Monday, November 17, 2014

Federal by-elections in Yellowhead and Whitby-Oshawa today

There's snow on the ground in Ottawa, and in many other parts of the country, which means the end of a very busy Fall election season is almost upon us. Today is especially busy with a provincial by-election in Saint John East, New Brunswick (covered in my previous post) and two federal by-elections, one in Yellowhead, Alberta and the other in Whitby—Oshawa in Ontario. There is just a couple of provincial by-elections in Newfoundland next week, and then there shouldn't be any more electoral events until the new year. I usually cover each riding separately when doing riding profiles for federal by-elections, but this time, I'm including both Yellowhead and Whitby—Oshawa in one post.


Map of Whitby-Oshawa's neighbourhoods

The more interesting of the two federal by-elections today will be in the riding of Whitby—Oshawa. The riding became vacant in April under unfortunate circumstances when its MP, former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a Conservative, passed away after suffering a heart attack. The riding could have been included in the by-elections held on June 30, but was delayed by the Prime Minster, perhaps out of respect for the departed.

Whitby—Oshawa is a sprawling, suburban riding, located east of Toronto in the politically infamous “905” belt, that circles the city. The riding contains the entirety of the Town of Whitby, and the northwest and rural northern part of the city of Oshawa. The riding is mostly suburban in nature, but contains a large rural area in the north, which is separated by the urbanized south by woods and conservation areas. Within this rural area is the bedroom community of Brooklin, which is geographically separated from the rest of Whitby by a wooded area and farm land.


Whitby—Oshawa is one of the faster growing ridings in Ontario, due to its suburban nature and proximity to Toronto. About half of all homes in the riding were built since 1990. With nearly 150,000 people, it is the 11th most populous riding in the province. The riding is 81% White, but is home to large Black and South Asian populations. Most of the White population is of British Isles descent, that is English, Irish and Scottish. Most of the population (83%) has English as its mother tongue, with French next at just 2%. 71% of the riding is Christian, with less than half of that number being Catholic. United Church and Anglicans make up the largest Protestant denominations. Islam is the largest non Christian faith at 3%, while nearly a quarter of the riding belongs to no religion. The riding is slightly wealthier than the province as a whole, with the average individual income at $48,000 compared to the provincial average of $42,000. The largest industry in the riding is retail, employing nearly 10,000 people.


The riding of Whitby—Oshawa does not have a very long history, as it was only created in the 2003 redistribution. Rapid suburbanization has meant that over the course of history, Whitby has found itself in smaller, and smaller ridings. At Confederation, Whitby was only a small village, which was part of the rural riding of Ontario South (named for the now-defunct County of Ontario). Ontario South flipped back and forth from the Conservatives to the Liberals throughout its history. The riding changed names in 1925, becoming just “Ontario”. In the 1940s, due to the rise of the manufacturing sector in Oshawa, the socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became more popular, and elected an MP in a 1948 by-election. The CCF, and its successor, the NDP would remain competitive in the Ontario riding, but only won it once.

The area was dominated in the 1950s and 1960s by Ukrainian Immigrant Michael Starr, a Tory, who served as Minister of Labour under John Diefenbaker. Starr was finally defeated in a razor thin 15-vote margin in 1968, against future NDP leader Ed Broadbent in the new riding of Oshawa—Whitby. As the Toronto suburbs rapidly grew, Whitby re-joined the Ontario riding in 1976, then joined the riding of Whitby—Ajax in 1997, and then finally Whitby—Oshawa in 2004. Since 1984, Whitby has always voted for the party that has formed government, making it a fairly reliable bellwether. Tories Scott Fennell and Rene Soetens held represented the area during the Mulroney era, Liberals Dan McTeague and Judi Longfield during the Chretien and Martin eras, and Jim Flaherty had held the riding beginning in 2006, when Harper became Prime Minister.

Members of Parliament:

Ontario South (1867-1925)

Whitby and Oshawa were both in the riding of Ontario South from Confederation until 1925. This riding also included at different times, Pickering, and the Scugog area.

1) T.N. Gibbs, Liberal-Cons. (1867-1873)
2) Malcolm Gibson, Liberal (1874-1876)
*) T.N. Gibbs, Liberal-Cons. (1876-1878) 2nd time
3) F.W. Glen, Liberal (1878-1887)
4) Wm. Smith, Cons. (1887-1891)
5) J.I. Davidson, Liberal (1891-1892)
*) Wm. Smith, Cons. (1892-1896) 2nd time
6) Leo. Burnett, Liberal (1896-1900)

7) Wm. Ross, Liberal (1900-1904)
8) Peter Christie, Cons. (1904-1908)
9) F.L. Fowke, Liberal (1908-1911)
*) Wm. Smith, Cons./Unionist (1911-1921) 3rd time
10) L.O. Clifford, Liberal (1921-1925)

Ontario (1925-1968)

Ontario South was renamed “Ontario” in 1925. Oshawa and Whitby both remained in the riding until 1968.

