Races to watch: Ontario
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All good fights deserve a rematch, so here's a great one: Liberal MP Maria Minna narrowly held off former Ontario NDP cabinet minister Marilyn Churley last time, and both women are back again in 2008.
The last-minute retirement of Liberal Colleen Beaumier leaves this 905 seat without an incumbent in this race. Fair to say everyone wants it: but it was a classic Liberal vs. Conservative suburban fight last time. Mark this one as a top Tory target.
Liberal MP Lloyd St. Amand narrowly survived a tough fight with the Tories in 2006, and knows he'll be a target once more in this riding that's southwest of Toronto. Brant was arguably the birthplace of the "unite the right" movement, where discussions first began to field a single candidate to represent the Reform and Progressive Conservative parties. Conservatives have believed that they can and should win in this constituency for years, but it hasn't happened yet.
Former Liberal MP Paddy Torsney has been working for Stéphane Dion since her electoral defeat to Conservative Mike Wallace here in 2006. While Torsney has the profile and experience to mount a strong challenge to re-take the seat, Wallace will have the benefit of running this time as the sitting MP.
Once long-time Liberal MP and cabinet minister Don Boudria's playground, this 60 per cent francophone, rural eastern Ontario riding swung Conservative after Boudria retired before the last election. But MP Pierre Lemieux's margin of victory was small. Now Boudria's son Dan is out to re-claim this turf as Liberal ground.
In this riding, the candidate is the story — because the MP for Halton is Garth Turner. The Conservative defector will be running as a Liberal, and this election will be somewhat of a referendum on his maverick but populist ways. Conservatives would dearly love to knock him off.
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Once the site of brutal Liberal infighting, the former political home of Sheila Copps and Tony Valeri fell to the NDP in the last election. Can the Liberals make a comeback, or will the NDP dig in?
The Tories fought hard here and nearly won in 2006 against one of the most small-c conservative Liberals in the federal caucus, Paul Steckle. Now Steckle's not running again, the Tories can take aim here once more, this time without the burden of defeating a popular incumbent. The Liberal candidate — Greg McClinchey — is a former political aide to Steckle, who may be able to recreate his former boss' winning organization.
This riding had a turbulent history leading up to the 2006 vote: first the sitting Liberal MP, Pat O'Brien, left the Liberal caucus over the same-sex marriage issue. When he, and his team, retired, it became anyone's race. The NDP's Irene Mathyssen came out on top. But can she hold the seat through another tough three-way fight?
Liberal Paul Szabo survived a tough fight here in 2006 from the Conservatives. The Chair of the House of Commons Ethics committee had one of the toughest jobs in this past cantankerous minority Parliament, where he took a lot of abuse from the Conservative side. Now he faces the Tories head on during another tight electoral fight.
Again, the incumbent is the story: former Liberal-turned-Tory in a floor-crossing walk, Wajid Khan. He had a fairly (by 905 standards) comfortable win when he was a Liberal, but how will Stephen Harper's special adviser on the Middle East fare as a Conservative?
This was Belinda Stronach's seat. She first won it as a Conservative, then she re-won it as a Liberal. But now she's left politics. Which way will it go next? Another 905 pickup target for the Tories.
Liberal MP Bonnie Brown survived the Tory onslaught in the last election by less than two per cent of the popular vote. Oakville is home to a large Ford plant and economic worries will be on voters' minds when they mark their ballot in this 905 target.
Conservative Colin Carrie won this seat in a tight three-way race in 2006. This time he faces off directly against an NDP candidate — Mike Shields — who's a former CAW president. Government assistance for the auto sector, and the recently announced closure of the GM truck plant in this riding in particular, could frame the election debate here.
Liberal territory during the Chrétien government, but former NDP leader Ed Broadbent's comeback in 2004 turned downtown Ottawa orange, and his successor, Paul Dewar, held it for the NDP last time. Now Penny Collenette, the wife of former Liberal cabinet minister David Collenette, is carrying the Liberal banner. With the Conservatives likely to pull a fair share of their own votes, this will be tight once again.
In 2006 the Conservatives had a breakthrough in the city of Ottawa, and the more francophone east-end seat of Ottawa-Orleans was among their success stories. Royal Galipeau now occupies what had been considered previously Liberal turf, but can he hold on to it? The Liberals own this riding provincially.
The NDP's Peggy Nash defeated a Liberal incumbent and a star Conservative candidate to take this downtown Toronto riding in 2006. But her life only gets more difficult this time: former Liberal leadership contender and Ontario cabinet minister Gerard Kennedy picked this seat for his first federal race. Can he translate his past provincial support into federal votes?
Health Minister Tony Clement's riding was the closest race in Canada in the 2006 general election, when only a couple of dozen voters made the difference. Now that he campaigns as a sitting cabinet minister, will the power of incumbency help?
Thunder Bay-Rainy River
Liberal Ken Boshkoff won this riding in a tight three-way fight in 2006. The NDP are so close here they can taste it, and provincially, it's their turf. Although the Liberals did well in the urban parts of the riding, the support changes hands in the rural polls, where the Conservatives make their move.
Thunder Bay-Superior North
Joe Comuzzi was elected as a Liberal, crossed the floor to the Conservatives then walked out the door on the eve of the election. This riding now sits vacant, and it's a top target for the NDP.