Canada Votes 2011: Tories challenging Liberal stronghold

Despite being a Liberal stronghold since the early 1990s, Scarborough is expected to be a battleground in the coming federal election.

But it may still be slim pickings for Conservatives who are hoping to take advantage of the winds of change that swept over Scarborough to bring in right-leaning Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto last year.

Some observers expect the Liberal stronghold to survive in Scarborough.

“The question, of course, will be whether they’ll do as well as they have in previous elections,” said Christopher Cochrane, University of Toronto political science professor. “Seat-wise, I suspect they will.  Vote-wise, I’m not as sure.”

Since 1993, Scarborough, like many other suburbs, voted Liberal in great numbers. Despite the rest of the country shifting to the right in the last few elections, Scarborough remained centre-left.

Some Grits have had a firm grasp on Scarborough for decades. Jim Karygiannis has held onto Scarborough-Agincourt since 1988. Scarborough Centre has been under the leadership of John Cannis since 1993.

Even when candidates have changed, Scarborough citizens have chosen red time and time again.

Tom Wappel represented Scarborough West since 1988. The riding, now called Scarborough Southwest, remains red with Michelle Simson.

Doug Peters ended a 14-year Progressive Conservative run in Scarborough East, now Scarborough-Guildwood. John McKay took over from Peters in 1997 and maintained the Liberal streak.

Dan McTeague has held onto the border riding of Pickering-Scarborough East since 1996.

Incumbents are hoping the conservative movement won’t affect their ridings. However, all eyes are set on Scarborough-Rouge River this time around. Derek Lee, who has been MP since the riding was created in 1987, has said he will not seek re-election.

Running for the Liberals in this riding is Rana Sarkar, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council. If any Scarborough riding is vulnerable, it is Rouge River with visible minorities composing 89 percent of the population.

The voter turnout in the last federal election for Scarborough-Rouge River was 47.5 percent, the lowest in Toronto and the seventeenth lowest in Canada. In a case study for the Canadian Parliamentary Review, Lee cites reasons such as decreased voter turnout among youth aged 18–24, proximity to polling stations and disinterest in the Liberal party’s platform or leadership.

Traditionally, the Liberals have garnered the immigrant vote because of their policies on immigration and emphasis on multiculturalism.

However, the Conservatives are making a great effort to get the immigrant vote through campaign ads and policies, Cochrane said.

According to Cochrane, many Scarborough residents stand to gain from increased spending on social programs, particularly childcare and healthcare funding, where the federal government plays a very important role through its spending power.

“All of the parties realize that immigrants will play an increasingly important role in Canada, not just in the economy and society, but in politics as well,” Cochrane said.