Tag Archives: bob rae

New boundaries could turn a safe Liberal seat into one apiece for the NDP and Conservatives

Toronto Centre’s poll-by-poll results from the 41st General Election. The current riding leans right in the north, left in the south, and is surrounded by strong NDP ridings to the east and west.

The voters of Toronto Centre have always felt divided. The federal riding includes some of the richest (Rosedale, Yorkville ) and poorest (St. James Town, Regent Park) neighbourhoods in the country. At an all candidates meeting in St. James Town during a recent election one audience member accusingly asked if any candidates lived “south of Bloor,” in other words, if they could identify with and represent him. Likewise, some Rosedale residents have lamented that they can never get the representative they really want because they’re out-voted by their less affluent and more left-leaning neighbours to the south.

As a result, centrist Liberals have comfortably held the riding since 1993. (Before that it was held by the most Progressive of Conservatives, namely David MacDonald, who later joined the NDP, and David Crombie. Before them, more Liberals.) The north half of the riding has always been a Liberal-Conservative contest and the south half a Liberal-NDP one. As the only party with significant support throughout the riding, Liberals take it every time.

Now, that could change. The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has proposed new boundaries that would split the riding in two. If adopted after a period of consultation, the south half of the riding will absorb some of Trinity-Spadina to the west and become the new Toronto Centre. The north half of the riding is to acquire the north-east portion of the current St. Pauls to become the new riding of Mount Pleasant. And the Liberals are in serious danger of losing both.

The new Toronto Centre

In fact, I think they might as well kiss the new southern riding of Toronto Centre goodbye. In 2011, that half of the riding favoured the NDP candidate over the Liberal by 3%. Add in the votes from the section of Trinity-Spadina that’s to move over and the NDP margin increases to 5%, or 1,700 votes.

That may not sound like an orange nail in the red coffin, but keep in mind the NDP earned that much support in the current Toronto Centre without any reasonable prospect of winning. With these improved odds will come a more high-profile candidate, more motivated voters and volunteers, and increased money. Liberals, on the other hand, will have moved their money, volunteers and best candidate north to the new riding of Mount Pleasant.

Mount Pleasant

Here Liberal prospects aren’t quite as bleak, but I still think the party has reason for concern. Looking at votes from the north half of Toronto Centre and the new area from St. Pauls, Liberals had a 10% lead over the Conservatives in 2011. So far so good; that’s not as comfortable as the 18% lead they had over the Conservatives in all of Toronto Centre, but not anything to panic about either.

But let’s take a closer look at the nature of that Conservative support. Right-leaning voters in the current Toronto Centre and St. Pauls ridings are extremely demoralized. In the face of Liberal giants Bob Rae and Carolyn Bennett, they’ve known their votes won’t make a difference and many have opted to stay home. Organizationally, the Toronto Centre Conservatives have burned through six different candidates in the past four elections (two of them never even made it to the ballot) and have a very thin volunteer base. Further, their 2011 candidate was not ideally suited to appeal to the north half of the riding, in part because he lived and was almost exclusively active in the south half.

Given all that, the fact that Conservatives would still have only been 10% from victory against such a strong Liberal campaign is impressive. Next time around, like the NDP to the south, Conservative donors, voters and volunteers will be reenergized, and, with the prospect of a victory, the party will be able to recruit a higher-profile candidate capable of taking on a Liberal heavyweight.

Anything could still happen

Some caveats apply, of course. These proposed changes wouldn’t come into force for three years, which is an eternity. And in reality, what happens to party support at the federal level will be the most significant factor in how these ridings get decided. Still, with opportunities for the NDP to pick up another downtown Toronto seat and for the Conservatives to establish a beachhead in central Toronto, these new riding boundaries could really shake up the electoral map.

Data for this post came from Elections Canada’s poll-by-poll results of the 41st General Election held in 2011. Individual polls from current ridings were then assigned to new ones using the maps on Pundits’ Guide. You can download the Excel file I used for my calculations here. The map at the top of this post is from Rabble user KragoAlso note, I was the federal candidate in Toronto Centre for the Green party in the 39th General Election in 2006 and again in a by-election in March 2011 2008.

Harper, Rae wrong on Khadr

According to this Toronto immigration lawyer, both Stephen Harper and Bob Rae are making a very “simple” mistake when it comes to the question of if Omar Khadr can return to Canada.

I have never dealt in this space with the right of Canadian citizens to enter Canada. The simple reason for this is that the law on this point is crystal clear and rarely in dispute.

This right is considered a “fundamental” one and so it is entrenched in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was signed by Queen Elizabeth in 1982.

Our Charter describes this right as follows:

“Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.”

…Pretty simple, huh?

Not when it comes to Omar Khadr.

This fundamental right seems to have somehow been ignored during most of the debate, and some of the rhetoric, that surrounds this Canadian citizen’s controversial set of circumstances.

…Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly stated that he will not allow Khadr back here unless the charges against him are dropped for good. Of course, Harper has not explained what legal authority he has to prevent Khadr, a Canadian citizen, from exercising his right to return to Canada.

Even the Canadian opposition has it wrong. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae suggested that Harper appoint a panel of experts to advise the Canadian government on how to deal with Khadr. Any expert, in my view, would agree that Khadr has a constitutional right to return to Canadian soil. What happens to him after that is a matter of domestic criminal law which is unrelated to his right to enter Canada.

The thousand or so senior judges who together form the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association describe our justice system as follows: “We are said to be ruled by law, not by those who enforce the law or wield government power.”

President Obama’s actions have signaled a swift and firm return to the rule of law.

I hope that we will follow not only the American lead but also our own legal tradition.

Pretty serious stuff. Bob, on what grounds do you and the prime minister presume to be able to ignore the Charter?

Answer Period

When I was a child, my parents took me to see question period. I’m told that as we left I turned to them and asked, in earnest, “when’s answer period?”

I was in Ottawa yesterday, so I decided to take a stroll up to the Hill and see if things have changed. On the way I passed Jean Chrétien, smiling and greeting people on the Sparks Street Mall. I got the sense that he was out in public just to do a friendly meet and greet. Well done, Ottawa.

Once I’d gone uphill, however, everything else went downhill. It won’t surprise you to learn that not only has question period gotten worse, it’s no longer even suitable for children. (Nor is the Hill itself, unfortunately, where one protester has deemed it necessary to erect a large gory photo of a purportedly aborted fetus right beside the centennial flame. My friend’s six-year-old was profoundly disturbed.)

Past security and sitting in the diplomat’s gallery overlooking the House of Commons, it didn’t take me long to pick out my Member of Parliament, Bob Rae, sitting on the front bench to the right of Stéphane Dion. As the leader of the opposition began question period with a lame inquiry about someone’s ex-girlfriend, Bob looked bored. His head was down, focused on his blackberry.

Normally I’m disgusted with the prime minister’s dismissive and nasty tone, but I can’t fault him this time. He joked that while he always encourages his caucus to at least introduce him to their dates, the only thing he really cares about regarding their dating lives is that they show up on time for work in the morning. There may be a real issue here somewhere, but it’s hardly the most pressing thing for the opposition to be spending their time on.

Two or three questions in, Bob’s head was still down, now writing a note on a piece of paper. Once done he propped up his head with his hand. Maybe he just gives off unfortunately incorrect signals, but he really looked—as he often did during the campaign—like he wished he was somewhere else. As someone who campaigned to sit in the seat he now occupies, that seemed particularly uncool.

The low point of the hour was not as low as it could have been, but still totally unbecoming of a group of adults. Garth Turner rose to ask the Minister of Finance a question about what he was doing for the 1400 Canadians who had just lost their jobs in the auto sector. As always happens when Garth Turner asks a question, he was ignored by the intended recipient of the question and Peter Van Loan rose to answer instead. Van Loan dismissed Turner, saying that while he felt for the people who had lost their jobs, “there’s one job loss that’s outstanding, and that’s the job loss of the member from Halton who promised that if he ever crossed the floor he’d stand in a by-election.”

“Well speaker,” responded Turner, “I’m not afraid to stand on my feet unlike the Minister of Finance.” The Liberal caucus jumped to its feet to applaud what was admittedly a good comeback, but in so doing just legitimized the valuing of testosterone-fueled snipping over substantive debate. After Turner restated his question, Van Loan stood up again and said that he shouldn’t be asking them questions about work, since Conservative MPs were “a set of Canadians who understand what it is to work, cuz guess what, they show up for work, unlike the Liberal caucus. They don’t know what it is to show up for work, let alone work.” He then read out some statistics about how often Liberal MPs had shown up to vote recently.

The speaker of the house let him finish before rising to point out that referring to the presence or absence of other members is, in fact, out of order. The Conservative MPs responding by jeering and booing the speaker, who slunk back into his chair. These are the alleged adults running our government. If Canadians were forced to watch Question Period, voter turnout would drop below 25%.

Back in my hotel lobby, Elizabeth May was on the cover of The Hill Times. The article profiled Peter Russell, an author (and, judging by his appearance at one of my campaign events in 2006, a Toronto Centre resident) who argues in a new book that the Green Party’s presence as a “serious” party is “solidified,” and that that’s one of the reasons why we’re likely to see a lot of minority governments in the near future. Russell concludes that parties had better figure out how to work together and cooperate more. The alternative is an increasingly cynical electorate that becomes so sick and tired of going to the polls every two years that they, you know, stop going to the polls.

Of course I don’t disagree, but boy have we got a long way to go. Observing “answer period” would be a good start.