With Scarborough playing a major role in electing right-wing mayor Rob Ford and Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Tim Hudak can only hope his party receives the same response from the suburbs.
Earlier this year, Scarborough — a traditionally Liberal stronghold — shifted gears during the federal election with only two Liberal candidates elected to the six ridings.
Some observers see the dismal Liberal performance in the federal election affecting their strategy in the provincial campaign.
“They are very conscious of the need to appeal directly to immigrants to offset the perceived gains of the Conservatives,” said Christopher Cochrane, University of Toronto political science professor. “They attempted to do so at the beginning of this campaign by promising a tax incentive to companies for hiring certain categories of immigrants.”
The departure of long-time Liberal MPP Gerry Phillips in Scarborough-Agincourt gives the Progressive Conservatives a chance at scooping up a major seat. Liang Chen hopes to do so over Soo Wong, who replaced Phillips as the Liberal contender.
Another Liberal MPP not seeking re-election is Wayne Arthurs of Pickering-Scarborough Southeast. Tracy MacCharles will be taking Arthurs’ place as the Liberal candidate. She faces plenty of opposition as PC Kevin Gaudet and New Democrat Nerissa Carino hope to end the Liberals’ eight-year run in this riding.
Named by the Toronto Star as one of the six ridings to watch in the GTA, it’s a tight race in Scarborough-Guildwood. Incumbent Margarett Best is seeking re-election, however, she has tough competition from Gary Ellis. Ellis, the former head of Scarborough’s 42 Division, is a familiar face in the area and at one point was contender for Toronto police chief.
Scarborough-Rouge River has been Liberal territory since 1985. Incumbent Bas Balkissoon won the 2007 vote by more than 17,000 tallies. It will take more than a blue wave to overcome this stronghold.
In Scarborough-Southwest, first-time MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti will try to retain his seat. Former NDP leader Stephen Lewis once held the riding from 1963 to 1979. Berardinetti’s wife Michelle is the Toronto City Councillor for Scarborough Southwest.
Liberal Brad Duguid has won the last two elections in Scarborough Centre by nearly 10,000 votes.
The main issues in Scarborough are wind turbines, crime and the much-debated topics of “foreign workers” and the economy.
“The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives played a dangerous game at the beginning of this campaign by politicizing immigration during a period of economic uncertainty,” Cochrane said.
Although, the Liberals have successfully gathered immigrant votes for a long time, “the Conservatives pursued the right strategy in the last election by making the case that immigrants belonged in their party,” he said.
However, this time around the Grits laid “a strategic trap for the [Progressive Conservatives] on the issue of tax incentives for hiring new immigrants.”
“The Conservatives walked into the trap by opposing this proposal.” Cochrane said.