Ontario election: Keep your eye on these ridings

Photographs of the empty legislature at Queens Park on Oct 16 2012. Fred Lum / File / The Globe and Mail

TORONTO – As Peterborough goes, so goes Ontario.

The 79,000-person community has elected an MPP from the governing party every provincial election since 1987.

“[Peterborough] was the closest three-way race in the province last time and I think is an indicator of if there’s going to be a trend,” Wilfrid Laurier University professor Barry Kay said in an interview Tuesday.

“So that’s a riding that any of the parties could have a shot at.”

Liberal candidate Jeff Leal won the riding by a mere 4,000 votes when the Liberals squeaked through with a minority in 2011.

Poll-level results: Peterborough »

Poll-level results: Peterborough

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Current (admittedly early) projections suggest the Conservatives could form a minority government following the June 12 election – but the Tory lead is within the margin of error. Peterborough, too, is considered too close to call right now, Kay said.

Seat projection, May 6 »

Seat projection, May 6

Battle on the Lakeshore

Twenty per cent of Ontario ridings are in Toronto. This is bad news if you’re a Tory trying to win over urban, latte-sipping, streetcar riders.

The Progressive Conservatives gained a historic toehold in 416 with a win in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, thanks in large part to the popularity of longtime councillor and former Etobicoke mayor Doug Holyday.

But that was a byelection, Kay said. And voters act differently in a general election, where a local candidate’s popularity has less of an impact. He also notes former Liberal Laurel Broten won the riding by a significantly higher margin – 22 percentage points – than Holyday, who took it in four.

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Poll-level results: Etobicoke-Lakeshore »

Poll-level results: Etobicoke-Lakeshore

Kay thinks it’ll go to Liberal candidate Peter Milczyn this time around. But it remains the Tories’ best shot in Toronto, Kay said.

The precious 905

The area surrounding Toronto – including Mississuaga, Brampton, Halton, Richmond Hill, Ajax and Pickering – is the holy grail for anyone hoping to form a majority government.

“If the Tories can win there on election night, they are going to get a majority,” he said.

Brampton-Springdale, a riding of approximately 131,000, will be a competitive race on election night. Liberal Linda Jeffrey won in 2011 by about 3,000 votes, with the Progressive Conservative making sizable gains since 2003. And while the NDP came a distant third, Andrea Horwath may be hoping to parlay her party’s victory in Bramalea-Gore-Malton next door to more Peel ridings.

READ MORE: Ontario election 2014

Mississauga East-Cooksville is another 905 riding where the Liberals and Conservatives are both competitive. In 2011, Liberal Dipika Damerla won by a decent margin over the second-place Tories, but not nearly as big as her predecessor Peter Fonseca. (While the NDP doubled its vote share in the last election, it likely doesn’t have a realistic chance at taking the riding)

Poll-level results: Mississauga East-Cooksville »

Poll-level results: Mississauga East-Cooksville

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The mostly rural southwestern riding outside of Guelph and Kitchener includes Stratford and St. Mary’s and was one of the closest races in the 2011 election.

Progressive Conservative Randy Pettapiece narrowly ousted Liberal John Wilkinson by just 630 votes. Now, Pettapiece will be taking on Liberal candidate, pig farmer and Ontario Pork delegate Stewart Skinner, who given the recent sick piglet crisis will no doubt have plenty to say.

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