Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ontario provincial by-election preview (Ottawa-Vanier and Niagara West-Glanbrook)

Today there are a couple of provincial by-elections being held in Ontario, one in the riding of Ottawa—Vanier and one in Niagara West—Glanbrook. Ottawa—Vanier was vacated in June when its MPP, Madeleine Meilleur announced her retirement. Meilleur, a Liberal represented the riding since 2003 and served in the cabinets of both Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. Niagara West—Glanbrook was vacated in September when its MPP, Tim Hudak resigned to become the CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association. Hudak was the leader of the Progressive Conservatives from 2009 to 2014, leading the party in the last two provincial elections to disappointing defeats. Hudak had been an MPP since 1995.


The governing Liberals have continued to slide in the polls in recent months. In September, they lost a key by-election in Scarborough—Rouge River to the Tories, in what had been a safe Liberal seat. Since then, province-wide polling has shown that they have dropped at least 10 more points, with the most recent Mainstreet Research poll putting them in third place behind the NDP. Today's by-elections are in safe seats, but it will be interesting to see the swings against the Liberals in both ridings, and how well the two opposition parties gain at their expense.


Ottawa—Vanier


Geography

Ottawa—Vanier is located in the east end of Ottawa, running from the Rideau Canal in the west to Green's Creek in the east. The northern boundary is the Ottawa River, while the southern boundary follows Highway 417, Blair Road and Montreal Road. The riding is socioeconomically very diverse; it contains Ottawa's oldest neighbourhood (Lowertown) in the west, post war suburbs in the east, some of Ottawa's poorest neighbourhoods and also Ottawa's richest neighbourhood (Rockcliffe Park). The riding is home to both the normal residence of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (Rideau Hall). The riding is named for its largest neighbourhood, Vanier which used to be an independent city until it amalgamated with Ottawa in 2001. Rockcliffe Park was also an independent municipality until amalgamation. The post-war suburbs in the east and southeast parts of the riding were formerly in the City of Gloucester until amalgamation. Other notable neighbourhoods in the riding include Sandy Hill, the By Ward Market, New Edinburgh, Manor Park, Overbrook, Beacon Hill North and Pineview. The riding is also home to the University of Ottawa.


Demographics

Ottawa-Vanier is one of the most Francophone ridings in the province, with nearly one third (31%) of the riding having French as their mother tongue. Vanier itself is almost 50% French, but the surrounding neighbourhoods also have high French populations. Lowertown historically has had a high Francophone population, but it has decreased in recent decades. The riding is still a majority Anglo, with 52% of the population having English as their first language. Arabic is the next most spoken mother tongue at 4%. 72% of the riding is White, with much of this population having French, English, Irish and Scottish origins. 10% of the riding is Black, while there are significant populations of Arabs, South Asians, Aboriginals and Chinese. Nearly two-thirds of the riding (66%) is Christian, with 45% of the population being Catholic. 8% of the riding is Muslim, while 23% have no religion.
Despite the presence of wealthy Rockcliffe Park in the riding, Ottawa—Vanier is very much working class. The median household income in the riding is $57,000 (provincial median is $66,000) while the average income is $77,000 (provincial average is $86,000). The median individual income ($32,000) is slightly higher than the provincial median ($31,000). Due to the riding's close proximity to the Downtown, nearly a quarter of the labour force works in public administration, dwarfing all other industries.


History

Owing to its large Francophone, working class and public sector populations, Ottawa—Vanier and its predecessor ridings have reliably voted Liberal throughout its history. Today, it is one of the safest Liberal ridings in the province. It has voted Liberal continuously since 1971 (and has won a majority of the vote in every election since), and was the party's 8th best seat in 2014. In that election, Meilleur won 56% of the vote, while her PC opponent won 22% and the NDP candidate won 13%. Once in a while the riding has elected Tories, but only once in a blue moon. Since last winning the riding in 1967, the PCs have only broken over 30% of the vote once (in 1999). The NDP has never won the riding, but has on occasion finished second. They have only broken 20% once in the riding's history though, and that was in 1990, when the party was swept in to power. Owing to its sizable and historical francophone populations, the riding has elected only Francophones to Queen's Park since 1911.
Until 1908, all of Ottawa was represented in Queen's Park by the riding of Ottawa (which at times also included surrounding villages that would later be absorbed by the city). In 1908, the riding was split into two parts, Ottawa East and Ottawa West. Ottawa East would naturally include the eastern parts of the city, namely Sandy Hill, Lowertown and New Edinburgh. In 1933 it was expanded to include Old Ottawa East and a strange westerly protrusion which included Parliament Hill, LeBreton Flats and Mechanicsville (but not the rest of Downtown Ottawa). In 1966 the boundaries changed again, and the riding would only include Sandy Hill, Lowertown, New Edinburgh, as well as the city of Eastview which would become Vanier in 1969. Over the next few decades, the riding grew in size, gaining Forbes and Overbrook in 1975, Carson Grove, Cyrville and Quarries in 1987, and finally Pineview and Beacon Hill North in 1999 when the riding became known as Ottawa—Vanier (matching the federal riding). 

