Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Federal NDP Targets in Ontario

The Federal NDP faces both challenges and opportunities in the anticipated 2008 federal election. NDP MP Peggy Nash is widely expected to be in the fight of her political life against Gerard Kennedy in Parkdale-High Park. In addition, after dismal NDP results in the 2007 provincial election, London-Fanshawe’s Irene Mathyssen and Sault Ste. Marie’s Tony Martin may also be in trouble.

However, the NDP also has room to grow, especially if the Liberals take a nosedive in the midst of an election campaign.

The following eight seats are what I see as the party’s priority targets:

Thunder Bay – Superior North
With incumbent MP Joe Comuzzi's decision to cross the floor from the Liberals to the Tories, this Northern Ontario riding is ripe for the picking. The NDP came within 309 votes of taking it in 2006, and represented the riding from 1984-1988.

Thunder Bay – Rainy River
This riding, which overlaps with the provincial riding of Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton, was lost by roughly 700 votes to the party in 2006. The party did extremely well here in the 2007 provincial election and has a history of representing the area from 1984-1993.

Nickel Belt
A long history of NDP representation combined with the retirement of Liberal MP Raymond Bonin has given the NDP an unprecedented opportunity to win back this Northern Ontario riding. A provincial NDP stronghold, the federal party has come incredibly close to winning Nickel Belt in the last two elections.

Liberal incumbent John Maloney has lucked out through a series of vote splits in the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections. This time, local New Democrats have wised up and nominated Malcolm Allen, deputy Mayor of Pelham, as their candidate. Allen and Welland’s longtime NDP MPP Peter Kormos act like Siamese twins at public events, indicating that the party thinks they have finally found a winning federal candidate. The NDP finished second here and came within 5% of knocking off the Liberals in 2006. Expect a close three way race in 2008.

Although the NDP dropped from 2nd to 3rd place between 2004 and 2006, the party is still very much in the game. If there is a shift away from the Liberals and towards the NDP in Northern Ontario (like the shift that took place in the 2007 Ontario election) expect the NDP to pick up this seat.

Beaches - East York
Former NDP MPP Marilyn Churley is back and ready for a rematch with Liberal incumbent Maria Minna. Churley is a favourite of Layton’s (she quit provincial politics for a federal run) and her riding is next door to the NDP leader’s riding. Expect a spill-over effect and additional resources to flow into this riding from across the GTA. Minna won by just over 5% last time. It will be a hard gap to overcome, but if anyone can do it in this riding, it's Churley.

This is the stomping ground of longtime (former) NDP MPP Bud Wildman. However, the party has never had much success here federally. In 2004 and 2006, the NDP put up a good fight, but fell marginally short. As a relative unknown, NDP candidate Carol Hughes almost won the seat for the NDP in 2006. She has now gained experience and the attention of the party leadership. Expect the central campaign to boost her fortunes this time around with additional resources.

Three time loser Sid Ryan will likely not offer himself up as a candidate for a fifth time, therefore making Oshawa even more of a longshot for the NDP. The presence of a Conservative rather than Liberal incumbent will only make it a harder hill to climb for the party. However, an unexpected Tory collapse could hand Oshawa over to the NDP. It’s a longshot for sure.


northwestern_lad said...

let me add to your assessment of a couple of these ridings. For Thunder Bay - Rainy River, during the 2007 provincial election, then NDP lost by less than 50 votes, and that was after the Liberal incumbent won in 2003 by over 11,000 votes.

Also, for Kenora, the NDP finished 3rd in 2006, but it was a very tight 3-way race. Not only has that riding moved more and more towards the NDP, the NDP has a very strong candidate running in this riding in Tania Cameron. She is, to my knowledge, the first Aboriginal candidate from any party to run in this riding, a riding that has a very high Aboriginal population and the Aboriginal vote has been known to swing elections there. Also, the riding of Kenora has been one of the hardest hit by the terrible forestry policies of the Conservatives, which should eat into their vote totals. The confluence of all of these factors do make this a riding that the NDP should pick up whenever that next election comes.

James Bowie said...

Superior-North is a fair shot. I was on that campaign in 2006 when we won by 300 votes. Much will depend on what Joe Comuzzi decides to do. Much will depend on whether any more local industries close down before the election.

The NDP does not, however, have a chance to win against either Ken Boshcoff or Roger Valley. We can put money on it if you like.

Experience teaches that the NDP will spend much of its capital in held ridings. Fear of losing Ottawa-Centre or Outremont will lead to a migration of volunteers and resources to those places. This leaves little left for targeting new ridings.

I do hope you are wrong about TBSN though. Don MacArthur is an awesome guy, and he'd make a great MP.

Wheatsheaf said...

Nice run down. It makes me feel positively inspired that there is still so much room to grow in a single province.
I think you might be overly opportunistic to include Oshawa (right next door to that popular conservative elf). I suspect the NDP would have an easier time winning St. Paul's (without Peter Kent) than Oshawa this time around - i.e. no chance at all.

What about other second-tier maybes such as Davenport, Peterborough, Sarnia?

northwestern_lad said...

James my friend... you are under-estimating the sentiment in both Kenora and Thunder Bay - Rainy River.

Roger Valley has been nothing more than a lack lustre backbench MP, and not a good constiuency MP (by the way, I'm from the riding and this is the feedback I get from my family, most of whom are Liberal supporters). If you look at the voting trends in Kenora, the Aboriginal vote tends to be the determining factor that swings the seat one way or another, and if you think that Mr. Valley can hold off the first Aboriginal Candidate in a riding where the Aboriginal population makes up 40% of the electorate, I think you'll be in for a surprise. Tania Cameron is a very strong candidate and the people of the riding of Kenora are tired of having an MP who is nothing more than a voiceless backbench MP.

As for Thunder Bay - Rainy River, it will depend on who they get to run against Boshcoff. That will determine that.

uncorrectedproofs said...

Sarnia? Peterborough? You can't be serious. The gap is way too large in Davenport for the NDP to actually win.

Wheatsheaf said...

If we can dream about Oshawa or Guelph (hoping that the "star" candidate makes a difference), than why not Sarnia or Peterborough.
No I am not that serious, but that does not mean it is in the realm of the impossible.