Taking It To The Street

Taking It To The Streets: 

Central Ontario: Tim Hudak Country?

By its culture and values, this is the bedrock of the PC base.

By Susanna Kelley

 Susanna KelleyA new Nanos-CTV/Globe and Mail/CP24 poll has the Liberals and Tories at pretty well a statistical dead heat (when you factor in the 3.4 per cent margin of error.)

The Liberals are at 37.6 per cent, just 4.5 points back from the Tories, who are supported by 41.1 per cent of the voters surveyed. The NDP comes in at 16.2 per cent.  Almost 17 per cent are undecided.  Nanos surveyed 1,000 eligible voters between August 10 and 13.

Still, at over 40%, the Tories are in majority territory.

ONW heads into Central Ontario this week for a look at some of the most interesting races in that region of the province.

The Nanos numbers, on the face of it, point to the Liberals and Tories continuing to split the seven ridings in the central Ontario region. The PC's currently hold four, the Liberals three.

And indeed in several of the ridings, voters have switched back and forth over the years between the PC's and the Liberals.

But in its flavour and culture, this part of Ontario is small "c," and often capital "C," conservative country.

Most of the seven ridings - except Barrie - contain small towns and cities. 

And despite the view of those in Toronto that there is a "new Ontario" out there, a "diverse Ontario" where visible minorities aren't really in the minority anymore, anyone who travels outside the city core and the 905 area knows that's just not the case in most of the rest of the province.

In "705" and "519" country, as a matter of fact, its still pretty much as "white bread", as the Torontonian saying goes, as ever.

It's very much the "old Ontario" pretty well everywhere outside 905 other than Ottawa.

Even Barrie (my hometown), which has become a bedroom community of Toronto, still retains the small-town feel of a population made up of Irish, Scottish English and North American descendants, with a few of French heritage.

The riding voted Progressive Conservative for decades.  Barrie (or as the earlier configuration of the riding was called at the time, Simcoe Centre) was the one riding to ever elect a Reform Party candidate.  Ed Harper was elected in 1993.

The small towns and rural areas of these ridings still form the bedrock, the core vote, of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Two Liberal candidates have been able to hold on to their ridings up until now: Jeff Leal, in Peterborough, and Aileen Carroll, the former Barrie mayor who went federal and then provincial.

But with Carroll not running this time, it remains to be seen whether the Liberals will be able to hold onto those ridings, along with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.

Unemployment is very high in these areas, and that's always dangerous for an incumbent.  

Peterborough has the highest unemployment rate of any census metropolitan area in Ontario.

Barrie is third, right after London, Ontario, according to Statistics Canada.

Haliburton traditionally has had one of the lowest incomes per capita in the province.

By all accounts, jobs are a huge issue in the ridings.

Small towns and cities, small "c" conservative values, high unemployment. 

The region has all the ingredients the Tories need for a Tim Hudak sweep.

Let's see if they can capitalize on it.

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : August 15, 2011

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