Riding to Watch

Will Ford brothers' absence be felt in Etobicoke-Lakeshore rematch?

For the voters in the west Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, these last few weeks have been a case of déjà vu. The duo who finished one-two in a byelection just nine months ago are battling again. But this time, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and brother Doug are not in the picture.

Former city councillor Doug Holyday beat colleague Peter Milczyn by 1,500 votes just 9 months ago

PC incumbent Doug Holyday, right, and Liberal candidate Peter Milczyn are battling it out for the second time in nine months in the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. But this time, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug aren't campaigning for Holyday. (CBC)

For the voters in the west Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, these last few weeks have been a case of déjà vu.  

Summoned to the polls just nine months ago for a provincial byelection, the riding's voters back then opted for PC candidate Doug Holyday, who topped his Liberal rival (and longtime Toronto city hall colleague) Peter Milczyn by 1,500 votes.

Now, the pair are duking it out again in the race leading up to the big vote on June 12. The NDP's P.C. Choo is also making a return appearance on the ballot. He won less than eight per cent of the vote last time. Angela Salewsky is running for the Green Party.

But despite the familiar names this time around, the campaign has a distinctively different atmosphere. You don't have to search far to see what's changed.

Last year, the campaign was dominated in large part by the presence and influence of the brothers Ford – Mayor Rob and his councillor brother Doug. The Fords campaigned tirelessly for Holyday and both supplied key volunteers throughout the campaign.   

The Ford factor  

This time, Rob Ford is in rehab and brother Doug has had a falling out with the PC party.

For Peter Milczyn, that suits him fine if it means Doug Holyday has fewer Ford volunteers.

"I think Rob Ford was a double-edged sword," Milczyn says. "A lot of Liberal voters wouldn't be impressed."

For his part, Holyday says the disappearance of the Fords from his Etobicoke-Lakeshore campaign won't change much.

"The same people that supported the mayor then also are people who would support me," he says. "And I don't think they are going to change. Nobody has told me my association with him cost me their vote."

Front-runners well known

Talk to the voters in this riding now and you quickly find that they're focused on the issues, the leaders and the candidates, rather than who's backing whose candidacy.

Holyday has been hammering away at the Liberals' record. "A government who has been in power for 11 years should be able to run on their record," he says. "They can't. It's absurd."

Milczyn is focusing on his local record. "I know how many community meetings I've held and how many I attend and I haven't seen him [Holyday] out at too many places."

Both Holyday and Milczyn have significant backgrounds in local politics and both are very familiar names to voters.

"You are dealing with two people who have been in Etobicoke for a long, long time," says Gloria Lindsay Luby, who has been in elected politics in Etobicoke herself for more than 30 years. "Peter Milczyn and Doug Holyday both served with me on Etobicoke council."

Last August, Holyday claimed the riding by a margin of just four percentage points over Milczyn. Before Holyday's win, Etobicoke-Lakeshore had been Liberal territory for a decade.

An all-candidates meeting for Etobicoke-Lakeshore is being held Tuesday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Lambton-Kingsway Junior Middle School, 525 Prince Edward Dr., south of Dundas St. W. Toronto District School Board Ward 3 Trustee Pamela Gough is hosting the debate, which will focus on education.

With files from the CBC's Jamie Strashin