11) T.E. Kaiser, Cons. (1925-1930)
12) W.H. Moore, Liberal (1930-1945)

13) W.E.N. Sinclair, Liberal (1945-1947)
14) A.H. Williams, C.C.F. (1948-1949)
15) W.C. Thomson, Liberal (1949-1951)
16) Michael Starr, Prog. Cons. (1952-1968)

Oshawa—Whitby (1968-1976)

In 1968, Oshawa, the Town of Whitby and part of the Townsip of Whitby were carved out of the riding of Ontario to form the new riding of Oshawa—Whitby. This arrangement only lasted until 1979.

17) J.E. Broadbent, N.D.P. (1968-1979)

Ontario (1976-1997)

In 1976, the Town of Whitby re-joined the Ontario riding, leaving the rest of Oshawa in the re-named riding of “Oshawa”. At this time, the riding of Ontario also included Uxbridge, Ajax and Pickering. In 1988, the more rural northern end of Whitby and Uxbridge joined the new riding of Durham.

18) T.S. Fennell, Prog. Cons. (1979-1988)

19) R.J. Soetens, Prog. Cons. (1988-1993)
20) D.P. McTeague, Liberal (1993-1997)

Whitby—Ajax (1997-2004)

Following the 1996 redistribution, Whitby joined with the southern half of Ajax to form the riding of Whitby—Ajax, which only lasted until 2004.

21) Mrs. J. Longfield, Liberal (1997-2004)

Whitby—Oshawa (2004-present)

The 2003 redistribution joined Whitby with the northern rural part of Oshawa, and some neighbourhoods in the northwest end of the city.

*) Mrs. J. Longfield, Liberal (2004-2006) continued
22) J.M. Flaherty, Cons. (2006-2014)

The 2015 federal election will see the creation of a new riding just called “Whitby”, consisting of the entirety of the Town of Whitby. The part of the riding in Oshawa north of Taunton Road will become part of the riding of Durham, while the area south of Taunton Road will become part of the riding of Oshawa.

2011 results by neighbourhood in Whitby-Oshawa

Political geography

Back in 2011, Flaherty nearly swept all polls in the riding. Only two polls in the Oshawa neighbourhood of McLaughlin were won by the NDP, which finished in second place in the riding for the first time since the area was in Ed Broadbent's Oshawa—Whitby riding. McLaughlin is the neighbourhood that is located closest to Oshawa's working class core, and was also the NDP's best neighbourhood in the riding, winning 31% of the vote. Flaherty's best numbers came in the rural parts of the neighbourhood, and in Brooklin, which is surrounded by rural areas. Flaherty's best neighbourhood was rural Oshawa, where he won 66%. Due to Oshawa's history of being a manufacturing centre with a large labour presence, Whitby is slightly more Conservative and less NDP-friendly than the Oshawa part of the riding. The Liberals finished third in the 2011 election, and were not the factor they usually are. Their top neighbourhood was Taunton North in Whitby. Historically, the Liberals have been able to win across the suburban neighbourhoods of the riding, but are much weaker in the rural north.
Whitby-Oshawa 2011 results by polling division

Provincially, Flaherty's widow, Christine Elliott is the local MPP. She was one of only two Tories to win in the inner 905 in last June's provincial election. Elliott is a popular MPP, and could have won some sympathy for having just lost her husband. In that election, the Liberals won a splattering of polls across the suburban areas, while the NDP won a cluster of polls in Oshawa, and even a few in Whitby. However, Elliott won an overwhelming majority of the polls, including all of the rural polls.

Whitby-Oshawa 2008-2011 two party swing by polling division (Cons vs NDP)


Running for the Conservatives in this riding is former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins, who was mayor of the municipality from 2006 until resigning to run for parliament. Before that, she served on town council. The Liberals are running businesswoman Celina Caesar-Chavennes, a Black Canadian, who is also the President of ReSolve Research Solutions Inc. The NDP is running community organizer Trish McAuliffe, who was the party's candidate in 2011. The Greens are running local resident Craig Cameron.

