Ontario election: Trinity–Spadina riding sees electoral frenzy

Front lawns have turned into a tangle of orange and red election signs in Toronto's Trinity–Spadina, where in addition to the provincial race, there's a federal byelection underway. Campaign staff are concerned about the confusion among voters.

Campaign workers concerned about 'confusion' with concurrent federal byelection

The riding of Trinity-Spadina is awash in election signs. There's the provincial campaign with signs for Liberal Han Dong, front, and New Democrat Rosario Marchese, middle, as well as a concurrent federal byelection with posters for the NDP's Joe Cressy, at rear, and Liberal Adam Vaughan, not pictured. (CBC)

Voters in the west half of downtown Toronto had better like ballots.

Next week's provincial election is just the first of three times Trinity–Spadina residents will be going to the polls between now and the end of October. There's also a federal byelection in the riding on June 30 to choose a replacement for Olivia Chow, who resigned her seat in Parliament to run for mayor. And then the mayoral and municipal race itself winds up on Oct. 27. 

Front lawns have turned into a tangle of orange and red election signs for the provincial and federal contests, both of which are essentially two-way races between the NDP and Liberals.

Han Dong, the Ontario Liberal candidate for Trinity–Spadina, high-fives party leader Kathleen Wynne at an event in March. (Nathan Denette/CP)

"It's exactly as confusing as you would expect. There's people who want to vote for the NDP and look out and see two candidates, and we have to explain that one is provincial and one is federal," said John Bowker, communications manager for the provincial campaign of New Democratic Party incumbent Rosario Marchese.

"People are confused about who we're there for," added Andrew Young, who's working on Liberal challenger Han Dong's campaign. "People are getting talked to quite often because you have several different campaigns, so people are being canvassed federally and provincially, and it's causing a lot of confusion."

Trinity–Spadina encompasses some of the city's, and the country's, biggest landmarks: the CN Tower, the University of Toronto, the Bay Street business district, the Toronto Stock Exchange, city hall, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Chinatown and many more. Its demographic runs from housing-project residents, to thousands of new immigrants, to its historic Italian, Portuguese and Chinese populations, to professors and well-heeled professionals.  

NDP candidate Rosario Marchese arrives by subway at a campaign stop to talk about transit issues with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath last week. (Fred Thornhill/CP)

In recent years, the district has seen an eruption of condominiums, bringing thousands of new tower- and townhouse-dwelling voters. Marchese has tried to woo them with his proposed overhauls of the province's condomium law.  

Running against him, Dong's team is hoping to carry the day on the appeal of Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne. Her government's pre-election budget was called the "most progressive budget" in recent Ontario history by a cadre of dissenting high-profile NDPers upset with their party's decision to vote against it.

The Dong campaign says they're hearing echoes of that frustration among Trinity–Spadina's progressive voters, particularly among traditional NDP supporters. 

Marchese has held the riding since its creation in 1999, and represented one of its predecessor districts starting in 1990. A former teacher and school board trustee, he served in cabinet in the early 1990s in former premier Bob Rae's NDP government. 

But his margins of victory have been steadily eroding in recent elections, from the 20-point drubbing he delivered in 1999 to a 2.5-percentage-point spread in 2011 over two-time Toronto mayoralty candidate Sarah Thomson.

Dong works in the office of Ontario Immigration Minister Michael Coteau. 

The Progressive Conservatives, who captured 11.5 per cent of the vote in 2011, are running paramedic Roberta Scott, while Tim Grant is once again carrying the Green Party banner.