Canada’s Conservative leadership race a crowded field

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Click for CBC column.

The current Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) leadership race is quickly becoming a crowded field. For starters, at 13, there are too many candidates, many of whom have no chance of winning.  As well, as Tuesday’s French debate showed, many of the candidates don’t speak even passable French, which is an essential skill in order to lead Canada.

Worst of all though, is the infighting. For example, as I wrote recently, it was completely unnecessary for Lisa Raitt to lash out at Kellie Leitch just because Leitch wants to screen  for Canadian values refugees and immigrants coming from countries where there is terrorism.

Still others, like Kevin O’Leary are, in my opinion, just trying to get attention and latch on to Donald Trump’s popularity to the south. Believe me, O’Leary is not like Trump, who praises all veterans and the military. O’Leary says that while peacekeeping is an honour, being a warrior is not.  Meaning, that to actually fight is not an honour. Well, excuse me. Try telling that to the thousands of men and women who fought, were maimed or gave their lives in World Wars I, II and Korea.

Anyway, at the moment, given all the factors, including passable French, I am leaning towards Andrew Scheer. I also like Leitch, Chong and O’Toole and hope that their French improves. In fact, I have joined the CPC so that I can vote in May when the leadership vote is held. However, that said, I am still willing to look at other candidates.

To me, the key to who has the best chance of running against Justin Trudeau and winning is the candidate who can match Trudeau’s “sunny ways.” Scheer would definitely be equal in that regard as he is young, experienced, personable and has a young family as well. Similarly, O’Toole has presence. Yes, I know they don’t have the charisma of Trudeau but if Canadians get fed up enough with the direction the Liberals are taking the country, I believe that, by 2019, a majority would look carefully at the CPC leader.

The crux of the matter however, is that, for the good the party and country, some of the current candidates need to get out of the race and those who are left need to criticize the Liberals rather than each other.

31 thoughts on “Canada’s Conservative leadership race a crowded field

  1. I believe as you do that Andrew Scheer has the best chance to become the leader of the Conservative Party out of current members running and that without Kevin O’Leary in the race it would ultimately come down to him or Maxine Bernier. However, Kevin O’Leary is now in the race and will say what a lot of people in this country are thinking about the current state of Canada. Whether we agree with all he says or not, he is the candidate who will be talked about most and he will drive the media frenzy about the Conservative Party. No candidate is perfect, but I predict in May it will come down to Scheer and O’Leary – either will make 2019 a good option to battle the Liberals in the next Federal Election. — Just my thoughts.

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    • You could be right Rhodella. It will depend on whether O’Leary can pick up a passable French. True Stephen Harper won a majority without Quebec but with the Atlantic provinces so red, the CPC will need a lot of Quebec seats. And, more importantly, the party won a majority because Harper learned to speak French.

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      • I would also add there is BC which is very unpredictable while in Ontario matching Harper’s 44.4% is definitely doable, but he benefited from strong splits on the left which we don’t have now so a similar result would probably get the Conservatives just over half the seats in Ontario and due to weaknesses elsewhere we need to win at least 60%, probably 2/3 of seats in Ontario to get a majority. But agree the party at least has to maintain if not increase seats in Quebec. Montreal probably will never go Conservative, but they could expand in rural Quebec and perhaps even the off island suburbs, which have no trouble voting for centre-right parties provincially (ADQ and now CAQ). In Atlantic Canada, I just hope we win some seats next time around, I suspect it will take a few elections to beat the Liberals there.

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  2. Re: “To me, the key to who has the best chance of running against Justin Trudeau and winning is the candidate who can match Trudeau’s “sunny ways.””

    Disagree, Sandy. The next election is still three years away and by the looks of things this very day Trudeau and his party are going to end up looking like Obama and sundry in far less than four years. He backed the wrong horse and although it may not yet be apparent to many he`s already in deep trouble.

    My money is on Leitch. She, like Trump, is riding the wave of a huge crowd of silent but very upset Canadians. They won`t say much but you can take it to the bank they will speak loud and clear when they have a vote both within the CPC and also in the next federal election. If Kellie wins Trudeau is going to be a one term wonder.