List of MPPs for the area


Political geography

One look at the 2014 map of the riding, and one would think that Ottawa—Vanier is a pretty homogenous place, as nearly every single poll voted Liberal. In fact, only three polls voted Tory, and just one voted NDP. This is how the riding usually goes though. The Liberals win nearly every single poll, while the NDP and the Tories are lucky to win a handful across the riding. Usually, the Tories will win a few suburban polls in the east of the riding, or maybe a poll or two in Rockcliffe Park, while the NDP might win a few polls in Sandy Hill or Lowertown. In 2014, the Liberals won every single neighbourhood in the riding, winning a majority of the vote in most of them. Meilleur's best neighbourhood was Viscount Alexander Park, where she won 63% of the vote. Her worst neighbourhood was the wealthier Rothwell Heights neighbourhood, where she still won 46%, but lost two polls. Rothwell Heights was the best Tory neighbourhood, where they won one poll and 39% of the vote. Their worst neighbourhood was Sandy Hill where they won 15% of the vote. The best neighbourhood for the NDP was Sandy Hill, thanks in part to a large student population. They won 17% of the vote there. The worst NDP neighbourhood was Rockcliffe Park, where they won just 4% of the vote.

2014 provincial election results by neighbourhood

Federally, Ottawa—Vanier has seen different political maps in recent elections. While 2015 was a Liberal wash here, the 2011 election was much more interesting as it was relatively close with the Liberals winning 38% of the vote, the NDP winning 29% and the Conservatives 27%. The Liberals may have won the riding, but you wouldn't know it by looking at a map. The NDP won most of the working class western part of the riding (Sandy Hill, Vanier, Lowertown and Overbrook), while the Conservatives won much of the middle class suburbs in the eastern part of the riding (such as Beacon Hill and Pineview). The Liberals won the wealthier northern neighbourhoods of the riding like Manor Park and New Edinburgh, and the won the riding by finishing 2nd place everywhere else.


Outlook

No matter the outcome of today's by-election, the riding will still be represented by another Francophone, as all of the major parties have nominated one. Even with their low poll numbers, the Liberals are still the favourites to win, thanks to the riding's demographics and long history of voting Liberal. I should also note anecdotally, the Ottawa area is far removed from the world of Toronto-centred provincial politics, and so anger against the provincial government is not as strong here. The probable winner of today's by-election is Liberal candidate Nathalie Des Rosiers, the dean of common law at the University of Ottawa. Her strongest challenge will likely come from the Tory candidate, André Marin who is the former ombudsman of the province. The NDP's candidate is Claude Bisson, a former RCMP officer and brother of Timmins—James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson. The Green Party candidate is Raphaël Morin, who ran for the Greens in last year's federal election in his home riding of Orleans.


Niagara West—Glanbrook

 


Geography

Niagara West—Glanbrook is located on the south shore of Lake Ontario on the Niagara Peninsula, nestled between the southern and eastern edges of Hamilton and the western edges of the St. Catharines-Niagara metropolitan area. The riding is home to a number of bedroom communities serving both metros, and all of the rural area in between. The western third of the riding lies within the city limits of Hamilton, consisting of the former Township of Glanbrook and the part of the former city of Stoney Creek south of the Niagara escarpment. Both of these areas were amalgamated into Hamilton proper in 2001. This region of the riding contains newer subdivisions, spilling out from the core of Hamilton, a couple of commuter villages (Mount Hope and Binbrook) and a large swath of rural area.

Along the north shore of the riding are the municipalities of Grimsby and Lincoln, which are a mix of bedroom communities (such as Grimsby itself, Beamsville and Vineland) and rural areas. Toward the interior south of the riding is the Township of West Lincoln, which is almost entirely rural except for the community of Smithville. And finally, in the southeast corner of the riding is the Town of Pelham, which is basically just a suburb of neighbouring Welland. Most of the population of Pelham lives in the community of Fonthill.


