Is Don Valley West about to flip again?

Bolstered by polls showing Carmichael trailing, former MP Oliphant says local issues favour Liberal return

No matter the election, incumbents have a reputation for being difficult to unseat. But mid-campaign polls indicate Don Valley West Conservative incumbent John Carmichael could be heading for defeat.

As of Sept. 27, opinion poll aggregation website predicts 33.9 percent support for Carmichael — exactly 19 percent less than for Liberal front-runner Rob Oliphant, former MP for Don Valley West.

Gail Gaffen and Susan Martin were enjoying lunch together outside a café in Leaside Village when asked for their reactions to the numbers.

“Hurray!” Gaffen cheered. “I’m going to vote for Mr. Oliphant, and I’m happy that he’s ahead in the polls.”

“It’s predictable,” Martin said, before calling the media “100 percent against the Conservatives.”

“When that happens, every single person that watches the news or reads the newspaper becomes brainwashed,” she said. “I think there are enough people with the gravity to see what the score really is, in terms of hard-earned wisdom and survival, and probably, hopefully, see the light before they vote.”

Interviewed two blocks away from her house, where she has a Carmichael sign on her lawn, University of Toronto human resources representative Kathleen Slater said the numbers don’t worry her because she thinks the Conservatives have done an excellent job of running the economy, something Don Valley West residents will remember when they go to the polls on Oct. 19.

“I think the people that are negative about Stephen Harper don’t understand that if it wasn’t for him our economy would be in shambles right now,” Slater says, noting that the 2013 appointment of former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney to the position of governor of the Bank of England alone speaks volumes about the value of Harper’s leadership.

“With the world economy being very tentative at the moment, I think Harper and his people are still the best people to lead the country,” she said.

Carmichael declined to be interviewed for this article, with his press secretary Jake Enwright saying he does not comment on polls.

Oliphant, meanwhile, said he looks at the numbers from ThreeHundredEight, which regularly updates its information based on all publicly available opinion polls for each of Canada’s 338 federal ridings, then tosses them aside.

“Every candidate’s looking at it, so I’m not going to lie to you that I don’t,” he said. “But I also know that Don Valley West is a close riding all the time.

“We can’t take a single vote for granted, and we have to work right up until the polls close on Oct. 19.”

‘Unifying issues’

Oliphant said that three issues have repeatedly raised their heads on the campaign trail: infrastructure, the economy, and political ethics.

Infrastructure, which the Liberals have pledged to invest $10 billion into during the next two years, is an issue that “unites rich and poor,” Oliphant said — especially transit infrastructure.

“There are people in the north of the riding who would like to drive, but the roads are too crowded and they’d like to have more people — maybe others, maybe them — on transit,” he said “And we have people in the south looking for more buses leading to a relief line that can help them.”

The economy is another unifying issue, Oliphant said.

“In our riding there are people who are nervous about their investments and nervous about their income at a higher level, and people who are struggling to get jobs and have two families living in one apartment at another,” he said.

The Liberals’ infrastructure boost would provide jobs for the latter group, stimulating the economy and reducing the need for larger companies to initiate cost-cutting measures, Oliphant said.

As for ethics, Oliphant enjoys contrasting the autocrat-like control Harper and his staff exercise over what government employees and Conservative members of parliament can publicly say, and the lack of transparency which led to scandals involving senator Mike Duffy and suspended senator Patrick Brazeau, with his own status as the first MP to publicly disclose his expenses.

“People are tired of Mr. Harper’s one-man show,” Oliphant said. “They don’t always articulate it the same way, but they’re looking for someone who is in politics for the right reasons and can represent them in Ottawa in a good way.”

In addition to Carmichael and Oliphant, ThreeHundredEight projects 4.2 percent support for Green Party candidate Natalie Hunt, who told the Town Crier she is running as a paper candidate while supporting other Green campaigns on the west coast, and 8.8 percent support for NDP candidate Syeda Riaz, who said she stopped looking at the polls after seeing her support drop by two points.

“I just do my work,” said Riaz, a Thorncliffe Park native who on the campaign trail is emphasizing her party’s commitment to $15 per day childcare, $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, increased support for veterans, and promise to repeal controversial anti-terrorism bill C-51, which the Liberals supported.

“I don’t want even an ounce of discouragement in this campaign,” she said.

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Posted: Sep 27 2015 12:23 pm
Filed in: NEWS