Midsummer is hardly a time when stump speeches, party platforms and a trip to the polls are top of mind for most Ontarians.
But in less than a week, voters in five provincial ridings — Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Scarborough-Guildwood in Toronto, as well as Windsor-Tecumseh, Ottawa South and London West — will cast ballots in a group of byelections set for Aug. 1. Summer byelections are a rarity for a reason. These races could set historic lows for voter turnout with so many voters on vacation or busy savouring the last few weeks of summer.
The opposition parties have grumbled that the governing Liberals timed the summer vote to best suit their chances. Meanwhile Premier Kathleen Wynne appears to be downplaying her party’s prospects in what she’s described as "tough local races."
So for those inclined to remain on the hammock, here are five reasons why these unseasonal byelections are actually worthy of your attention.
- Wynne’s first electoral test: Since winning the Liberal leadership and becoming premier in January, Wynne has dealt with departing cabinet ministers and an ongoing fallout from the gas plant scandal. This is the first chance voters will have to weigh- in on her performance.
- Can Tories pierce fortress Toronto? The Progressive Conservatives’ hopes in Etobicoke-Lakeshore ride with Doug Holyday, a Toronto city councillor who served as Rob Ford’s deputy mayor. As allegations of crack smoking swirled around the mayor this spring, Holyday was able to keep his distance from Ford, emerging as a voice of stability while city hall devolved into a circus. PC Leader Tim Hudak has long been keen to break the Liberal lock on Toronto ridings; this may be his party's best chance.
- Can Adam Giambrone stage a comeback? First elected to Toronto city council at age 26, former TTC chair Adam Giambrone was something of a political prodigy. His candidacy for the NDP marks his first appearance on the political stage since a sex scandal derailed his 2010 mayoralty campaign.
- Will embracing the enemy work for Ken Coran? Coran, a man who only months ago was among the Liberals’ fiercest critics, is now fighting for the right to join their ranks. The former head of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Association is in a three-way race against the NDP’s Peggy Sattler and PC candidate Ali Chahbar in London West.
- Do the Liberals have a chance in Windsor-Tecumseh? The Grits have held this riding since 1995 but there are signs their traditional support base may have eroded recently. Some reports suggest there is anger over how Sandra Pupatello, a popular former Liberal cabinet minister from Windsor, lost the Liberal leadership vote to Wynne in January. Others are upset about the Liberal decision to remove slot machines from racetracks. NDP candidate Percy Hatfield, a former CBC reporter and city councillor, seems most likely to benefit if the anyone-but-the-Liberals sentiment firms up.