This fall’s election is its own animal, not a version of the 2011 federal election or last year’s provincial election, each of which had their own dynamics.
And fresh, redrawn ridings with unfamiliar names are also their own animals, not just the sum of the old polling areas that went into producing them.
However, they’re much better than nothing as a starting point (in fact, we don’t have much else in the way of a starting point).
The map above, and the ones embedded in this story, shows the poll-level 2011 election results with an overlay of the new riding boundaries we’ll be using in October.
Wilfrid Laurier University political scientist Barry Kay points to a scattering of ridings across Ontario that are too close to call and bear watching.
As a rural Eastern Ontario riding, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell should be a lock for the Tories, but a strong Franco-Ontarian presence makes it more winnable for the Liberals, Kay says.
“That one is close. It’s rural, but it’s very French, and the Liberals tend to do better in areas where there is a Francophone community than they do elsewhere.”
In Ottawa itself, only Ottawa West-Nepean is really in play:
“If you wanted to look for a riding within Ottawa where there is the likelihood of a change, that would be the one – if the Conservatives were in decline, the Liberals would have a shot at it.”
Peterborough-Kawartha shouldn’t be a riding Conservatives have to worry about – former MP Dean Del Mastro won nearly half the votes there in 2011, with the Liberals and NDP more or less splitting the remainder.
However, if would be surprising if Del Mastro’s conviction for election spending-related offences – in June, TV cameras caught him being led off to jail in shackles – didn’t limit local enthusiasm for Conservative Michael Skinner.
Kay has Peterborough-Kawartha leaning Conservative on a seat projection map.
“They’re had the scandal there, so that might hurt the party. Peterborough is a riding that the Conservatives could lose in eastern Ontario. Kind of like Essex (see below), it’s partly the city and partly the rural area around it, and together it makes for a more competitive kind of riding – it’s less homogeneously rural.”
“Oshawa has a good shot at an NDP pickup,” Kay says. “They won it provincially. Oshawa is a fascinating riding, and that’s one of the ridings I’d pay a lot of attention to.”
Elsewhere in York and Durham, Kay lists Pickering-Uxbridge and Markham-Unionville as too close to call between Liberals and Conservatives.
“If I were guessing which ridings in the 416 were going to be competitive on election night, I’d be looking at some of the Scarborough ridings (Scarborough-Rouge Park, Scarborough North and Scarborough Centre). Though some of those seats have been held by Conservatives, those are the ridings that I think are going to be the nail-biters within the 416 on election night.”
Unfortunately for the NDP, a strong pool of support in northeastern Scarborough is split between Scarborough North and Scarborough-Rouge Park.
Kay also lists York Centre as too close to call, between Liberals and Conservatives. The riding features a sharp geographic split, with Downsview voting Liberal and the area between Bathurst and Dufferin voting Conservative.
In its former boundaries, Toronto Centre, a bewilderingly diverse riding, stayed just out of reach for the NDP. (Mostly) low-income parts of the riding south of Bloor St. voted Liberal and NDP, and high-income polls north of Bloor St. voted Liberal and Conservative. The result favoured the Liberals.
In its new, more compact boundaries, Kay is calling Toronto Centre for the NDP, but this is a riding that neither the Liberals nor the NDP should take for granted.
Brampton East may break ground as a federal NDP pickup in Toronto’s 905 suburbs: Kay calls it “clearly the NDP’s best shot in Peel Region.” NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal lost the former riding, Bramalea-Gore-Malton, in 2011 by a tiny margin, and went on to win it provincially for the NDP in 2014.
Kay’s map hints at why we’ll see party leaders spending quality time in Brampton and Mississauga: Brampton South, Mississauga-Streetsville, Mississauga-Erin Mills and Mississauga-Lakeshore are all listed as too close to call between the Liberals and the Conservatives.
The only riding in Hamilton-Niagara that’s in play is the newly created Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. The riding was created from Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale by stripping off Hamilton’s strongly conservative rural fringe, and adding an NDP-leaning area in the West Mountain. The resulting riding, made of polls which went strongly Liberal provincially in 2014, should be at least potentially winnable for the Liberals. Kay’s model has it as too close to call.
Kay also calls Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas winnable for the NDP, which would go against the political traditions of Ancaster and Dundas, though not of the Hamilton neighbourhoods around McMaster, or Hamilton Mountain. Analyst Eric Grenier is calling the riding for the NDP, at least for now.
London North Centre is too close to call as a Liberal-Conservative race, with the NDP as a strong third.
Kay sees Essex as too close to call between the Conservatives and the NDP:
“That’s suburban Windsor, and rural Windsor, not so much the city of Windsor. Windsor is a strong union city, though there was a time when the Liberals dominated it, but the NDP overperforms regularly in Windsor. Essex is a suburban seat in part, but it’s also a rural seat, and rural Ontario is going to be more supportive of the Conservatives. For a seat that’s interesting in the Windsor area, Essex would be the only one. ”
In Ontario’s vast northwest, sparsely populated Kenora is up for grabs between the NDP and the Conservatives. The riding has the same land area as Italy, though it’s much emptier.
“The NDP is running (former Ontario NDP leader) Howard Hampton there, and I assume that would position them favourably,” Kay says
Conservative Greg Rickford, Stephen Harper’s Minister of Natural Resources, has held the riding since 2008. Rickford was an outspoken opponent of the long gun registry, which was always unpopular in rural and northern English Canada, but not likely to be a major issue in this election. However, before Rickford’s election Algoma had a long history of supporting the NDP or Liberals, mostly Liberals.