Scarborough—Rouge River's 3-way scramble

As close as the province-wide electoral race looks to be, a riding in the corner of Toronto could end up as one of the biggest scrambles of the campaign.

Liberal and NDP candidates set for rematch, but popular city councillor has joined fray

Neethan Shan, left, is running for the NDP in a rematch against Liberal Bas Balkissoon in Scarborough–Rouge River, but the race has gotten more complicated this time around. (CBC)

As close as the province-wide electoral race looks to be, a riding in the corner of Toronto could end up as one of the biggest scrambles of the campaign. 

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have been seesawing for the lead in provincial polls ahead of Thursday's vote. But in Scarborough–Rouge River, a riding of 135,000 people located at Toronto's northeast extremity, it's a wide-open three-way race.

The incumbent, BasBalkissoon of the Liberals, held off a surge in NDP support in the 2011 election to win with 42 per cent of the vote to New Democrat NeethanShan's 36 per cent. Balkissoon's share of the ballot in that campaign dropped 23 percentage points from 2007, though, almost all of which was picked up by the NDP, fired up from their federal Orange Wave victory in the riding just six months prior.

Coun. Raymond Cho hasn't lost a municipal election since he started representing the area 23 years ago. (CBC)

Balkissoon is running again, and so is Shan, in what promises to be a concerted rematch. But making things even more electorally interesting, local veteran city councillor Raymond Cho — who in the 1980s ran federally for the NDP and in the 2000s sought the provincial Liberal nomination — is carrying the Tory banner. Cho has handily won re-election in the area for all but one of the municipal races he's contested since 1991, meaning his popularity could turn the seat into a pickup for the PCs.

All three men are confident the seat is theirs for the taking.

"Both of the other candidates have been here for a long time, but people are saying it's time for a change," said the NDP's Shan, a former teacher and school trustee. 

"Many people say, 'Councillor Cho' — they call me 'Councillor Cho' — why are you doing campaigning? It's already in your bag!" Cho related.

Balkissoon, for his part, said his 2½ decades representing the area has helped him build up a firm base of loyal voters.  

"Being a 25-year elected representative in parts of this riding, both at city hall and now at Queen's Park, there is a strong support for myself."

Transit and jobs are concerns

Scarborough–Rouge River has one of the highest immigrant populations of any electoral district in the country: two-thirds of residents were born outside Canada, and 62 per cent speak a language other than English as their mother tongue.  

Many residents who CBC News spoke to in the low-to-middle-income riding said their concerns boil down to two issues: transportation and jobs.

"Job creating, plus a reliable MPP or provincial government, that's all I care [about]," said​ Krashnakumai Suppiah, who lives in the riding.

Added resident Peter Iyathurai: "Transit is a major issue, and it's an issue for everyone that's looking at this election.... There is no proper public transit. Each and everyone is using their car."


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