Whitby—Oshawa will be the most exciting by-election to watch tonight, because polls show it as being a close race, and because of its history as being a bellwether riding, that usually votes for the government (if the Liberals are ahead in the national polls, it stands to reason they will win bellwether ridings like this one). Forum Research conducted an IVR poll yesterday that showed Liberal candidate Celina Caesar-Chavannes ahead of Conservative candidate Pat Perkins 45% to 42%. While conducting an IVR poll on a Sunday is suspect methodology at best, it is logical that this race would be close, but with the Liberals ahead.


Map of Yellowhead

Head west of Edmonton, past the city's western exurbs, and you'll find the riding of Yellowhead, which extends westward from those exurbs, all the way to the British Columbia border in the west. This predominantly rural riding was vacated in September, when Alberta Premier Jim Prentice appointed him to the province's envoy to the U.S. to lobby for the Keystone XL pipepline.

Yellowhead is named for the famous Yellowhead Highway (Trans-Canada Highway #16), which runs through the riding like a ribbon, from Edmonton until the B.C. border, near Jasper, the riding's most famous community. Most of the riding lives in the eastern part of the riding, in the Pembina and McLeod River valleys. The riding does not consist of any major cities on which it is centred. Instead, the riding is populated by a number of small to medium sized towns, dotting the western prairie. The largest community in the riding is Hinton, which had 9,640 people as of the last census. This was just 35 more than the next largest community, Whitecourt. Edson and Drayton Valley are also major communities in the riding.


Yellowhead is predominantly White, with about 85% of residents being neither a visible minority nor Aboriginal. Most of the rest of the population (12%) are Aboriginal, a mix of Cree, Saulteaux and Stoney First Nations. Much of the White population has British Isles ancestry (English, Scottish, Irish), but there is also a significant population with French ancestry. Francophones settled in the region in the 19th Century, with Lac La Biche being an important trading post. The riding also has a large German population and a significant Ukrainian. Nine tenths of riding have English as their mother tongue, with only small numbers of German and French speakers left. The riding is a majority Christian (58%), with about a third of Christians being Catholic, and one sixth being United Church. Most of the rest of the riding (40%) have no religion. In terms of income, the riding is about average for Alberta, if not slightly poorer. The median income is $35,000, compared to the provincial median of $36,000. The main industry in the riding is the resources sector, with 8,000 people employed in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.


Yellowhead has existed since 1979, but ridings that have covered similar territories have existed as far back as 1924. The area has been held by right wing parties since 1972, when Progressive Conservative Joe Clark won the riding, then known as “Rocky Mountain”. He held Yellowhead when he served as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1980, and continued to represent the riding until 1993. Cliff Breitkreuz of the Reform Party won it in 1993, and held it as Canadian Alliance member. Rob Merrifield was first elected in 2000 for the Canadian Alliance, and remained the MP when the party merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form the modern Conservative Party. The riding last went Liberal in 1968, when Allen Sulatycky was elected, benefiting from the height of Trudeaumania, and also having literally two Tories on the ballot, splitting the conservative vote. The last time a left wing party won the seat was when Donald MacBeth Kennedy won in 1930 for the United Farmers, though the CCF was competitive in the area during the 1940s.

Members of Parliament:

Edmonton (1904-1914)

Before Alberta became a province, it was a district in the Northwest Territories. The northern third of the district, including the Yellowhead area was found in the riding of Edmonton. The Yellowhead area remained in the riding of Edmonton until 1914 when it split in two parts (east and west).

1) F. Oliver, Liberal (1904-1917)

Edmonton West (1914-1924)

Edmonton West contained the western half of the Edmonton area, as well as everything west of the city, including the Yellowhead area.

2) W.A. Griesbach, Unionist (1917-1921)
3) D.M. Kennedy, Prog. (1921-1925)

Peace River (1924-1933)

In 1924, the riding of Peace River was created out of Edmonton, covering much of the same territory that Yellowhead does now.

*) D.M. Kennedy, Prog (1925-1926); U.F.A. (1926-1935) continued

Jasper—Edson (1935-1968)

In 1935, the riding grew larger, taking in more territory near Edmonton, and was re-named “Jasper—Edson”. A new riding of Peace River was created to the north.

4) W.F. Kuhl, Soc. Credit (1935-1949)
5) J.W. Welbourn, Liberal (1949-1953)
6) Chas. Yuill, Soc. Credit (1953-1958)
7) H.M. Horner, Prog. Cons. (1958-1967)

8) D.C. Caston, Prog. Cons. (1967-1968)

Rocky Mountain (1968-1979)

In 1968, most of the Yellowhead area was transferred to the new riding of “Rocky Mountain”, which extended south along the British Columbia border, all the way to the U.S. border in the south. Other parts of what is today the Yellowhead riding were transferred to Pembina and Wetaskiwin.

