Taste of Victory on the Danforth
There's a lot of talk today about the eventual by election for Jack Layton's Toronto-Danforth seat. Many Liberals are salivating at the prospect of a victory there which would pull them within a mere 67 seats of official opposition status:
Liberals hope to paint Layton’s Toronto riding red again
Liberal Party president Alfred Apps is counting out Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, predicting a two-way fight with the NDP for Jack Layton’s Toronto seat.
Mr. Apps, a Bay Street lawyer who knows the Toronto political landscape well, told The Globe Wednesday that Mr. Layton won the seat because of his “terrific municipal background and powerful personality.”
He added: “Jack actually won it on the strength of his personal reputation and charisma.”
Given that by elections are all about expectations, I certainly wouldn't be advising Alf Apps, or anyone else, to raise expectations of a Liberal win on the Danforth. But it's still likely worth examining just how probable a Liberal pick-up actually is.
For starters, we need to accept that anything can happen in a by election. In Kevin Lamoureux's Winnipeg North by election upset last year, NDP support fell from 62% to 41% while Liberal support jumped from 12% to 46%. So at least in theory, Jack Layton's 43-point victory in May is not an insurmountable hill to climb.
But that's still a mighty tall hill, which only looks taller when you take a proper scan of the landscape. As the map at the top of this post shows, the two ridings to the East of it fell to the NDP in May. A relative no-name, Matthew Kellway, beat a 6-term incumbent in the Beaches by 11 points. That's nothing to sneeze at.
The riding has gone NDP provincially the previous four elections - most recently by 6,500 votes. Yes, Peter Tabuns is a popular incumbent, but there are a lot of people in the riding who are used to voting orange, even when Jack's name isn't on the ballot.
Finally, it's a riding that, demographically, "should" be an NDP seat. When I put the Census demographics into the regression meat grinder, it comes out as the 16th strongest NDP seat in the country.
Add it all up, and the odds of an upset on the Danforth are exceedingly small. Raising hopes to the contrary is only setting Liberals up for disappointment.