In the final days of the soap opera that is the 2018 Ontario election, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne admitted her party is facing certain defeat and now PC Leader Doug Ford is facing a lawsuit from the widow of his brother and former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.
And with the NDP and PCs locked in a dead heat according to recent polls, there are lots of surprises yet to come on election day in Ontario. Of the 124 provincial ridings in this year’s race to determine the next premier, here are seven ridings to watch as the results roll in on June 7.
Candidates: Parminder Singh (Liberals); Sudeep Verma (PC); Gurratan Singh (NDP); Raquel Fronte (Green)
Why it’s important: The path for an NDP or PC majority runs through the 905 and all five Brampton ridings will be essential to follow on Thursday night.
“If the NDP are going to have a breakthrough in the 905, it starts there,” said Bricker. “This is also ground zero for the Tories… if they are going to stop the NDP, it’s in Brampton.”
Brampton-East features star NDP candidate Gurratan Singh — younger brother of federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — running against Liberal Parminder Singh, the host of Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi and PC candidate Sudeep Verma.
The riding has also been the most controversial. PC candidate Simmer Sandhu resigned suddenly amid allegations involving a data breach at the company behind the 407 ETR and was replaced by Verma. Gurratan Singh landed in hot water when a photo of him in his early 20s surfaced that showed him carrying a sign that read “F*** the police.” He quickly issued an apology over the incident.
Candidates: Leisa Washington (Liberals); Lorne Coe (PC-incumbent); Niki Lundquist (NDP); Stacey Leadbetter (Green)
Why it’s important: Recent polls have shown a close race between the NDP and PCs, with the Tories still projected to win a majority government.
Barry Kay, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, said he will be closely monitoring ridings like Whitby, Durham and Northumberland to see if the NDP overperform.
“If the NDP starts taking seats there, they have a shot at a majority,” said the veteran elections analyst. “It could indicate the NDP is in better shape then our projections suggest.”
Progressive Conservative MP Lorne Coe is the incumbent in the riding after winning a by-election in 2016 with over 50 per cent of the vote, beating out Liberal candidate Elizabeth Roy, who only brought in 28 per cent of the vote. Labour and human rights lawyer Niki Lundquist is representing the NDP.
Candidates: Jess Spindler (Liberal); Andrew Kirsch (PC); Jill Andrew (NDP); Teresa Pun (Green)
Why it’s important: After 15 years in power, the Liberals are in danger of losing official party status, according to some projections. Toronto’s downtown ridings, which have been Liberal strongholds, could turn orange and signal a rough night for the Grits.
“I don’t think there is a safe seat for the Liberals,” Kay said. “The successor to Kathleen Wynne is probably going to be determined by which Liberal can actually win a seat.”
“There are none that are a lock, but St. Paul’s isn’t a bad bet.”
WATCH: Kathleen Wynne admits the Liberals won’t win the Ontario election
According to the latest projections from the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy (LISPOP), which aggregates polling data and other information, the NDP have a firm grip on five of the eight ridings downtown: Parkdale-High Park, Davenport, Spadina-Fort York, Toronto-Danforth, and Beaches-East York.
Kay said the Liberals are only slight favourites in the three other downtown ridings — Toronto-St. Paul’s, Toronto Centre and University-Rosedale.
The riding was represented by former health minister Eric Hoskins who held the riding in 2011 and 2014 before stepping down in 2018. It has been a Liberal seat since 1999.
Don Valley West
Candidate: Kathleen Wynne (Liberals), Morgan Bailey (Green), Jon Kieran (PC), Amara Possian (NDP)
Why it’s important: Despite having effectively conceded the election, Kathleen Wynne is still soldiering on in the riding where she led the Liberals to a shocking majority victory in 2014.
Yet, the former premier is in danger of losing her seat and the party could be reduced to just five seats, according to one projection.
“If the leader loses their own seat, it’s not a great indication of the health of the party,” said Bricker. “Of the three leaders, Wynne is in the most jeopardy, obviously.”
WATCH: Ipsos CEO Darrell Bricker takes a look at the race to become Ontario’s next premier
Wynne trailed in the polls from the outset of the election and was often targeted by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and PC Leader Doug Ford over her handling of hydro prices, crowded hospitals and past Liberal scandals.
PC Jon Kieran, an energy consultant and economist, has campaigned on hydro rates and “inefficiencies” within the energy industry.
Candidates: Kathryn McGarry (Liberal-incumbent); Belinda Karahalios (PC); Marjorie Knight (NDP); Michele Braniff (Green)
Why it’s important: The southwestern riding of Cambridge was consistently a Tory stronghold from 1995 when Gerry Martiniuk was first elected until 2014 when Liberal Kathryn McGarry defeated PC contender Rob Leone as the Grits under Wynne swept to a majority victory.
McGarry served in Wynne’s cabinet, first as Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry before being bumped up to Minister of Transportation.
With the Liberals in danger of losing official party status according to recent polls, Darrell Bricker, CEO of IPSOS Public Affairs, said Cambridge will be an indicator of where Liberal votes will move.
“The NDP are supposed to be in southwest Ontario,” he said. “If the Liberals are going to lose another riding, who are they going to lose it to? The NDP or the PCs?”
PC candidate Belinda Karahalios won the party nomination following months of confusion, cancelled meetings and candidate pull-outs. Her husband, a lawyer and conservative activist Jim Karahalios, was an opponent of former PC leader Patrick Brown who was sued by the party. The New Democrats are running Marjorie Knight, a family outreach worker at Kitchener’s House of Friendship.
Candidates: Sly Castaldi (Liberals), Ray Ferraro (PC), Aggie Mlynarz (NDP), Mike Schreiner (Green)
Why it’s important: Will this year finally see the Green Party of Ontario make a breakthrough to win a seat at Queen’s Park?
If it’s going to happen, it will be in the riding of party Leader Mike Schreiner where he is battling for a seat for the third time. He also won’t have to face Liberal incumbent and former cabinet member Liz Sandals who announced her retirement last October.
WATCH: Mike Schreiner discusses Green Party’s vision for Ontario
The Liberals are running Sly Castaldi, executive director of the Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis centre and co-chair of Ontario’s Roundtable on Violence Against Women, while the NDP is fielding candidate Agnieszka Mlynarz, a recent University of Guelph theatre studies graduate who has worked in the film industry.
PC Leader Doug Ford appointed Guelph city Coun. Ray Ferraro as the candidate.
Candidates: Jeff Leal (Liberal-incumbent), Dave Smith (PC), Sean Conway (NDP), Gianne Broughton (Green)
Why it’s important: A term from Middle English, bellwether, refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading the flock of sheep so the shepherd knows which way the flock is moving even if he cannot see it.
If there is a bellwether riding, Peterborough-Kawartha is it. Since 1977, the riding has elected a member of the party that formed the government.
READ MORE: Peterborough race is ‘too close to call’
Liberal incumbent Jeff Leal is seeking his fifth consecutive term at Queen’s Park. Dave Smith, well-known in the local hockey circles, is running for the Progressive Conservatives. The NDP is fielding candidate Sean Conway, an artist and musician from Curve Lake First Nation and Gianne Broughton is running for the Ontario Green Party.
The latest projection from LISPOP, shows the race is too close to call.