Demographics

Being a mostly rural/small town riding, Niagara West—Glanbrook is a fairly homogeneously White, Anglo-Saxon, Christian riding. 93% of the riding is White, with the main ethnic groups in the riding being English, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Italian, German and French. 86% of the riding has English as their mother tongue, with Italian and Dutch being the next two biggest languages at 2% each. Over three-quarters (76%) of the riding is Christian. 32% of the riding is Catholic, 10% are United Church and 9% are Anglican. 21% have no religion. The riding is quite a bit more wealthy than the province as a whole. The median household income in the riding is $80,000 (provincial median is $66,000) while the median individual income is $45,000 (provincial median is $31,000). Manufacturing is the largest industry, with health care and social assistance not being too far behind.


History

As a riding, Niagara West—Glanbrook is a new creation, born in time for the 2007 election. A bare majority of the district (Glanbrook, Stoney Creek and Grimsby) came from the previous riding of Stoney Creek, while Lincoln and West Lincoln were previously in the riding of Erie—Lincoln and Pelham was in the riding of Niagara Centre. Tim Hudak had previously represented Erie—Lincoln, which included his hometown of Fort Erie. Fort Erie had been redistributed into the more Liberal-friendly Niagara Falls riding, and instead of running there, he ran in the new Niagara West riding, which had notionally voted PC in 2003. Hudak easily won the seat in 2007, 2011 and in 2014. He won a majority of the vote in both 2007 and 2011, but just 42% in 2014. He had been helped out by a vote split between the Liberals and NDP who won 28% and 22% respectively. The Liberals have always finished second here (ranging from 26% to 36% of the vote), while the NDP has always finished third (with results ranging from 12% to 22%).

Historically, the western part of the Niagara region in Ontario was found in the riding of Lincoln until that riding was split up in 1999 when provincial ridings were redistributed to match their federal counterparts. Lincoln was mostly a Tory seat for much of its history, though it did go Liberal once in a while and voted for the NDP in 1990. For most of its history, Lincoln contained the municipalities of Lincoln, West Lincoln and Grimsby (and sometimes Pelham), while the Hamilton part of the riding was located in Wentworth East (also known as just Wentworth), which included Glanbrook, all of Stoney Creek and sometimes part of suburban Hamilton. While Lincoln usually voted Tory, Wentworth often voted NDP.
List of MPPs for the area

 

Political geography

There are two kinds of political divides in this riding: rural vs. urban and west (Hamilton) vs. east. The eastern part of this riding, which is mostly rural or urban bedroom communities vote more conservative, while the western part of the riding, which is influenced by the progressive voting patterns of urban Hamilton is less conservative. Urban areas, even the commuter towns are less conservative while the rural areas surrounding them are much more conservative. 

2014 election results by community

In the 2014 election, Hudak's strongest region of the riding was West Lincoln Township, where he won 59% of the vote. The rural part of the township was even better for him, as he won 62% of the vote there. His worst region in the riding was in Stoney Creek, where he only won 26% of the vote, coming in third behind the Liberals (35%) and the NDP (33%). Stoney Creek was the best region for both those parties. The worst neighbourhood for Hudak was the Tirinity/Highland area of Stoney Creek, where he won just 23% of the vote. The strongest neighbourhood for the Liberals was actually in Glanbrook. The new subdivision of Summit Park, which is located adjacent to Stoney Creek gave the Liberals 41% of the vote. The worst part of the riding for the Liberals was the rural part of West Lincoln, which gave them just 14%. The best neighbourhood for the NDP was Valley Park in Stoney Creek, where they won 36% of the vote and the worst area was rural Lincoln, where they won 14%.



Outlook

With this riding being a pretty safe one to begin with for the Tories, they should have no problem maintaining it in today's by-election, especially considering their increased poll numbers. The only caveat is that they are running a rather controversial candidate in the 19 year old Sam Oosterhoff, who will become Ontario's youngest MPP ever if he wins. Oosterhoff, a Brock University student won the Tory nomination in a surprise upset, defeating former MP Rick Dykstra and regional councillor Tony Quirk. Oosterhoff's candidacy has been controversial due to his conservative views on abortion, same-sex marriage and Ontario's new sex-ed curriculum. Despite his controversial views, he will in all likelihood win the seat, meaning the real race will be for second place between the Liberals and NDP. Running for the Liberals is Hamilton lawyer Vicky Ringuette and running for the NDP is former Hamilton police union leader Mike Thomas. The NDP has never finished second in the riding in its short history, but did finish second in the 2011 federal election. The Green Party candidate is Donna Cridland, who lives in a neighbouring riding.


Polls close in both ridings at 9pm.

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