Sunday, March 18, 2012

Toronto--Danforth by-election guide

Riding map.
Tomorrow, residents of Toronto—Danforth will be going to the polls to elect a new Member of Parliament in the first by-election of the 41st Parliament. The riding has been vacant since last August, upon the death of its last MP, former NDP leader Jack Layton.

Over the last few months, I have done an analysis of the riding's demographics and boundary history. Today, I'll be discussing the last few elections (with maps), as well as a brief synopsis of the candidates, and even a prediction.

The riding under its current boundaries has existed since the last redistribution in 2004. Before that, Toronto--Danforth's boundaries were quite similar, but some of the current riding (the southeast corner) was in the riding of Beaches--East York. Prior to the 2004 election, Toronto--Danforth was represented by Liberal Dennis Mills, while Beaches--East York was represented by Maria Minna. Both had won their previous elections in 2000 quite handily. Mills defeated the NDP's candidate, Paula Turtle, a labour lawyer. Mills won 52% of the vote, while Turtle won 28%. Turtle's only strength was in the Riverdale nieghbourhood. The rest of the riding was dominated by Mills. In 2000, every poll in Beaches--East York, including the part now in Toronto--Danforth was won by Liberal MP Maria Minna. 

The map at left shows the polls where the Liberals (Mills and Minna) won in red, compared to the polls where the NDP won (Turtle) in orange. The map shows the present riding boundaries. The thicker black line shows where the boundary between Toronto--Danforth and Beaches--East York was. 

The map is not shaded, as I just took the information from the Pundit's Guide. However, in the very least it shows the Liberal dominance in the riding at the time, and also shows that the NDP was able to get at least a cluster of polls together in the Broadview area.

In 2003, former Toronto city councillor Jack Layton became leader of the federal N.D.P. No MP stood aside for him to take a seat in the House of Commons. Instead, Layton waited for the 2004 election the following year to try and get elected. Layton chose the riding of Toronto--Danforth to run. The riding had been the strongest in the city for the NDP in the past, and was also the riding that encompassed Layton's former seat on Toronto City Council. Nevertheless, he still had an uphill challenge trying to unseat the popular incumbent, Dennis Mills. 

Layton did manage to eek out a victory in the riding, by a narrow 2,400 vote margin. Layton won 46%, to Mills' 41%. As you can see from the map at left, the riding ended up being quite polarized between the north and the south. 

The south part of the riding was represented by Layton on Toronto City Council, which is probably why his biggest numbers came from that area. Mills had his strongest support in the north part of the riding. Also, Layton won all the polls from the former Beaches--East York riding which hadn't previously been represented by Mills.

Layton's best poll was the one between Bain Ave and Sparkhall Ave. This poll is home to the Bain Avenue Co-op. Mills' best poll was the nearby Riverdale hospital.

By the 2006 election, Layton had now been leader for three years, and the riding became more safe for him. However, the Liberals were eager to take the riding back, as it was the only riding in the city they did not have. To oppose Layton, they looked for a star candidate, and found lawyer Deborah Coyne, who was a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada at the time. 
Coyne would not be the strong candidate that Mills was, and couple that with the nation-wide decline of the Liberal Party at the time, she did not pose that much of a threat to Layton. Layton increased his vote total to 48%, while Coyne received 34% of the vote. The margin of victory was over 7,000 votes. 

The Liberal strength in the riding again came from the north. But as you can see, the NDP encroached on this area, relegating most of the Liberal support to the more wealthier polls along the Don River. 

Once again, Layton's best poll was the one between Bain and Sparkhall. The Liberals only got a majority of the vote in two polls. The best Liberal poll was along Torrens Ave between Broadview and Pape, in Pape Village. 

By the time of the next election in 2008, Layton's seat had become even safer. Liberal fortunes were down even more across the country, and the NDP was up. Layton had been joined in parliament by fellow Toronto MPs Peggy Nash and spouse, Olivia Chow in his caucus, who had each won their elections in 2006. The Liberals tried to challenge Layton again, but they chose a weaker candidate, and put less resources into the race. 

For their candidate, the Liberals chose Andrew Lang, son of former Saskatchewan MP Otto Lang. Lang was the manager of stakeholder relations for the Ontario Chiropractic Association.

Once again, the Liberals would be no match for Layton. The NDP leader once again beat out his Liberal rival by 7,000 votes. However, he did go down in percentage of the popular vote, to 45%. Lang however received 29%, which was also down for the Liberals. These decreased can be attributed the strong Green Party candidacy of Sharon Howarth, who finished 3rd, ahead of the Tories with 13% of the vote. 

The map shows much lighter orange shades for the NDP, as their vote share went down. However, they still picked up polls from the Liberals, whose vote share also went down. The Liberals did pick up some former NDP polls however, including a strong showing in the Broadview neighbourhood, where if you recall, was the only part of the riding the NDP won back in 2000. This is where the increase in the Green support in 2008 hurt the NDP the most. 

The Liberals were relegated to only a handful of polls in their previous strongholds in the north part of the riding. In fact their strongest polls didn't come from the area along the Don River like they had in 2006, but in Greek Town.

