss up. The other seat the NDP won federally in Scarborough was Scarborough Southwest. This riding has had a history of voting NDP on a provincial level, although they finished in a distant 3rd in the 2007 election. With vote splitting, this seat could go for either the Tories, NDP or Liberals. For the record, the Liberals won by 7,000 votes in 2007. Toss up. Wrapping up Scarborough, we have Scarborough Centre. This was another tight 3-way race in the 2011 federal election, where the Tories managed to come through the middle. Provincially, the Liberals won this seat by 9,000 votes in 2007. This is another toss up between the Liberals and the Tories, with the NDP expected to be a wild card.
In downtown Toronto, we can expect little change. With riding poll numbers, the NDP should keep their four seats. With a divided opposition, the Liberals should keep their seat in Toronto Centre. Davenport will be the most interesting race in the central Toronto area. The riding is having demographic changes, with lots of young professionals moving in. It featured a massive swing in the federal election for the NDP candidate, Andrew Cash who won the seat by 10,000 votes over the Liberal incumbent. The seat was close in the 2007 election, when the Liberals beat the NDP candidate by 1,500 votes. NDP gain. Another seat I expect the NDP to pick up from the Liberals is York South--Weston. The NDP won this in a by-election in 2007, but lost in a rematch in the provincial election. Both elections were close, with the result being less than 500 votes both times. Federally, the NDP picked this up in the 2011 race. This should go to the NDP.
Three seats in the rest of Toronto that should be safe for the Liberals are Etobicoke North, York West and St. Paul's Those are the seats the Liberals won in the federal election. All other seats are up for grabs. Starting with Etobicoke in the west, I expect the Tories to gain Etobicoke--Lakeshore from the Liberals. The Liberals won by 7,000 votes there in the 2007 race, and lost by 3,000 votes in the federal race. Expect a close Tory win. Etobicoke Centre featured another 7,000 vote victory for the Liberals in the 2007 race. The Tories won this by just 26 votes in the federal election. I think I will call this a toss up, for now. Going east to York Centre now, the Tories are sure to target this one, as it was one of the Conservatives' targets in the 2011 federal race. The Liberals won here by 5,600 votes in the 2007 race, while the Conservatives won by over 6,000 votes in the federal election. Tory pick up. Next door is Willowdale, which was a close race in the 2011 federal election, where the Conservatives won by 1,000 votes. The Liberals won this by 5,600 votes in the 2007 provincial race. This will be a close race, but I have to give the Tories a slight edge thus far. Another close race will in Don Valley East. Liberal MPP David Caplan won this seat by nearly 11,000 votes. However, the Tories picked this seat up in the federal race in a close race which saw the NDP do well. This is a toss up for now. Next we have Don Valley West, which is the seat that former Tory leader John Tory tried to run in the last election, but was defeated by nearly 5,000 votes. This seat I have always thought of as being the most conservative seat in Toronto, but I'd say this is up for debate now. The Conservatives picked this up in the most recent federal election, but it was close (600 vote difference). The 2008 federal race where the Liberals won, was close too. I wouldn't be surprised if the Liberals managed a close victory here, but the Tories will probably win in a close race. And finally, another Tory target for the federal election was Eglinton--Lawrence, which they managed to win by 4,000 votes, ousting controversial Liberal MP Joe Volpe. The provincial race was close, with the Liberals winning by just 2,000 votes here in 2007. Easy Tory pick up.
So, where does that leave us? Even discounting the toss ups, this gives the Tories a majority. According to my maths, this gives us:
Tories: 56 seats (including toss ups, 70)
Liberals: 19 seats (including toss ups, 31)
NDP: 18 seats (including toss ups, 20)
Toss ups: 13 seats