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Liberals, NDP run neck-in-neck in narrow race for Davenport Add to ...

In the final day of the campaign, the two front-runners in the race for Davenport weren't going to let the rain stop them from trying to reach as many voters as they could.

NDP candidate Andrew Cash and his supporters stood outside No Frills at Dufferin Mall, periodically opening umbrellas to stave off the downpour. Mr. Cash moved at a furious pace, managing to speak to nearly every shopper who came out.

But most voters, he said, have made up their minds. The trick now is getting them to go out and vote. Four of his campaign volunteers handed out flyers and spoke with constituents outside the grocery store, somehow matching Mr. Cash's pace.

"Now we have to get everything in order for tomorrow," said Mr. Cash, who is in his first-ever election campaign and hoping to ride the building wave of support for party leader Jack Layton. His team usually goes until around 8:30 p.m., but on Sunday campaign manager Marit Stiles told Mr. Cash to go home and see his family around 6.

"He didn't want to go, let me tell you," she said. About 40 campaign staff were in the office Sunday evening, preparing lists and training scrutineers. Ms. Stiles said they have more than 400 volunteers slated to mobilize voters on Monday, offering rides, phoning supporters and knocking on doors. Staff were coming in and out of the office throughout the evening to receive training.

Mr. Cash avoided door-knocking on Sunday, instead going to areas where people tend to gather and rapidly flagging down voters. Though it's the last day to campaign before the election, Mr. Cash says his frenetic pace is nothing new. "This is what I've done every day for the last month," said the Juno-award winning musician and columnist for Now Magazine.

Down the street, Liberal candidate Mario Silva was working on the bakery vote. He toured around Brazil Bakery and Pastry on Dundas Street West, chatting with customers in Portuguese and passing out flyers. Accompanying Mr. Silva was Toronto Councillor Ana Bailão and Jack Heath, deputy mayor of Markham.

Mr. Silva is calm - this is his fourth federal election. His demeanour belies his busy day: Mr. Silva has been attending events since the morning and was scheduled to keep going until 9 p.m. He was following the same last-day policy as Mr. Cash: less door-knocking, more gatherings.

"The idea is to go out and shake hands," he said. "Today is about reminding people to go vote." On voting day, according to campaign staffer Jeff Valois, they have between 70 and 100 volunteers ready to go.

Mr. Silva, who is fluent in Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and French, said he runs into many recent immigrants who are confused about voting procedure and documentation. Informing them, he said, has been a big part of his campaign.

Mr. Silva has been criticized for his attendance record in the House of Commons: He has missed 59 votes. However, he accused the NDP of misrepresenting his attendance, noting that he was absent because he had obligations as a committee member. "In terms of participation in Parliament, I've been one of the most active members of Parliament. I take my parliamentary work very seriously," Mr. Silva said.

The contested riding is set to be a close one between the Liberal and NDP candidates. Conservative candidate Theresa Rodrigues took 11 per cent of the vote in 2008, and Green Party candidate Wayne Scott took 10.5 per cent.

The Davenport riding has been represented by the Liberal party for 49 years. In 2008, Mr. Silva beat out second-place NDP candidate Peter Ferreira by more than 5,000 votes.

In a region that has been painted red for years, the Liberals stand to lose seats from both sides of the spectrum in the GTA, says University of Toronto political professor Nelson Wiseman.

"I'll be surprised if there aren't any Conservative wins in the city of Toronto, and I'll be surprised if there aren't any gains in the 905," where they already hold a significant number of seats, he said.

The Grits are under threat from the Tories in Brampton-Springdale and Brampton-West, in Ajax-Pickering, Eglinton-Lawrence and Mississauga South. At the same time, they could lose to the NDP not only in Parkdale-High Park, but potentially Davenport and the Beaches-East York.

It's a combination of strong local campaigns and a national narrative in which the Liberals have lost momentum, Prof. Wiseman said.

"I don't think it's particular to this city. It's really a national campaign."

With a file from Anna Mehler Paperny

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