    I have no doubt on that at all.

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    • We rarely disagree Jack but I do on Kellie Leitch. I too have been a fan of hers but having watched her lately I am afraid that she just doesn’t have the gravitas of a Trump. Her little girl voice is something many strong women have to deal with. Plus, like Alexander, the media will be after her 24/7 regarding the so-called snitch line.

      O’Leary is just the opposite — all bombast. Canada is different from the US and the silent majority wants someone who can pull us together. That leaves Scheer IMO. Whether he wins on a ranked ballot remains to be seen. But, IMO, neither Leitch or Alexander would win against Trudeau because of too much baggage.

      Where is Peter MacKay or Rob Nicholson when we need them?

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  3. I like Andrew Scheer and Kelly Leitch but maybe the Cons will need a Quebecor to win like Max Bernier. Trudeau is showing how arrogant he can be just like his father but at least his father had some brains. Justin is a drama teacher and he is acting like a dumb drama teacher. These town hall meetings people are attending and want answers to their questions, he has none. Justin then mocks the person by talking in French when their question was in English. This is the height of arrogance and he needs to be taken down a few pegs! More selfies on the way!!

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  4. Wouldn’t make a prediction just yet but we need a strong leader. We also keep hearing O’Leary is not a Conservative and I have to ask what is a Conservative today anyway? Can a true Conservative on all planks win in this Canada today?
    Bernier is good, a lot of pluses there, but keep an eye on O’Leary, some Conservatives are not happy with the infighting and OLeary could benefit from that.

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  5. http://etcanada.com/news/196904/arlene-dickinson-slams-former-dragons-den-co-star-kevin-oleary-over-candidacy-an-opportunist-with-a-total-lack-of-empathy/

    Here’s an article on Kevin O’Leary by his friend and colleague Arlene Dickinson. Her opinion of O’Leary matches my impression of him ,and she knows him a lot better than I do. Frankly,I liked Arlene Dickinson way more than O’Leary on Dragon’s Den,she seemed to be a capitalist with some humanity while O’Leary was pure shark. Dickenson would make a way better candidate for CPC leader,but appears to be more Liberal oriented,and may not speak French.

    I think the field will narrow soon as the obvious no-go’s will drop out,( who ever told Deepak Ohbrai he had a hope?) but I believe conservatives are creatures who seek comfort with a leader, just as the American conservatives are not happy with Trump. So I expect Bernier to be the next CPC leader. He’s well experienced in Ottawa and speaks French fluently, and is a familiar face to Party members.
    I like Leitch, but frankly she has no charisma and that counts for half the battle these days,which is unfortunate,but true.

    I suppose I’ll have to rejoin the CPC and have my chance to vote, even though they raised the rates after losing the last election, so it costs more to belong to a lame duck Party than the governing Party. I sometimes wonder if the CPC is run by the same people who run the Canucks hockey team,who lose every year but raise ticket prices to see an ever worsening product.

    Someone asked if a “true conservative” could win in Canada today. I suppose that depends on your description of a TC, I’d say “no”.
    A “true Liberal” couldn’t win today either, the type I consider a true liberal would resemble Stephen Harper’s political hero Sir Wilfred Laurier,who is nowhere near Canada’s neo- Liberals.

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  6. Sounds like Dickinson didn’t like O’Leary as a person either. owever I don’t think she is a Conservative supporter so she wouldn’t be voting for him anyway.

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  7. Pingback: Crowded Field « Jack's Newswatch

  8. Wonder how many of our CPC leadership candidates watched President Trump’s speech? It was pretty much what we would expect him to say, he said the same throughout his campaign. I’m sure we will hear the word “protectionist” ad infinitum from his detractors. He has a degree in economics, he’ll get what it takes to keep a balance. My big takeaway was the fact he highlighted Christianity, the tenets upon which their country…and ours as well were built on.We need to realize right here we do not have to sell our souls to welcome and accommodate people who wish to become citizens of our countries, enjoy our freedoms. Trump also reiterated his tough stance on Islamic terrorists. If you don’t take care of your own people first you cannot take care of anyone else.
    Too many politicians forget they are there for the people, not for themselves and holding onto power for power’s sake, that stuff belongs to the dictators of the world.

