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Key ridings to watch as Ontario voters go to the polls

A vote sign is displayed outside a polling station during advanced voting in the Ontario provincial election in Carleton Place, Ont., on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. It's election day in Ontario, with voters heading to the polls to pick their next provincial government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

TORONTO — It's election day in Ontario, with voters heading to the polls to pick their next provincial government. While this election is predicted to be one in which voters don't have a huge desire for change, there are several interesting races to keep an eye on. 


Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca competes for this riding against Michael Tibollo, the Progressive Conservative incumbent. Del Duca previously represented the region, from 2012 to 2018 during the former Liberal government, but was defeated – along with most other Liberals – in the last election. Tibollo won the riding with more than 50 per cent of the vote, but has seen his star fade in the Doug Ford government. He started off as Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, but was then made Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, before being demoted further to an associate minister. Del Duca was chosen as Liberal leader in March 2020 and has spent the past two years without a seat in the legislature. The party says it has allowed him time to build a strong campaign team and platform, but it will be problematic for him if he fails to win a seat in the election.


Parry Sound-Muskoka

This is the riding in which the Greens believe they are capable of picking up a second seat. Candidate Matt Richter is running for a fifth time and picked up 20 per cent of the vote last time. There is no Liberal candidate in this riding and the longtime Progressive Conservative representative there is not running again. But the Tories have a well-known local politician as their candidate –  Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith. Polls suggest it could be a tight race between the two.



Two heavy hitters go head to head in this riding. Doug Downey won the seat for the Progressive Conservatives in the last election by a significant margin – he had more than 44 per cent of the vote in 2018. He served in government as attorney general for three years. But the Liberals are hoping their candidate with big name recognition can unseat him. Jeff Lehman has served as mayor of Barrie since 2010, and in the 2018 municipal elections he garnered 91 per cent of the vote.


Ottawa West-Nepean

This riding was extremely close and all three major parties have been eyeing it. Jeremy Roberts won the riding for the Progressive Conservatives in 2018 by just 175 votes and is running again. The NDP was in second and the Liberal incumbent was in a not-too-distant third. Liberal stalwarts Bob Chiarelli and Jim Watson previously held the riding. Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath both spent time in the riding in the final days of the campaign.


Toronto Centre

This was previously considered a safe Liberal seat, represented by the likes of George Smitherman and Glen Murray, but coinciding with the provincewide collapse of the Liberal vote in 2018 it flipped to the New Democrats. Suze Morrison, who represented the riding for the NDP for the past four years, is not running again, but the party has found a star candidate in Kristyn Wong-Tam. The prominent former Toronto city councillor is popular with progressive voters. If ridings such as this one are won again by the Liberals it will represent a shift back to the pre-2018 lay of the land and a building block for a Liberal resurgence.


As well, here are five ridings in which upstart candidates hope to upset the status quo:

Don Valley West: Former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders is running for the Progressive Conservatives in a riding that was held by former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne from 2003 to 2022.

York South-Weston: This riding has never been held by a Progressive Conservative since it was created in 1999, flipping between the Liberals and NDP, but Toronto city councillor Michael Ford – who happens to be Doug Ford's nephew – hopes to change that.

Chatham-Kent-Leamington: Rick Nicholls may not be an upstart in quite the same way, running to represent a region he has held since 2011, but he was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and is now running under the banner of the new right-wing Ontario Party, headed up by former Conservative MP Derek Sloan.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek: Paul Miller is also fighting to retain his seat as an upstart. He was kicked out of the NDP caucus this year over allegations he joined an Islamophobic group on Facebook, which Miller says are false. He is now running as an independent in the riding he has held since 2007 and won last time in a landslide.

Kitchener-Conestoga: Jim Karahalios, a former Conservative activist who fought the carbon tax, has formed the New Blue party with his wife Belinda Karahalios, who was elected in 2018 as the Progressive Conservative representative for Cambridge, but was kicked out of caucus after voting against COVID-19 public health measures. Mike Harris Jr., son of the former premier, won this riding for the Progressive Conservatives in 2018, but by less than 1,000 votes. Support for Karahalios may come at the expense of the Tories. 


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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