Ontario Election: NDP predicts massive win of Toronto’s downtown ridings

Members of the NDP are expressing confidence ahead of the Ontario provincial elections, with Cheri DiNovo predicting a landslide victory for her former party.  DiNovo, who quit politics to pursue her ambition of becoming a minister of Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Art, already made positive predictions in favour of her former party prior to confirmation from pubic opinion polls.

After Doug Ford won the rushed leadership contest on March 10, effectively replacing Patrick Brown at the helm of the Progressive Conservative party, former NDP MMP, Cheri DiNovo tweeted: “Wow! Looks like an #ondpgov!”.

There had been widespread frustration with how Kathleen Wynne operated her affairs in government, and DiNovo remarked that this public displeasure alongside Ford’s divisiveness was a fantastic opportunity for the NDP, particularly in urban centers. Today, her predictions seem quite accurate, with polls showing the NDP and PCs in a statistical battle heading into the campaign’s home stretch.

DiNovo, who represented the riding of Parkdale-High Park for more than a decade, predicts that the NDP will sweep all of downtown Toronto, irrespective of if her old party wins enough seats to form a government or not, in what she terms “bastions of Liberal power.”

While pollsters and other election analysts are not as optimistic, there’s a common consensus that a landslide victory downtown is a possibility, even in ridings that have been dominated by Liberal hands for a generation or longer.

“It doesn’t look like there are any safe Liberal seats any more,” said Barry Kay, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Kay, a veteran election analyst, built an election projection system which aims to project how many seats each party is likely to win by aggregating polling data and combining it with other bits of information. The latest version of Kay’s projection was released on May 30, and the results, just like DiNovo predicted, suggests the NDP have a stronghold on five of the eight available ridings downtown: Davenport, where in 2014 the NDP lost by six percentage points; Parkdale-High Park, where former executive assistant of DiNovo, Bhutila Karpoche is contesting; Toronto-Danforth, where veteran NDP MPP Peter Tabuns is poised to win a fifth term; Beaches-East York, which in 2014, the NDP lost by less than 500 votes; and Spadina-Fort York, an amalgamated riding that includes part of the former NDP stronghold of Trinity-Spadina.

However, in the three other downtown ridings—Toronto-St. Paul’s, Toronto Centre and the newly created University-Rosedale — the Liberals are considered only slight favourites since historically, they have been almost unbeatable. Since their creation in 1999, both Toronto-St. Paul’s and Toronto Centre ridings have been held by the Liberals continuously, equally winning by a massive margin in the last provincial election.

But after the resignation of Eric Hoskins and Glen Murray— the Liberal incumbents in those ridings respectively—that advantage acquired by those seeking re-election seems quite lost.

“I just think the Liberals are in trouble everywhere,” said Kay, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if those three ridings move in the NDP’s direction in his next projection—scheduled for release on Monday or Tuesday.

“Things are going south for the Liberals,” he continued.

Kay also remarked that strategic voting, which is usually the Achilles heel of the NDP, appears to be working in their advantage this time around, bolstered by a strong anti-Ford sentiment in urban ridings. People who showed support for the Liberal in the past are now “increasingly concerned about a Ford majority or a Ford government, prompting them to switch to the NDP,” said Kay.

During the last election, the Progressive Conservatives finished strong ahead of the NDP in Toronto Centre and Toronto-St. Paul’s ridings, however, Earl Washburn, a senior analyst at polling company EKOS Politics, said that they are highly unlikely to be just as competitive in this election due to Ford.

“His kind of populism doesn’t translate very well to downtown Toronto,” said Washburn.

Washburn noted that the ridings included quite a number of progressive voters who tend to vote Liberal.

“In this election the chances of them voting NDP are quite a bit higher,” he said, adding that the absence of the wealthy Rosedale from the Toronto Centre turns the tide in NDP’s favour.

George Smitherman, former Liberal MPP, who represented Toronto Centre at Queen’s Park for over a decade from 1999 to 2010, said he noticed the NDP’s “obvious momentum” in this election.

“They have signs of real life in places where they don’t always have it,” he said.
54-year-old Smitherman, who announced his intentions to run of city council last month, said he is not surprised by the turn of events as Liberal ridings always included a large number of progressively inclined voters.

“It’s not a surprise to me that the stop-Doug-Ford issue trumps a lot of the other important distinctions between the Liberals and NDP,” said Smitherman.

However, he said he still felt a strong sense of Liberal loyalty when asking around for opinions.

“People have told me, ‘This is still a Liberal riding.’”