Liberals crushed in GTA
The traditional Liberal stronghold that has kept the Greater Toronto Area mostly red for decades suffered a devastating blow Monday night.
The all-out assaults on vulnerable suburban ridings by the Conservatives, combined with an orange wave of NDP support originating in downtown Toronto, cracked what was once an urban island of Liberal support. The Conservatives painted the town blue, winning32 of 47 GTA seats.
The death knell was capped by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff losing his own seat in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, signalling a sea-change of the political landscape not only in the GTA, but across the nation.
The 2011 election results were the worst-ever for the Liberal Party.
“This party is bigger than all of us,” Ignatieff told supporters after conceding his loss to Conservative Bernard Trottier. “It will continue long after the events of tonight…This party is proud of what it contributed to our country.”
The Liberal Leader’s loss was just one of many in the GTA that shocked incumbents, candidates and political observers alike.
Among the most contested ridings this federal election was Ajax-Pickering, with longtime Liberal MP Mark Holland fighting a desperate battle to retain his seat against Conservative candidate and former ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander. But despite Holland’s local roots, and long record of public service, Alexander won handily by nearly 3,000 votes.
The 36-year-old Holland was a familiar face in the riding, having served on city and regional councils before being elected to Parliament. In the House of Commons, he was a consistent thorn in the government’s side, becoming known for his vocal criticisms of the Tories’ crime policies and his support for the long-gun registry.
But it appears Alexander’s two years of canvassing — and thousands of dollars from gun owners across the country — would be enough to beat the well-known Holland.
In the harshly-fought battleground of Vaughan, former Ontario Provincial Police chief and newly-minted MP Julian Fantino won by a healthy margin, leaving Liberal challenger Mario Ferri in a distant second. The riding had been a Liberal stronghold for years until this past November, when Fantino squeaked out a victory in a by-election, winning by just 1,054 votes.
The race for Vaughan was a crucial one for Grits and the Tories, with Stephen Harper and Ignatieff each making stops, along with a number of high-profile candidates from both parties.
In York Centre, once thought to be one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, incumbent Ken Dryden lost to Conservative challenger Mark Adler. As of 11 p.m. Adler was head by nearly 4,000 votes. Adler spent the last 10 months garnering support, highlighting Stephen Harper’s government’s record on the economy and its strong support of Israel. About one fifth of York Centre residents are Jewish.
In Parkdale-High Park, Liberal incumbent Gerard Kennedy lost his seat to Peggy Nash, national president of the NDP. It was a sweet victory for Nash, who lost her seat to Kennedy in 2008 by 3,400 votes. She had hoped the recent national surge in NDP support would help propel her to victory.
Nash has endeared herself to local residents since the last election for her vocal opposition to a diesel train line through the riding connecting Pearson International Airport with Union Station.
Longtime Liberal MP Joe Volpe lost his seat in Eglinton-Lawrence, which he held 23 years, in a stunning upset to Conservative Joe Oliver.
The riding was not only hotly contested, but made news early in the campaign as being labeled “very ethnic” by the Tories as part of their plan to target voters of visible minorities.
The riding was also the scene of a bizarre telephone campaign targeting Liberal supporters. Constituents complained of rude phone calls at all hours of the night from people claiming to be working for Volpe’s campaign. The calls, which were reported in other ridings, prompted a rebuke from Liberal national headquarters, which insinuated the party’s political opponents were responsible.
The tension in the riding increased a notch in the last week of the campaign when Volpe was forced to fire a campaign worker when the worker was caught on camera allegedly removing Green Party literature from people’s mailboxes, and replacing it with Liberal pamphlets.
The battle for Brampton-Springdale proved to be one of the nastiest, most hard-fought campaigns in the election. Liberal incumbent Ruby Dhalla appeared unable to dodge recent controversy over allegations that she mistreated her family’s caregivers, among other things. Conservative candidate Parm Gill handily beat Dhalla by more than 7,000 votes.
The riding was a natural target of support from both competing parties, who seemed to be in a competition to see who could throw more resources at their respective candidates.
Viewed by the Conservatives as a key 905 battleground, the riding saw visits from Harper and other Tory heavy hitters, while the Liberals, for their part, dispatched Michael Ignatieff and star candidate Justin Trudeau to rally support.
On the ground, the battle was dirty, with Dhalla and Gill almost daily at each other’s throats pronouncing publicly reasons why the other was a poor candidate for public office. Gill continuously reminded voters of allegations that Dhalla mistreated her family’s nannies — allegations that led to court hearings Dhalla was forced to postpone during the campaign.
For her part, Dhalla spent much of the campaign insinuating that Gill attended overseas meetings with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on the taxpayer dime, allegations that have never been proven.
Don Valley West saw a rematch from 2008 between Liberal incumbent Rob Oliphant and Conservative candidate John Carmichael. It was a rematch that Carmichael won by a very slight margin.
The riding has the highest populations of Muslims in the country and Oliphant often touts his good relationship with that community. But it was not enough to keep the blue wave at bay.
Carmichael, who owns a car dealership, stressed his experience as a small-business owner would position him well in a government focused on a recovering economy.
In the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina, NDP incumbent Olivia Chow was safe, despite a fierce challenge by Liberal candidate Christine Innes. The Liberal hopeful had hoped to capitalize on the so-called “condo vote,” named for the influx of new voters in the riding thanks to heavy development in the southern part of the riding on the shore of Lake Ontario.
Innes had dubbed her campaign “Condos for Christine” and spent days knocking on doors in high-rise buildings. But such efforts hardly dented support for the NDP and Chow, who has been riding a wave of support as of late following public opinion polls that put the party in second place behind the Conservatives.
The orange wave of NDP support in the GTA swept away several former Liberal ridings that many thought were sure bets. Scarborough Southwest was the scene of an upset for the Liberals, who had held the riding for more than two decades. But Liberal incumbent Michelle Simson appeared to be on her way out, coming in third as of 11 p.m. behind Conservative candidate Gavan Paranchothy and frontrunner Dan Harris of the NDP.
It is an unexpected turn of events for Simson, who easily took the riding in 2008 by more than 4,000 votes.
Early poll results suggested longtime Beaches-East York incumbent Maria Minna, a Liberal, would lose her seat to first-time NDP candidate Matthew Kellway. It’s a stunning turn of events for Minna, who turfed NDP candidate Marilyn Churley in 2006 by 4,000 votes.
Kellway, who works for the union representing employees of OPG, Bruce Power and Hydro One, did not originally harbour any political ambitions. It was while chairing the search committee for the NDP candidate in the area two years ago that he decided to put his own name forward.
And someone has named Mark Holland as their chair?
I wonder if the voters know who their Liberal candidate has climbed in bed with?
We’ll see on election day.