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  9. I was wondering with those on here, which is more important in choosing a new leader: shares my values or most electable. This was a question asked in the US primary and on those who said shares my values voters favoured Bernie Sanders on the Democrat side and Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Republican side while those who choose electability favoured Clinton on the Democrat side and Marco Rubio and John Kasich on the GOP side. Personally I am in the electability category although we are unusual times where past rules seem to be applying less and less. Nonetheless my top three choices are in order Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, and Erin O’Toole. I think with Leitch and O’Leary its a real gamble. They might like Trump work well, but it could blow up in the Tory’s faces. With Trudeau’s popularity falling (two polls out today show him with a single digit lead) I would rather play it safe and choose someone who Canadians can be comfortable with rather than roll the dice on someone with a risky platform as my main goal is to see Trudeau defeated in 2019 or at minimum reduced to a minority government, although I think we can beat him outright. Getting a majority may be tough due to our weaknesses east of the Ottawa River and to a lesser extent west of the Rockies (we are doing reasonably well in between the Ottawa River and Rockies), but I think the three I mentioned may have a shot if things go well.

    As for Donald Trump, the US is a different country with a different political culture so we should be careful when making comparisons. A better solution is to look at our provincial cousins. In 8 out of 10 provinces, the provincial equivalent of the Conservatives did better than Harper in 2015 and in polls right now 9 out of 10 they are doing better so we should focus on those who are open to voting Conservative but aren’t there. Today’s nanos poll shows 31% for the Conservatives but 47% open to voting Conservative so the 53% who won’t we should ignore but the 16% who are open to it but not there yet is going to be key to winning in 2019. If we compare provincial elections last year, Brad Wall got 62% vs. Harper’s 49% while Brian Pallister got 53% vs. Harper’s 37% so the 13% in Saskatchewan and 16% in Manitoba who voted Conservative provincially but not federally and these are the types we need to go after and the good news is both Brad Wall and Brian Pallister are still conservatives. Otherwise I don’t advocate going to Joe Clark or Robert Stanfield type Red Tory, just more pragmatic conservatism that focuses on policies that sell well and ignores those that do not. Any thoughts from others.

    Also as a side note the next election is 1,000 days away while the next Ontario is 499 days away so the countdown is on although as they say in politics a week is an eternity and it does seem these days predicting the future in politics is like predicting the weather on a given day six months out.

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  10. My view is electability but that is related to values. Which is why conservatives in Ontario will hold their nose when they vote for Patrick Brown’s candidate. Pragmatism with conservative fiscal values would likely work federally – which describes Stephen Harper. He was never described as a red tory.

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  11. I’m not a fan of Chong, he may make a good leader, don’t know, he certainly didn’t strike me as a team player as a member of the Harper government. I am concerned O’Leary might slip through. Bernier is talking a lot of sense, keeping my eye on him too. Too noisy with so many in the race, gotta pay close attention, we know the job that has to be done by whoever we choose and electability is key.

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    • I think Chong’s biggest liability is many on the right flank see him as too moderate. I am fine with Bernier myself, but not sure if Canadians are up for a libertarian style government, but maybe by 2019 they will be. Andrew Scheer is a bit more conservative than I am (I am sort of a Red Tory, probably around the same spot on the spectrum as Brian Mulroney, otherwise to the left of Harper, but right of Stanfield and Clark), but I don’t see anything wrong with his policies so far and he may turn out to be a good leader. Michael Chong’s difficulty is more winning the leadership race than a national election as with Trudeau pulling the party to the left, I think bringing back the Red Tories as well appealing to Blue Liberals who don’t like Trudeau’s big spending is where the party needs to gain. I think part of the reason I have been pushing the party to move towards the centre is the NDP is a lot weaker than they were when Harper was in power, so unless they rebound we might need 42-44% instead of 38-40% to win a majority. Nonetheless with in any big tent coalition, you are going to get disagreements, I think the main thing is that everybody leans in the same general direction even if there are some minor disagreements on individual policies and it does seem at least all candidates are united on the idea of balanced budgets, lower taxes, and smaller government, its more degree where you get variance. On non-economic matters it seems differences are larger although I think with today’s economy, economic matters will thankfully be what matters most in 2019.

