Premier Kathleen Wynne dropped the writ on five byelections on July 3, with election day slated for August 1, 2013. The announcement was immediately criticized by both opposition parties, who claimed that Wynne’s decision to hold the election the Thursday before a long weekend was done to intentionally lower voter turnout. Summer by-elections are rare due to vacationing voters and a lack of attention paid to political issues. The timing of the byelections is also notable because a report by the Auditor General on the cancellation of the Oakville power plant is expected to be released at the end of August.

Byelections tend to focus more on the candidates than general elections. The byelections currently under way are no exception, having attracted a number of star candidates, including Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday, former OSSTF President Ken Coran, and former Toronto mayoral candidate and city councilor Adam Giambrone. Despite the big names, the byelections will not seriously affect the balance of power in the Legislature. Regardless of the results, the Liberals will enter the Fall session with a minority government.

The results will impact the narratives of the government and the opposition parties, and could affect their eagerness for a general election. Three or more victories for the Liberals would be seen as an affirmation of Premier Wynne’s leadership and possibly bolster the Liberals’ willingness to go to have a confidence motion in the Fall. A failure to register a single win would raise concerns about the outcome of a general election in the near future and would ensure that no opportunities to bring down the government will be presented until the 2014 budget.

In a similar vein, victories by the PCs will strengthen their calls for a general election and be seen as important wins for a leader who has yet to preside over the winning of a byelection.

The NDP are not expected to win outside of Windsor-Tecumseh, although star candidate Adam Giambrone could give them an edge in in Scarborough-Guildwood. Winning both ridings could strengthen the faction within the NDP that believes they have a credible shot at forming government and push the party to work with the PCs to bring down the government.

Byelections will also give each of the parties the opportunity to test policy planks ahead of a general election. Issues likely to be highly relevant include the economy, job creation, transit, and energy. The opposition parties will also likely use the byelections to test the receptivity of their messaging on Liberal scandals, including the cancellation of gas plants and the deletion of emails by former Premier McGuinty’s staff.

Below is a brief overview of each of the five byelections with a list of confirmed candidates and the most recent polling.  Polling where the party is listed instead of the name of the candidate was done prior to the candidate’s nomination.

By-Election Overviews

Etobicoke-Lakeshore

The Etobicoke-Lakeshore race to replace former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Laurel Broten has become the race to watch.  It pits Toronto City Councillor and Executive Council member Peter Milczyn against Toronto Deputy Mayor Holyday after Holyday abruptly replaced the former PC candidate, Steve Ryan.  Early polling showed a strong lead for the Liberals; however, the polling was done before Milczyn and Holyday were nominated as candidates.

  • Candidates

Liberal: Peter Milczyn: Toronto City Councillor, Ward 2

PC: Doug Holyday: Deputy Mayor of Toronto, Toronto City Councillor, Ward 3

NDP: P.C. Choo: Former public school board trustee, Etobicoke Board of Education

Green: Angela Salewsky: Business development manager

2011 General Election Results

  • Laurel Broten (Liberal): 51.02%
  • Simon Nyilassy (PC): 29.24%
  • Dionne Coley (NDP): 15.45%
  • Angela Salewsky (Green): 2.68%

London West

The race to replace former Minister of Energy Chris Bentley in London West has the most contentious candidate of the five byelections: former OSSTF President Ken Coran.  Coran has caused a stir in all three parties.  The NDP have criticized his nomination after he helped his now-opponent Peggy Sattler win her nomination.  The PCs have pointed to an internal memo he authored while at the OSSTF as proof that his nomination is hypocritical and politically expedient.  The infamous memo took credit for denying the Liberals a majority government by rallying the teachers in the Kitchener-Waterloo byelection last year.  The strong negative reaction has surprised some Liberals as well.

  •  Candidates

Liberal: Ken Coran: Former president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF)

PC: Ali Chahbar: Lawyer

NDP: Peggy Sattler: Public school board trustee

Green: Gary Brown: Board member, Old South Community Organization

2011 General Election Results

  • Chris Bentley (Liberal): 45.65%
  • Ali Chahbar (PC): 29.49%
  • Jeff Buchanan (NDP): 21.72%
  • Gary Brown (Green): 2.41%

Ottawa South

Ottawa South is in its first election without a McGuinty running since 1985.  In the family’s place, long-time Dalton McGuinty constituency aide John Fraser is running.  Fraser has a narrow lead over PC candidate Matt Young in a tight race, according to early polling.  Fraser is also expected to have the strongest ground game in the riding due to his many years of overseeing campaigns on behalf of McGuinty.

  • Candidates

Liberal: John Fraser: Former McGuinty constituency aide

PC: Matt Young: Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Canada

NDP: Bronwyn Funiciello: Vice-chairperson, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board

Green: Taylor Howarth: Recruitment Assistant, Saint Paul University

2011 General Election Results

  • Dalton McGuinty (Liberal): 48.86%
  • Jason MacDonald (PC): 33.43%
  • Wali Farah (NDP): 13.39%
  • James Mihaychuk (Green): 3.23%

Scarborough-Guildwood

In the race to replace former Minister of Consumer Services Margarett Best in Scarborough-Guildwood, Mitzie Hunter joins Ken Coran and Peter Milczyn as the third member of a trio of high profile Liberal candidates recruited to run in this summer’s byelections.  Hunter is the executive director of CivicAction and former executive at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.  She is facing former Toronto City Councillor and mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone.  The current dispute around subway vs. streetcar expansion in Scarborough will likely play a large role in the byelection, giving all three parties a chance to promote their transit platforms.

  • Candidates

Liberal: Mitzie Hunter: Executive Director, CivicAction, Former executive, Toronto Community Housing Corporation

PC: Ken Kirupa: Realtor, Past President, Canadian Tamils’ Chamber of Commerce

NDP: Adam Giambrone: Former Toronto City Councillor, Former candidate for Mayor of Toronto

Green: Nick Leeson: Lawyer

2011 General Election Results

  • Margarett Best (Liberal): 48.93%
  • Gary Ellis (PC): 28.65%
  • Lorri Urban (NDP): 19.42%
  • Naoshad Pochkhanawala (Green): 1.29%

Windsor-Tecumseh

Windsor-Tecumseh provides the best opportunity for the NDP to pick up a seat in the race to replace former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.  Early polling shows NDP candidate Percy Hatfield with the largest lead of any candidate in the five byelections.  Due to the large lead, the Liberals and PCs are unlikely to put as many resources into Windsor as they are in races with tighter margins.

  • Candidates

Liberal: Jeewan Gill: Real estate and mortgage broker

PC: Robert de Verteuil: Automotive manufacturing consultant

NDP: Percy Hatfield: Windsor City Councillor, Ward 7, Retired CBC reporter

Green: Adam Wright

2011 General Election Results

  • Dwight Duncan (Liberal): 51.02%
  • Andrew McAvoy (NDP): 32.84%
  • Robert de Verteuil (PC): 20.82%
  • Justin Levesque (Green): 2.23%

Conclusion

While early polling has shown the Liberals maintaining leads in three of the byelections, tight margins will keep all parties active in all five ridings.  The results of the by-elections will not affect the balance of power in the Legislature, meaning that any victory will be rhetorical more than strategic.

While the Liberals are widely expected to lose at least one by-election, losing all five could lead to additional measures to avoid a byelection or raise questions about Premier Wynne’s leadership.  The NDP are unlikely to make much of a showing outside of Windsor-Tecumseh and star candidate Adam Giambrone, who is polling third in Scarborough-Guildwood.

While the byelections themselves will not be decided until August 1, all three parties are sure to come into the Fall session of the Legislature claiming victory.