9) A.B. Sulatycky, Liberal (1968-1972)
10) C.J. Clark, Prog. Cons. (1972-1979)

Yellowhead (1979-present)

The riding of Rocky Mountain was dissolved in 1979. Out of the northern part of the riding came the new riding of Yellowhead. When it was created, Yellowhead's eastern boundary began at the western city limits of Edmonton. This boundary was shifted westward in 1987 to exclude Edmonton's western suburbs, like Spruce Grove. The riding has undergone only minor boundary changes since then.

*) C.J. Clark, Prog. Cons. (1979-1993) continued
11) C.N. Breitkreuz, Reform / Cdn. Alliance (1993-2000)

12) R. Merrifield, Cdn. Alliance (2000-204); Cons. (2000-2014)

The 2013 redistribution saw some major shifts in Yellowhead's boundaries to be used in the next federal election. Yellowhead loses the Fox Creek, Whitecourt and Barrhead areas to the new riding of Peace River—Westlock. To compensate, Yellowhead gains territory to its south, gaining the Rocky Mountain House area, and some new territory south of the North Saskatchewan River.

2011 Results by area in Yellowhead

Political geography

As is the case in all of rural Alberta, Conservatives win almost everything in this riding, and by large margins. In 2011, Merrifield won almost every poll in the riding en route to winning 77% of the vote. The Tories only lost six polls, all to the NDP, and tied another with the NDP. Two of those six polls were on Indian Reserves (the O'Chiese Band and the Sunchild First Nation in the southeast corner). The tied poll was also an Indian Reserve, the Alexis Band. The remaining four poll wins by the NDP were all in the resort community of Jasper, which has a progressive bent to it, similar to other ski resort communities in North America. The Greens were also strong in Jasper, winning 20% there. Overall, the Tories just beat out the NDP in Jasper, by 0.06% of Election Day votes. The Conservatives were strong every where else in the riding, winning at least two thirds of the vote in every town and rural area. Their strongest area in the riding was rural Brazeau County in the southeast of the riding, which surrounds Drayton Valley. In Brazeau County, the Tories won a massive 87%. The strongest Liberal area was the Alexis Band, where they won 16%.

Yellowhead 2011 election results by polling division

Historically, the only areas of the riding that aren't Conservative are the Indian Reserves and in Jasper. The NDP usually does well in Jasper, though the Greens won more polls there in 2006. The riding's Indian Reserves backed the NDP in 2008 and 2011, but were won by the Liberals before then. Provincially, the last election in West Yellowhead went mostly Tory, although the Alberta Party leader, won some polls in his hometown of Hinton. Wild Rose did not fare well, only winning two polls. Wild Rose fared much better in the rural eastern parts of Yellowhead, which is divided into the provincial ridings of Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, Whitecourt-Ste. Anne and Drayton Valley-Devon. However, the larger towns in the area backed the Progressive Conservatives enough to win those ridings.
Yellowhead 2008-2011 two party (Cons vs NDP) swing by polling division


Due to its long history of supporting right wing parties, it is obvious that the Conservatives will easily win here. Their candidate is retired RCMP officer Jim Eglinski, who lives in Edson, and has past political experience from being mayor of Fort St. John, B.C., nearly a decade ago. Since Eglinski's victory is a sure bet, the real race in the riding is for second place. The NDP has been the “second place” party here since 2006, and has some history in the riding, as they had won the provincial riding of West Yellowhead in 1989. Their candidate is retired Pulp Mill worker and Hinton resident Eric Rosendahl. The Liberals look to surpass the NDP into second place, with their candidate, Hinton town councillor Ryan Maguhn. The Greens are not running a candidate. Forum Research also polled Yellowhead on Sunday, showing Eglinski to be comfortably ahead at 51%. It showed Maguhn in second place at 24%, and Rosendahl far behind at 13%.

For the Liberals and Conservatives, fortunes tonight will be won and lost in Oshawa—Whitby. A win there would be huge for the Liberals, as it would show that they can win a 905 bellwether, which is key to forming government in this country. For the Conservatives, they need to win to show that they can still compete with the surging Liberals. For the NDP, all they can do is hope to maintain second place in Yellowhead, to show that they are still the default opposition party in Alberta. But if the results in Yellowhead are anything like the June by-election in nearby Macleod, where the NDP went from second place in 2011 to finishing in 5th place (behind the Christian Heritage Party), then disaster is surely on the horizon.

Polls close in both ridings at 9:30 Eastern / 7:30 Mountain.

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