Long-held Ontario Liberal ridings go to polls in Thursday byelections

Voters in Ottawa–Vanier and Orléans will go to the polls Thursday to determine the fate of two of the seven seats the Liberals kept when they were routed in the 2018 provincial election.

Ottawa–Vanier NDP candidate Myriam Djilane acknowledges the ridings are Liberal strongholds, with candidates winning by thousands of votes last time even as the party's support imploded.

"Fortresses always crumble eventually," Djilane said at a news conference Tuesday.

She said the entire Ontario NDP caucus, federal leader Jagmeet Singh and several MPs have helped canvass both ridings during the byelection campaign.

"It's very clear from talking to residents of Ottawa–Vanier — and I'm sure Orléans as well — that people are really tired of being taken for granted and want to make sure their votes are counted."

Liberal candidate Stephen Blais, a current city councillor who has reduced his responsibilities during the campaign, said the party's smaller seat count gives him more freedom on the campaign trail.

"The luxury of being in the position that we're in is that I don't need to listen to the party boss in Toronto," Blais said.

"My platform and my brochure is all about Orléans and it's what I want to say. It hasn't had to be approved by unelected officials in downtown Toronto."

Matthew Kupfer/CBC

Andrew West, candidate for the Green Party of Ontario in Ottawa–Orléans, said the byelection will take questions about strategic voting off the table. 

"Nothing's going to change the fact that Doug Ford has majority government. Nothing's going to change that with 50 seats amongst them, the Liberals and the NDP have gotten no legislation passed in the last two years," he said.

"The Green Party has, and when people hear that they get excited."

The private member's bill, which protected electric vehicle charging spots, is proof the Greens work well with others, West said.

Matthew Kupfer/CBC

Ben Koczwarski, the Green candidate in Ottawa–Vanier, said more voters are telling him they're prioritizing climate change and environmental issues as they cast their ballot.

"More and more people are saying, 'I always voted Liberal in the past, but this time I'm going to vote Green because I really want some decisive action on climate to be taken,'" Koczwarski said.

The Liberals were reduced to seven seats in the June 2018 election that saw Doug Ford's Ontario PC Party form a majority government.

The NDP is now the official opposition with the Liberal rump losing official party status and still in the process of electing a new leader. For the first time, the Green Party of Ontario elected an MPP.

Ottawa–Vanier and Ottawa–Orléans were two of the seats that stayed Liberal, but their MPPs resigned for other positions.

Nathalie Des Rosiers returned to academia and Marie-France Lalonde pursued and won the federal seat for the riding. 

The party dipped to five seats, but went up to six when PC-turned-independent Amanda Simard from the rural eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell switched to the Liberals.

CBC

CBC News reached out to the Ontario PC Party and the individual campaigns of Ottawa–Orléans candidate Natalie Montgomery and Ottawa–Vanier candidate Patrick Mayangi.

Neither were made available for an interview.

On Monday, Elections Ontario reported that 4,822 ballots had been cast in Orléans, representing about 4.35 per cent of registered voters. That was less than half the figure for advanced polls in the 2018 general elections.

In Ottawa–Vanier, the preliminary results for advanced polls were similarly low — 2.47 per cent of registered voters, or 2,502 people cast their ballots.

The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 27.

CBC
CBC