The GTA’s toss-up ridings could tell the story of the election – CBC.ca

According to the most recent polling data, races in nine GTA ridings are toss-ups — eight of them in the critical 905, where Conservatives and Liberals are finding themselves in a dead heat. 

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A fired-up Justin Trudeau at a campaign rally at a drive-in theatre in Oakville, Ont. this past Sunday. Trudeau has been visiting several of the GTA’s most contested ridings. (The Canadian Press)

The Greater Toronto Area is once again set to play an outsized role in determining who will form the next federal government.

According to the most recent polling data, races in nine GTA ridings are toss-ups — eight of them in the critical 905, where Conservatives and Liberals are finding themselves in a dead heat. 

Those tight races matter because the region, which sends more MP’s to Ottawa than Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined, is “a critical part of any winning formula for any of the parties,” says political strategist Jaskaran Sandhu. 

“The density and the population obviously plays a significant impact on the seat counts that you need to form government,” he told CBC Toronto.

One week out from the election, polling in ridings like Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Oakville, and Whitby show Conservative and Liberal candidates nearly deadlocked.

The polling data is collected by 338Canada.com, an election projection website.

The importance of tipping the scales in those races isn’t lost on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has visited seven of the nine toss-up ridings since the election campaign began. 

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, has visited three, including Richmond Hill, which last election saw the Liberal candidate eke out a win by just 112 votes — the tightest margin in the GTA. 

At this point, the nine tightest races in the Greater Toronto Area are:

  • York Centre
  • Davenport
  • Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill
  • Richmond Hill
  • Oakville
  • Oakville-North Burlington
  • Newmarket-Aurora
  • Markham-Stouffville
  • Whitby

Conservatives look to break through 

Sandhu says the Liberals, who scooped up nearly every seat in the region in 2015 and 2019, are “still the favourites” in the GTA. 

But he also believes there’s a chance for upsets, given some growing frustration with Justin Trudeau. 

“If the Liberal candidates take it for granted …  there’s a very good chance that Conservatives may surprise folks here,” said Sandhu. 

Analyst Eric Grenier says he’ll be watching Brampton and Mississauga with particular focus on election night.

Though none of the nine toss-up ridings are located in those cities, they are “areas where Conservatives have some strength,” he said. 

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, joined by his family, campaigns in King City, Ont. in late August. King-Vaughan was one of the tightest races in the GTA in 2019, though it’s currently leaning Conservative and is not considered a toss-up at this point. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“If the Conservatives can’t win any seats in Brampton or Mississauga, they really are unable to form a government, at least one with a lot of seats in terms of a minority,” said Grenier. 

The 905’s suburban voters tend not to be tied to one party or another, and often make decisions based on the national campaign, he said. 

“That’s why when one seat in the GTA swings, it often means other seats are swinging. It’s rare that you have one-off seats that are decided simply because of the local candidate,” said Grenier. 

The NDP’s hope in Toronto

Then there’s Davenport, the only toss-up riding located in downtown Toronto, and the only one in which polling indicates the NDP stands a chance of breaking through. 

Sandwiched between Parkdale-High Park and Spadina-Fort York, the west end riding appears to be just barely favouring Liberal incumbent Julie Dzerowicz over NDP candidate Alejandra Bravo.

Davenport was a Liberal stronghold for 50 years before a win by the NDP’s Andrew Cash, who held the seat between 2011 and 2015. Provincially, it belongs to the NDP’s Marit Stiles.  

During a recent segment on CBC’s Metro Morning, Davenport residents expressed uncertainty about which party would deliver on top issues such as climate change and the cost of child care. 

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A house divided in Toronto’s Davenport riding, where a contest between the Liberals and the NDP is playing out. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

So does that mean other downtown Toronto ridings have no chance of turning orange?

Not exactly, says York University associate professor Dennis Pilon. 

“The data that we have on local ridings is not nearly as good as we have for national level support,” he explained. “It’s just that much harder to get good data at the riding level.” 

That means that though Davenport is the sole riding classified as a toss-up at this point, Pilon says others could bring surprises as well, especially given the support built up by the NDP in Toronto’s core prior to 2015. 

“It really depends on who comes out to vote, given such close numbers,” he said. 

“It really depends on which team has got boots on the ground and are able to mobilize those supporters.”