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The Globe and Mail

Toronto voters deliver string of election surprises

Newly elected NDP MPP Jonah Schein takes a congratulatory phone call from a supporter in his campaign offices in Toronto on Friday October 7, 2011. Schein won the Davenport riding, previously a a long-time Liberal stronghold.

Chris Young for The Globe and Mail/chris young The Globe and Mail

Many Toronto incumbents were re-elected in Thursday's Ontario election, but that doesn't mean there weren't some real surprises. For example:


The riding has been held by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese since 1990. He clung to his seat again, with 42.5 per cent of the vote, but the surprise was how close Liberal candidate Sarah Thomson finished – at 39.6 per cent.

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"For a long-time incumbent ... and given that the NDP vote was on the way up, not on the way down, you would have thought he might have done better," said Ryerson University political scientist Bryan Evans.

After an unsuccessful bid for mayor last year, and running Women's Post magazine, the name recognition for Ms. Thomson probably helped her secure some votes, Prof. Evans said.

But Ms. Thomson attributes her close finish to a changing demographic that is moving away from the New Democrats, particularly in condo development areas. "The riding is changing ... and I was hearing that at the doors," she said.

Mr. Marchese said he won some votes by advocating for legislation to protect condo owners.

Ms. Thomson said she'll run again in the area but is unsure at what level of government. She said provincially, the Liberals have a shot at Trinity-Spadina next time. "I think it's a riding that can be won," she said. "Part of me thinks if I'd had a bigger team to pull out the vote, we might have won."


The riding of Davenport was created in 1999 and has been held by Liberal Tony Ruprecht ever since. It has also been a Liberal stronghold federally.

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That was until this year, when the NDP claimed a federal seat, and on Thursday paired it with a provincial one. New Democrat Jonah Schein won with 45.8 per cent of the vote. Liberal Cristina Martins, who was vying to replace Mr. Ruprecht, who retired this year, received 41.1 per cent.

Ms. Martins says that with a young family and as the president of a Portuguese business association, she represents the riding's population. But Mr. Schein argues that the area has changed – the new immigrant population is no longer predominately Portuguese. He also said that many of the older residents told him that they didn't want to vote Liberal any more.

"There's been a real shift in the folks who have been here for a long time," he said.

As well, Mr. Schein was supported by recently elected NDP MP Andrew Cash. Together, New Democrats in the area have managed to create a community, Mr. Schein said.

Prof. Evans said that Mr. Schein's federal support, and his previous municipal run, created momentum. "The NDP have built a very solid organization there," he said. "That created a huge boost."

But Ms. Martins said she wasn't worried about the NDP's federal success.

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"People vote, as I was told at the door, differently municipally, federally, provincially so I don't really know that that came into play here," she said.


Federally, the Conservatives took the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding from former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff earlier this year. But the same shift didn't happen provincially.

The Tories ran a star, business candidate Simon Nyilassy, a former real-estate executive who worked for Calloway Real Estate Investment Trust.

But the party failed to put much of a dent in the vote for Liberal Laurel Broten, who garnered more than half of the ballots cast.

"I think every party has the same strategy, every party wants good, high-profile candidates," said University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman. "It just may not be enough and there may be other factors in the election."

He said the overwhelming trend was for Toronto to vote against the Conservatives and to keep the Liberals in power.

There was a lot of talk at the beginning of the campaign about the riding recently going Conservative federally, Mr. Nyilassy said. When he was knocking on doors he got some recognition for his profile in the business world, he said, but it wasn't enough to win the Liberal stronghold.

"Obviously the desire for change wasn't great enough that people really wanted to get a different result in the riding," he said.

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