Trinity-Spadina candidates face new challenges
Long before the condos began to crowd Toronto's lakeshore, Trinity-Spadina was known as one of Canada's most ethnically diverse ridings.
The constituency contains some of the city’s best-known neighbourhoods, including the Annex, Little Italy, Kensington Market and Chinatown.
But each year, more glass and steel creations appear at the south end of Trinity-Spadina, changing the composition of a riding that has been held in recent years by high-profile New Democrat Olivia Chow.
"More than 8,000 condo units have been built in this riding, that's thousands of new voters, with the potential to reconstruct the political landscape," reports CBC’s Steven D'Souza.
Chow defeated Liberal candidate Christine Innes by 3,475 votes in 2008. Innes is running again and is hoping the "condo factor" can help tip the balance in her favour.
Late last week in shadow of the CN tower, Innes rushed to catch commuters on their way to Union Station. She stopped to introduce herself and pass out pamphlets to people on their way to and from the condos that now fill the sky beside the Rogers Centre.
"We're guessing there's 10,000 to 15,000 new voters who weren't in this riding last time," Innes told D’Souza on Friday. "It's a young demographic. It’s very diverse down here. There’s a lot of young people working down here who are looking for opportunity."
Innes said the economy and health care are the two top-of-mind issues for Trinity Spadina voters.
Her palm-pressing appeared to impress Paco Diop, who moved to Canada from Senegal 10 years ago.
"As an immigrant, one thing that's important for me is equal opportunity," he said. "This country offered me a lot and we need to encourage that."
Farther north in the riding, Chow was greeted by plenty of friendly faces as she knocked on doors in the Annex.
When asked about the new condos in Trinity-Spadina, Chow said her work on issues such as transit will help win voters in those areas.
"The King streetcar, for example, is packed with people, so they talk about the need for a national public transit strategy, which is something I tabled in the House of Commons," she said.
Chow said the rising cost of living is a among the top concerns for voters she’s spoken to.
"Seniors say ‘Olivia it's really hard,’ everything is going up but not their [old age pension] money. Some students are saying tuition fees are outrageous and graduating with a big debt. That's what NDP is about."
Winning won't be easy. In Trinity-Spadina it rarely is. Although the Tories "are not a factor" in Chow's words — Gin Siow is the party's candidate — the riding has a recent history of close battles between Liberals and the NDP.
Chow first won the riding when she beat Liberal Tony Ianno, on her third try, by 3,681 votes in 2006. Chow had lost to Ianno by 805 votes in 2004. Those are close-fought races in a riding with a population listed at 115,000 by Statistics Canada in 2006.
Things appear to be close race again in 2011. Candidates debates are set for Tuesday and Wednesday night.