New Democrats score upset in Ontario's Parkdale-High Park by-election

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Friday, September 15, 2006

The Ontario New Democratic Party has scored an upset victory in a hotly contested provincial by-election in the Toronto riding of Parkdale—High Park. New Democrat Cheri DiNovo defeated Ontario Liberal Party candidate Sylvia Watson by over 2,000 votes. DiNovo received 41% of the vote compared to 33% for Watson. Progressive Conservative Dave Hutcheon was third with 17% of the vote while Green Party leader Frank De Jong was fourth with 6%.

The by-election was an important one for the ruling Ontario Liberal Party as the province enters an election year. The Liberals held the riding until former MPP Gerard Kennedy resigned, earlier this year, to focus on his bid to win the leadership of the federal Liberal Party of Canada. In the 2003 provincial election he held the riding with a commanding 57% of the vote.

Speaking Thursday night, NDP leader Howard Hampton said "There are no safe seats for the McGuinty government. People see us as a viable option."

Despite having been considered one of the safest Liberal seats in the province the by-election campaign has gone badly for the Grits who have pulled out all the stops in the past week after internal polling showed them in danger of losing. On Monday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and eleven of members of his cabinet spent much of the day campaigning in the riding. The last seven days has also seen a series of aggressive accusations aimed at DiNovo, a United Church minister. The allegations, which were initially made on blogs and anonymous fliers have, in the past few days, been issued in official Liberal Party press releases and statements and accuse her of not being suited for sitting in the provincial legislature. They focused on her admitted drug use when she was a street kid in the 1960s and what a Toronto Star column called "carefully edited excerpts from her sermons". Liberal candidate Sylvia Watson, a Toronto City Councillor, issued a press release alleging that DiNovo described the media's treatment of murderer Karla Homolka to the "persecution of Jesus Christ". DiNovo, who has billed herself as the "Radical Reverend" responded by saying the comments were taken entirely out of context and threatened to sue Watson's campaign.

Toronto mayor David Miller issued a statement denouncing the Liberal tactics as a "smear" while the media has been generally critical of the Liberal attacks on DiNovo as has the Progressive Conservatives whose candidate, Dave Hutcheon accused the Liberals of trying to "assassinate the character" of DiNovo. Premier McGuinty responded to the negative reaction saying "Look, it's a tough by-election for us."

Some Liberals and some columnists have argued that the anti-DiNovo campaign is payback for the 2001 Beaches—East York by-election in which the NDP suggested that a sex scene in a novel written by Liberal candidate Bob Hunter condoned pedophilia.

Graham White, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, told the Globe and Mail that the tactics might hurt the Liberals. "It just looks like really bad politics," he said. "Even if this is enough to sway voters in the riding for the by-election, it seems to me the larger risk is very substanial."

Final vote count

220 POLLS OUT OF 220

Candidate-Political Affiliation-Votes-%

source:Elections Ontario

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