The best poll for the NDP in 2008 was not the Bain Ave co-op anymore. The Greens got a sizable percentage of the vote there, which ate into NDP support. The best NDP poll was on the south end of Blake St, which is an impoverished area of the riding. The demographic of this area is not the type to vote Green, and therefore the NDP was not harmed there by the increase in Green support. The strongest Liberal poll was once again the Riverdale Hopital, where they got 50% of the vote.

The 2011 election saw the NDP surge across the country, which vaulted the party into opposition status. Jack Layton's own riding of Toronto--Danforth was not immune to the NDP surge of 2011. Once again, Layton would be opposed by Andrew Lang, who he had beaten in 2008. 
The 2011 election in Toronto--Danforth wasn't even close to being close. Layton defeated Lang by nearly 21,000 votes. He increased his share of the vote to an unprecedented 61% of the vote. Lang on the other hand, received 18% of the vote, barely hanging on to second place. The third place Conservative candidate, Katarina Von Koenig was close behind Lang with 14% of the vote.

The 2011 election map was indicative of the strong result that Layton received. He won every single poll in the riding. His strength was once again in the south of the riding, but he was able to win everywhere. Layton's worst neighbourhoods were in the far north along the Don River, and in Greek Town, two areas of past Liberal strength. 

Layton's strongest poll was once again the Bain Ave co-op, where he won 83% of the vote. Layton's worst poll was in Woodbine Heights, where he got 41% of the vote, but still won it. The Conservatives were strong in the neighbourhood, and nearly won the poll, coming 10 votes short with 36% of the vote.

2011 - 2nd place
 Because Layton won every single poll in 2011, I made a second map showing who finished 2nd in each poll. Note how the Conservatives were strong in those wealthier Don River polls where the Liberals once had strength. The Liberals however were stronger in more ethnic neighbourhoods, like Greek Town. And you will see on the map, one poll coloured Green. Yes, that is the infamous Bain Ave co-op where Layton got 83%, but the Greens were in 2nd place with 8%.

NDP change (2008-2011)
I also made a map showing the change in the NDP vote between 2008 and 2011. The NDP increased their share of the vote in every single polling district between the last two elections. Although, there were some areas that were more averse to switching their votes to NDP than others. Woodbine Heights for example didn't swing that much. Another area is that Blake St poll, where the NDP was so strong, that their vote share had been nearly capped anyways.

And so, we've come to the 2012 by-election. The NDP is still polling relatively well across Canada, depending on which pollster you ask. They have dropped in support since 2011, and with out their fearless leader representing the riding, it is quite likely the NDP will see a decrease in their support from the 61% that Layton got last year.  The NDP is running law professor and human rights lawyer Craig Scott. He is quite a strong candidate, but perhaps not the star candidate one might expect would want to run in such a safe seat. Scott does face weak opposition, though. The Liberals are running Grant Gordon, an advertising executive. The Tories are running Andrew Keyes, a communications consultant. The Greens are running community activist Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu.

The real test for the Liberals will be if they can capitalize on their recent gains in the polls, especially in Ontario. It is not realistic that they will win the riding, but a win for them will be a strong 2nd place showing. The Tories have even less of a shot at the riding, but it would be a huge win for them to overtake the Liberals in 2nd place. They did come close in 2011. The Greens will want to increase their share of the vote from the 6% they got in 2011. A 3rd place showing like they got in 2008 would be a huge victory for the party that has been largely ignored recently.  As for the NDP, it would not be a simple victory for the party to just win the by-election. Anything close would be seen as a loss for the party. Getting a majority of the vote will be important to show that they are still the main left of centre party in Canadian politics. Anything lower than the mid-40s that Layton got in the past (of what the provincial NDP normally gets in this riding) will be seen as a defeat.

By-elections are always hard to predict, but at least I will give it a try. Back in February, Forum research released a poll for the riding that showed that the NDP will easily win it, with  61% of the vote (close to Layton's percentage). The Liberals were at 19% and the Tories at 14%. The Greens were at 4% in the poll. These poll numbers nearly mirror the 2011 results in the riding.

So, this brings me to my prediction. I see the NDP range in this riding between 54% (what they got in the provincial election) and 61% (what they got in the federal election). I will average this out and err on the side of the poll, and say the NDP will get 57%. The Tories will probably get 12% of the vote, as they are not as popular as they were in 2011. The Tories have a ceiling of 14% here, and a floor of 6%. I can see the Tories getting less than 14%, if right of centre voters see the Liberals as having any shot of winning this race. The Greens don't often do well in by-elections, and will be looking at probably 4%, where they were at for the 2011 provincial election. There are many independent and other party candidates in the race, and together will probably get 2% of the vote. This leaves the Liberals with 25% of the vote, which seems like a good number. They will be boosted as the only alternative to the NDP, but wont get enough support due to the NDP's inevitability of victory.

So, enjoy the by-election tomorrow, everyone. Polls close at 8:30 PM (Eastern). 

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