High profile candidates square off in Scarborough-Guildwood

A pair of rival star candidates promises to make Scarborough-Guildwood a riding to watch in the Oct. 6 race to Queen’s Park.

The two main contenders are Liberal stalwart Margarett Best and Progressive Conservative Gary Ellis.

Ellis, a key recruit for the PCs, is a familiar face in the community through his work as a former superintendent of 42 and 43 Divisions.

He says he chose to run after seeing the state of the economy and talking to students who were unable to find jobs.

Ontario has become a “have-not” province, he said, pointing out that the Liberal government under Premier Dalton McGuinty has “taken transfer funds from the rest of Canada for the first time in our history.”

Best defended the Liberal record, contrasting it with the PC government that preceded the Liberals.

“The people of Scarborough-Guildwood do not want to go back to the dark days of the Harris-Hudak Conservatives,” she said.

Best called the PC government one of “slash and cut,” adding the McGuinty governmenthas created opportunities for youth to gain jobs, get hands-on training and increase their skills.

Scarborough-Guildwood has the highest unemployment rate in Scarborough at 9.6 per cent, standing 3 per cent higher than the provincial average.

“We had 500,000 unemployed people in Ontario, which absolutely shocked me,” said Ellis, director of the justice studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber.

Analysts are betting on a PC win in the riding.

“Looking at the numbers, the Conservatives have a good chance in this constituency even if they don’t increase their votes and if the NDP takes enough votes from the Liberals,” said Nelson Wiseman, University of Toronto political science professor.

And besides, Wiseman said, Ellis’s past experience as a police officer gives him an edge in the race.

“People like cops, social workers and professors: they’re eggheads,” he said.

“I was always a police officer to help make things better,” Ellis said.

Scarborough-Guildwood is home to the largest Aboriginal population in Toronto and the largest Tamil community in Canada. It also has a high concentration of public housing, newcomers and students.

The two candidates said they’re finding unemployment and healthcare to be the most pressing issues in the riding.

“I’m knocking on doors and I’m getting students at home,” Ellis said.

Best cites the Liberal record of supporting education and healthcare.

“Healthcare is an important issue at the door and people are concerned about cuts to services,” she said.

The PCs stand to gain votes in Scarborough-Guildwood and across the province, Wiseman said.

“In the last provincial election, they only had 31.5 per cent in the polls,” he said. “In the most recent polls they are at 36 per cent.

“If you add 5 per cent, and let’s just assume it spreads out in every constituency the same way, if the Conservatives pick up 5 per cent and if the Liberals lose 10 per cent, and even if the NDP doesn’t increase its vote, the seat will go Conservative.”

Other candidates vying for the seat include Lorri Urban for the NDP, Naoshad Pochkhanawala for the Green Party, Matthew Oliver for the Freedom Party and Sam Apelbaum for the Libertarian Party.