Toronto St. Paul’s: A By-election about nothing

TORONTO – Tomorrow is one of those rare occasions in Canadian political circumstances when the electorate in a particular constituency can vote against the government, without having to suffer the consequences of changing the course of governance. The political punditry industry, and pollsters, have already speculated on the significance of the outcome to the Political parties and their leaders. There is not any, besides, who cares aside from the candidates? 

Well, maybe everyone who is hoping for the demise of Justin Trudeau, whose esteem in the public consciousness is so low that a proverbial “miracle” would have to occur to save his career. I have not seen evidence of his attachment to a belief system that would encourage betting on that event. But there is no “hope” or “prayer” without organization and work. The by-election will impact nothing, no matter who wins.

Toronto St. Paul’s is one of those constituencies described a “ultra-safe” for the Liberals – a dead donkey could be presented as a candidate to advocate for their program and emerge victorious. In England, they used to call these constituencies “rotten boroughs”. Any elections in such constituencies were/are a foregone conclusion. The real fight in England was the “bidding war” to purchase the right to represent such ridings for the winning party. Some think it is the same here. When was the last time a “star candidate” actually did the heavy lifting for a “safe riding”?

The NDP are not even in the race, although they have a candidate. The Conservatives have one as well, but the “conventional thinking” suggests they do not yet have the organization to turn public antagonism towards Trudeau into support for the CPC leader, partisan/philosophical attachment notwithstanding. Most polls base their prognostications on a sample of voter intentions drawn from on a survey of circa 1,200 respondents, nationwide – roughly three (3) voters per electoral district – and extrapolate likely results from those numbers.

Of course, there are other factors that play into the final tally, including the typically low voter turnout in by-elections (normally a sign of virtual indifference). To maximize any advantage that could accrue to any Party as a result, the campaigns tune up their GOTV (get out the vote) “electoral machine”.

So, no… do not count on Trudeau or his party losing the election tomorrow. Every Liberal MP in Toronto (25 of them, not counting colleagues from adjacent GTA) will already have assigned to the task at least six (6) paid staff and equal number of volunteers from the executive of their Electoral District Association for the weekend culminating in tomorrow’s vote. If you have been doing the arithmetic, that is 12 x 25 = 300 bodies voters of Toronto St. Paul’s have never seen before who are now “urging” them to vote for the Liberal candidate. The number climbs when “traditional” supporters join in.

Those bodies will probably not waste much time trying to convince the substantial number representation of Jewish voters who already have a rock solid view on whether the Liberal candidate warrants their support. The north-west quadrant of the riding (dominated by Italian and Portuguese Catholic homeowners) may be more fertile ground. We have seen sparse evidence of investment in advertising  targeting those communities. Maybe their voter intention is also a foregone conclusion.

It is not a scientific assessment but the three random people from St. Paul’s whom I asked about the election on the weekend gave me cause to quicken my pace.

In the two images, some of the electoral signs in the streets of the district (photo: Priscilla Pajdo)