      As for O’Leary, he could slip up the middle, but his problem is I am not sure how many second choices he will get plus with his inability to speak French he won’t get many points in Quebec as people forget the race is weighted equally by riding and second choices matter a lot unless the field narrows considerably. I would probably still vote for him, but my worry is his past statements would result in an even bigger Liberal majority making winning in 2023 that much tougher.

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      • Wow Miles, being of retirement age, 2019 is looking as far ahead as I want to go right now. IMO, to save our fiscal future, conservatives have to absolutely win in the nearer term. I have decided to remain neutral about the leadership on this blog because, come what may, I will have to root for that person in 2018 and 19. Similarly, Patrick Brown is what we have in Ontario and so I will do my best to support him here and hold my nose when I vote.

        That said, thanks for your comments as I plan to leave this post for such a debate.

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  12. At this point I’m supporting Bernier, so much common sense. I’m tired of the whole thing but some need to grow up and stop banging at each other. O’Leary wouldn’t stand a chance against Bernier in Quebec, just my opinion right now.

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    • Oops, a clarification, I meant Bernier could, probably would, win for us in Quebec but O’Leary would have a big problem.
      After the last election here and the US election we can expect anything!

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  13. There may not be a rule limiting the number of candidates who can run for the leadership but there has been enough time now for several of them to bow out gracefully, they know by now they have no chance. It makes it much easier for us to make our decisions with less chattering and bickering among them.

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    • I wish some of the candidates would bow out as well. I personally am leaning towards Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole and Lisa Raitt. I know that, on Twitter at least, Maxime Bernier is ahead. He certainly has some advantages but I just don’t see him being able to beat Trudeau. Of course, French speaking is important. However like Mr. Harper, the CPC winner doesn’t have to be from Quebec. Ontario and the West are perhaps even more important than Quebec. The Atlantic provinces? They seem enamoured by the Liberals for some reason.

      I used to like Kellie Leitch but realize she is just not going to be able to beat Trudeau. The media are just not going to let her be regarding the barbaric practices tip line. Besides, given her medical specialist designation and the several post-graduate degrees she has behind her name, trying to sound like she is not one of the elite she complains about, is a little over the top. I mean, she lost me when she called Scheer one of the elite she opposes.

      Anyway, given it is going to be a ranked ballot, at the moment I plan to vote Scheer as my first choice and Raitt as my second — depending how well they are able to speak French or, like Harper, show that they can get better, by May 27th.

      Everyone should feel free to use this thread to discuss the CPC race.

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      • Mine will be Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, and Erin O’Toole in that order. At the moment I think Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Deepak Obrhai, Brad Trost, Chris Alexander, Pierre Lemieux, and Steve Blaney should bow out as they have no chance. Depending on where they throw their support they could help push someone ahead or behind and maybe push more out. Of the one’s not listed above, O’Leary and Leitch are the only two I dislike and think would hurt our chances in 2019, mind you with O’Leary I’ve heard for whatever reason he seems to connect well with millennials.

