“I’m afraid the spirit of Jack may be back,” a Liberal supporter confided, anxiously awaiting the first results at the Liberal election-night party in the riding once held by former NDP leader Jack Layton.
But he needn’t have worried. Liberal incumbent Julie Dabrusin took the lead early in the federal election on Oct. 21 and cruised to a comfortable victory, winning 47.6 per cent of the vote in Toronto–Danforth, which takes in Riverdale, much of Leslieville and a large portion of East York.
It was the riding where the NDP had the greatest hopes of cracking the Liberal hold on Toronto and polls had shown a tight race with a slight advantage to the New Democrats. The NDP considered the narrow loss of their long-held riding to the Liberals in 2015 to have been a “fluke.”
However, NDP candidate Min Sook Lee ended up winning only 33.2 per cent of the ballots, falling more than 8,000 votes behind Dabrusin.
Dabrusin said in an interview she was never concerned by surveys showing her in a tough race.
“I wasn’t actually looking at the polls, I was busy knocking on doors and walking around talking with people in the community.” Dabrusin added she got positive feedback from people at the door.
Voters came out for the Liberals in Toronto because they liked their positions on climate change, gun control and support for the cities, Dabrusin said.
In her victory speech she credited her campaign workers for bringing out the vote.
“How many of you have put in 20,000 steps today?” she asked a cheering crowd of about 60 supporters at the pub and grill Relish on Danforth Avenue last night.
“We have a lot of amazing things to do and it’s all based on making sure that … we keep making sure our voices are heard in Ottawa,” she said. “So thank you for that.”
The crowd took up a chant of “Julie! Julie! Julie….!”
Just a block away on Danforth, Lee’s party seemed almost as upbeat, despite the candidate losing. The crowd was larger, with more than 120 supporters filling the Fox and the Fiddle, including leading local figures like MPP Peter Tabuns and city councillor Paula Fletcher.
Before the results came in, Stacey Reid, federal riding president for the NDP, said they expected a tight race but she was getting “all positive vibes” while canvassing.
“We had so much energy, so many volunteers and, when it comes to tight races, you need the volunteers to get the vote out,” she said. “And that’s what we had in spades.”
She also noted candidate Lee had worked with Layton. “His spirit was here and it’s been present for the entire campaign,” Reid said.
She called the previous election, when Dabrusin narrowly defeated NDP incumbent Craig Scott “just a fluke for us.”
Scott had won the riding in a by-election in 2012 after the death of Layton, who had held it since 2000.
In this election Dabrusin received 27,144 votes, followed by Lee at 18,896 votes, Conservative candidate Zia Choudhary at 6,035 votes (10.6 per cent), and the Green Party’s Chris Tolley with 3,676 votes (6.5 per cent).