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Durham voters hit the polls Monday to choose MP in federal byelection

A federal byelection is being held today in the Ontario riding of Durham, to replace former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole.
Click to play video: 'Durham Region gears up for federal by-election'
Durham Region gears up for federal by-election
WATCH: Residents of Ontario's Durham Region are just days away from a March 4 federal by-election. The seat is up for grabs after the former leader of the federal Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole, retired from politics in spring 2023. Lexy Benedict breaks down the stakes for the region – Mar 1, 2024

Voters in the Ontario riding of Durham took to the polls on Monday to replace the seat left vacant by former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, and to elect a new member of Parliament.

In August 2023, O’Toole announced his retirement from politics and stepped down as MP of the riding, after holding the seat for 11 years. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal byelection earlier this year to take place on March 4.

The top issues of concern for voters: affordability, housing and health care.

Voters will see nine names on the ballot. Liberals have chosen local Scugog councillor, Robert Rock. The Conservatives have chosen commentator Jamil Jivani, NDP have chosen Chris Borgia, and the Green Party has put forward Kevin MacKenzie.

The United Party of Canada has chosen Grant Abraham, The People’s Party of Canada has chosen Patricia Conlin, Pranay Gunti for the Independent Party, Adam Smith for the Rhinoceros Party, and Khalid Qureshi for the Centrist Party of Canada.

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“For myself, you know, being from the community, living in the community, as a municipal councillor, for the last three years, it’s to me, it’s really important because that’s given me the ability to really understand a lot of the concerns that I’m hearing through residents right now,” said Robert Rock in an interview with Global News.

“When I’m out in the community at events, talking about issues, they’ve all really centred around affordability, around housing, and then we hear health care, in there as a lot as well. So, for me, those have been the top three. And that’s what I’ve been advocating for and that’s what I’ll continue to advocate for when I’m the MP in Ottawa,” Rock added.

For NDP’s Chris Borgia, it’s also about affordability and health care. “The big concerns have been affordability. And then that usually leads into health care and people concerned about paying for for dental, paying for for pharmaceuticals,” said Chris Borgia in an interview with Global News.

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“We’re going to do a lot better for people who are from working class, and that go to work every day to just to pay their bills because, you know, we’re feeling that pinch.”

Borgia added that he can relate to many in the riding. “I’ve been living a lot of the same experiences as to what people are experiencing — rent evictions, unaffordable rent rates. It’s been difficult. It’s been a long path. But it’s really what’s fuelling me,” said Borgia. “I just I have to do something to try and make a difference. I’ve talked to a lot of people, and they felt that they haven’t been represented well from the past.

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The Green Party declined an interview with Global News. Global News made numerous attempts to reach out to the Conservative candidate Jamil Jivani numerous times over the past few weeks, however Jiviani has still not answered any of those requests.

“Well, if your candidate’s in the lead, you don’t want to mess them up. And especially if you’re worried that your candidate possibly could say or do something to mess that up, you … don’t want to take that risk,” said MacNeill.

According to MacNeill, he said it’s not likely the riding will flip to Liberal based on its history.

Historically, Ontario’s Durham Riding has been conservative for the past two decades. GFX/ Global News

The riding is known to be a Conservative stronghold, and hasn’t had a Liberal MP since 2004, which means there’s a lot to risk for the Conservatives. That’s also why Ontario Tech University political science professor Timothy MacNeill said experts aren’t expecting much to change.

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“The Conservatives need to win this riding big time, in order to prove to themselves and to the country that they have a viable alternative to the federal government,” said MacNeill.

The riding is comprised of just over 116,250 registered voters covers the major areas of Oshawa, Clarington, and Scugog. However, that doesn’t mean everyone will be casting a ballot, according to MacNeill.

“Voter turnout is probably usually about half, or less than half of a general election,” said MacNeill.

Durham Riding Boundaries focus on Oshawa, Clarington, and Scugog. GFX/ Global News

According to Elections Canada, as of March 4, primary poll figures show roughly 10,287 electors voted at the advance polls ahead of today.

While the results won’t change anything in the House of Commons, it sets the tone for the rest of the riding and the next federal election. “If the Conservatives win this election by two or three per cent, that’s going to be emergency mode for the Conservatives because from their point of view, they lost ground,” said MacNeill.

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“If the Conservatives win by 11 per cent, that’s still going to be a bit of trouble for them because that’s what they won this riding for last time and they lost the general election.”

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