        As for winning nationally, it’s true like Harper we technically can win without Quebec, but lets remember he won 14 seats in Atlantic Canada which I think will be hard to repeat in 2019. Also in Ontario he had a perfect split on the left so while I think the Tories can get 44% in Ontario (polls already put them around 40% right now), I am not sure they can win as many seats due to the weakness of the NDP, otherwise I think we can win a majority of seats in Ontario, but probably not 2/3 and almost all polls show us doing better in Ontario than nationally. Also British Columbia asides from 2015 went Conservative under Harper but for now seems to have swung towards the Liberals, but may swing back we shall see. Maybe Trudeau’s family connection to BC (his mom is from there) is the reason, not sure. The only good news is the NDP and Greens are strong in BC so we are more likely to get favourable splits there. So I don’t think we have to win the majority of seats in Quebec, but probably we should aim for around 20-25 seats as I think there is potential to gain in parts of Rural Quebec. Even the off island suburbs if we had strong splits on the left are not out of the question as while Harper never did well there, the ADQ and CAQ provincially has so maybe Bernier can win over those voters. Off course the island of Montreal is probably off limits, but it’s more like the 416 and Vancouver proper are too, which we can win without, it’s the 905 belt and Lower Mainland suburbs that are key which Harper dominated in 2011, but went mostly Liberal in 2015.

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      • Interesting. I don’t like Chong because he is always politically correct about everything. Also seem more Liberal than a Red Tory. But thanks for sharing. To each his own opinion.

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  14. I don’t know I would consider Michael Chong a liberal, at least not in the way Trudeau is if you look at his fiscal policies. Maybe in BC where the BC Liberals are really just an anti-NDP coalition (for disclosure I was a member when I lived there and pre-merger we had Liberals, PCs, and Alliance members all in one party, otherwise the BC NDP were so awful it was actually possible to unite such group which you could never do federally) as he did praise their past premier Gordon Campbell who was sort of like Mike Harris but slightly more centrist. Perhaps you could call him a Classical Liberal in the sense of being on the right fiscally and left on everything else as opposed to capital L liberal being centre-left on all issues. I would label him more a pinkish conservative as when I think of Red Tory, I tend to think of the likes of Joe Clark, Robert Stanfield, Bill Davis, and Hugh Segal and there are few of any like them left in the Tories. On the political spectrum, I would place myself around the same spot as Brian Mulroney. True in the US, he probably would be a Democrat today, although Republican in the past as the party has swung quite a bit to the right, but in the UK he would definitely be a Conservative. His views don’t seem too much different than Theresa May or David Cameron and I would argue Canadian Conservatism has more in common with British Conservatism than American Conservatism. On political correctness, I guess its not something I think about much, I just try to be respectful to everyone, but political correctness is somewhat a loaded term that means different things to different people. Some think it means saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, others say it just means not using racial slurs and I certainly am not politically correct in the former, but am in the latter.

    I think the real issue is we need to focus on issues where conservatives are generally united and perhaps maybe in the second term worry about areas where they are divided as the first term will be loaded with just undoing all of Trudeau’s bad policies. Lower taxes, less government, balanced budgets except during recessions, and less government spending seem to be the one area all conservatives are on the same page and right now I would say economy and jobs are by far the biggest issue. Nonetheless maybe Lisa Raitt and Erin O’Toole are the best compromises. My only real concern with Lisa Raitt is her poor French, if her French was better she probably would be my first choice. Erin O’Toole seems like a dull and boring candidate who neither excites nor offends people so if Trudeau is popular in 2019 he won’t help, but if unpopular by then, then the best choice, in some ways he is following Bill Davis’ idea of bland works which is not a bad idea. Nonetheless if either of those two win, I would definitely support them and even Scheer I would as long as he stays away from the socially conservative issues and sticks to economic issues.

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    • To be fair I understand all races are somewhat divisive, but lets hope whomever wins can unite all members as well as appeal to those who voted Liberal in 2015 but have voter remorse. I will admit when you have a big tent party its tough to keep everyone happy. That is the one advantage of PR as you probably would have two conservative parties who just form a coalition, but off course for reasons mentioned elsewhere I oppose PR.

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    • Mike Harris was not like Campbell. I worked in that caucus. While I offer a venue for discussion, be wary of preaching. Many conservatives are fed up with anyone calling themselves a PC , Mulroney included. He was supposed to get rid of deficit over 2 terms and let us down.

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    • I can’t fault someone for “poor French”, if they try that’s enough. We lose a lot of very capable people over language, and it always seems to be English speakers speaking poor French as opposed to the other way around.
      IMO Chong was never a team player as an MP in the Harper government, he always seemed to want to stand out on his own.
      All in all, we need to get this right, we need to defeat the Trudeau Liberals , we need the best person with the best policies to do that.

