Skip to main content

New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks during Question Period in Ottawa on Nov. 27, 2013.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

Canada's new electoral map is exposing the battle between the Liberal Party and the NDP to be the voice of progressive Canadians in the growing number of urban ridings across the country.

Part of the strategic push was revealed by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair who said his defeated candidate in Monday's by-election in Toronto Centre may find another political home in the newly created downtown riding of Spadina-Fort York.

"Take Monday's results, superimpose it on Fort York. Guess what? Linda McQuaig, you haven't heard the last from her," Mr. Mulcair told reporters.

However, Mr. Mulcair's statements about the political future of Ms. McQuaig showed the complex choices facing major political parties, as the riding is still being eyed by sitting NDP MP Olivia Chow, whose Trinity-Spadina is set to disappear.

While Ms. Chow is looking at running for mayor in the 2014 Toronto municipal elections, she could also decide to stick with federal politics. In that case, she could run in either Spadina-Fort York or University-Rosedale, which were largely formed out of her current riding.

Ms. Chow told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Mulcair had gotten "mixed up" and actually meant that Ms. McQuaig could mount a strong performance under the newly redrawn borders of Toronto Centre.

NDP national director Nathan Rotman later clarified that the goal is to persuade Ms. McQuaig to run in one of the three downtown Toronto ridings that are being formed out of two existing ridings.

"We'll be encouraging McQuaig to run in one of these three ridings in the 2015 election campaign. Not specifically, necessarily, the Fort York riding," he said.

Under the new electoral map, there will be a total of 338 seats, up from 308 at the time of the 2011 election. Ontario has half of the new seats, located mostly in the Greater Toronto Area. B.C. and Alberta will each get six new seats, while Quebec is getting three. The next federal election is tentatively set for Oct. 19, 2015.

Many analysts feel the new seats, located largely in suburban parts of the country, are natural fits for the Conservative Party with its tough-on-crime agenda and its fiscal record.

One of the keys to the Conservative support in suburban ridings is ensuring vote-splitting among the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party.

However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's party lost much of its support in the urban portion of the Manitoba riding of Brandon-Souris in Monday's by-election, suggesting the Conservatives have a hill to climb to hold their seats with the new electoral boundaries.

In Saskatchewan, the new boundaries did away with hybrid rural-urban ridings, a move the Conservatives fought. Under the new system, urban ridings in Saskatoon and Regina will be split off from rural communities near the cities, a move that is expected to open doors for the NDP and Liberals in a province where the Conservatives won 13 of 14 seats in 2011.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the new seats are creating a number of opportunities for the opposition parties. He said the Liberal will use open nomination contests to find candidates, pointing to the increasing thirst among the supporters of various parties for a grassroots involvement in the political process.

"Obviously redistribution is on a lot of people's minds," Mr. Trudeau told reporters. "The Liberal Party has a real challenge right now, we're facing a situation where there are an extraordinary number of really great candidates looking at the new Ontario ridings, and great ridings across the country, and that's why I'm pleased about our open nomination process."

Mr. Mulcair made it clear that his target in the fight for the "key battleground" of the Greater Toronto Area, with its 60 seats, are the Trudeau Liberals.

"Across Canada, people actually want change, and they know that if they want to be able to vote for the change they want and actually get it, the only way to do it is to vote NDP," Mr. Mulcair said. "We've been through the Liberal cycle time and again. Liberal corruption is at the end of their regime, but their regime always starts with promises they don't keep."