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      • I will admit the low level of bilingualism in English Canada is an issue that excludes a lot of people who otherwise are totally qualified. Although a totally different topic, I wonder if there is a way to increase language proficiency so at least down the road this will be less of an issue. As someone who travels regularly to Europe, in some countries like the Nordic ones or Netherlands it seems everyone speaks almost perfect English despite the fact it is not their native language so I’ve often wondered how they are able to do it. I agree we need to choose who is best able to defeat Trudeau in 2019 and in a lot of ways it is judgement call as we are in a rapidly changing world where old rules of politics don’t always apply so its really each person making the best judgement call. The good news is his honeymoon seems to have finally ended so I think beating him in 2019 is very doable. Interestingly enough here in downtown Toronto (where I live, I am planning to move to Vancouver later this year) there was a large march against Justin Trudeau’s broken promise on electoral reform (I presume most who showed up were probably leftist who would never vote Conservative anyways) so maybe this will help create the splits which in both BC and Ontario would be quite helpful. He has certainly alienated most fiscal conservatives and seems to be alienating even progressives.

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  15. Somewhat off topic, but the most recent poll out getting a bit of buzz is Liberals and Ontario PCs tied in Toronto. This is in the 416 area code and as someone who has followed the history of politics, if the PCs are tied in the 416, that usually means a landslide provincewide. If I am not mistaken, I believe Mike Harris finished behind the Liberals in the 416 both times, although won seats, it was the 905 belt and rest of Ontario that went heavily for him and in 2011 the results in the 416 were 35% Liberals, 31% Conservatives, and 30% NDP yet Harper won 2/3 of the seats in Ontario and a majority nationally. So the title seems very misleading, but if it gives the Liberals false hope that is okay as our best gift is hoping Wynne stays on. So talk about misleading title and note I would blame Forum Poll as this is their words, haven’t seen it reported in the media yet. Not saying forum poll is biased but it seems like a lot of pollsters they just look at the straight numbers and avoid looking at voting history where they would note Liberals always do a lot better in Toronto than they do province wide and the PCs always do significantly worse there.

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    • Harris MPP’s won many seats in 1995 in what is now Toronto. Also several in the old city such as Rosedale and Bridal Path. Also won in Etobicoke and Scarborough and North York & Willowdale. 88 seats out of 130 province wide. Yes most of 905 around Toronto plus 4 in Niagara, Dundas and some in Hamilton. But in Niagara on the Lake we now have NDP MPP because so many from Toronto retired here. Many old City of Toronto went NDP, not Liberal.

      Mistake to compare then and now.

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      • Point taken, just saying at least nowadays Liberals doing well in Toronto means nothing. Besides while your riding did go NDP provincially, it is Conservative federally so I see no reason why the Ontario PCs cannot pick it up in 2018. True Rob Nicholson is I believe well liked so some were probably personal votes, but I am not so sure how popular the NDP MPP is. I know the former MPP Kim Craitor was quite popular and enjoyed support of many who didn’t usually vote Liberal, but I don’t get the impression that Wayne Gates has that type of support.

        Anyways I think the 905 belt at least nowadays is where elections are won and lost. While not perfect, I think the results of Harper in 2011 is probably more relevant to Brown in 2018 than what Harris got in the 90s as that is more recent so fewer changes in demographics. Sault Ste. Marie by-election should be interesting, I hope the Tories can pull an upset there or at least if not, it goes NDP. Federally we should hold both Calgary by-elections, Ottawa-Vanier will go Liberal as usual, as will Dion’s riding, but perhaps Markham-Thornhill, John McCallum’s is possible if Trudeau’s numbers continue to fall, albeit probably a long-shot as McCallum’s is I believe the least favourable 905 riding.

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      • Unfortunately Gates gets a lot of positive media that makes it seem like he is doing something which he isn’t since he is opposition. And like Craitor, is well liked. However, since the MPP I worked for was pc, there is hope.

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