With candidates and their teams preparing to fan out across Toronto to campaign as part of the federal election called on Sunday, modelling data and experts are currently suggesting the riding of Davenport could be one of just a handful across Ontario to potentially flip parties.
Global News spoke with multiple political observers ahead of Sunday’s dissolution of parliament and all of them said Davenport, located just west of downtown Toronto and is roughly bounded by the north-south CN Rail line, Dovercourt Road, Ossington Avenue, Rogers Road and Eglinton Avenue West.
Stéphanie Chouinard, an assistant professor with the department of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and at Queen’s University, quickly said “Davenport” when asked about what ridings in Toronto could be up for grabs.
“This is what the polls are showing at this time. Obviously in a campaign, even a short one, things can change, but what we’re seeing in the polls right now is that there will be some pretty tough fights for Conservatives in southern and northern Ontario but also Liberals in the GTA.”
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The sentiment was backed by Jacob Robbins-Kanter, an assistant professor at Bishop’s University and a PhD candidate in political science at Queen’s University.
“I think there are some potential Liberal-to-NDP flips in Toronto like Davenport, which was a close race the last few elections,” he said.
The riding, which was a Liberal stronghold for 50 years, saw for the first time an NDP switch in 2011 with the election of former MP Andrew Cash. However, in the 2015 election, former financial executive Julie Dzerowicz won the riding back for the Liberals by 1,441 votes (a 1.9-per-cent difference between her and Cash). In 2019, the pair faced off again and she won by 1,439 votes (a 2.7-per-cent difference this time around).
In Davenport, which is mostly composed of a working middle-class population with a large Portuguese community, affordability, housing, transit, the environment and seniors’ issues have all been raised by residents as concerns. Provincially, the riding is held by NDP MPP Marit Stiles.
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On Saturday, community members rallied on Queen Street West near Dufferin Street to save a Canada Post office from being sold off by the federal Crown corporation. While the parcel of land isn’t huge, the potential sale has raised serious concerns it will eliminate another opportunity to bring highly sought-after affordable housing should the property be sold to a developer.
“One of the things governments are doing is selling assets like that to fill holes and whether or not it’s a Crown corporation, it’s still a federal corporation,” Alejandra Bravo, the NDP candidate in Davenport, told Global News before parliament was dissolved.
“I think that public land is as important as water … keeping, retaining those assets, we can actually develop them and build them to have affordable housing.”
Bravo suggested when the issue first arose, Dzerowicz didn’t take a strong enough stand to fight to stop the property.
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While she’s the director of leadership and training at the Broadbent Institute, Bravo isn’t a stranger to politics, having unsuccessfully run for Toronto city council before.
She said the sale of the post office is an example of the broader issue of affordability — something she called a top priority for her. Alongside housing, she pointed to other day-to-day things like high prices for internet and cellphones — things under federal jurisdiction that, in an age of remote work and learning, must be treated like essentials.
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The other signature issue for her, Bravo said, is climate change.
Should she be elected, Bravo said she wants to work on addressing broader inequality, such as anti-Black racism, issues facing Indigenous peoples, transit, pharmacare, dental care, COVID-19 recovering and restructuring how corporations receive financial investments from the federal government.
“There’s a feeling that in the riding, and maybe across Canada as well, that we need to make different political choices if we want better policy outcomes,” she said, pointing to NDP efforts to strengthen pandemic supports as examples of how the party works.
“In a time of economic crisis and health crisis, I hope people will ask themselves who’s really on their side.”
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When it comes to the postal office site, Dzerowicz — who is seeking a third term as the community’s member of parliament — touted efforts to protect the property from development.
She said when she and her staff researched the matter, they discovered there isn’t a process in place to factor in affordable housing when federal government agencies sell off lands.
“We desperately need it,” Dzerowicz told Global News ahead of the end of the 43rd parliament, referring to the property and her push to stop its sale.
She said she’s called on Canada Post to stop the sale of the property in hopes a community trust can come together.
Dzerowicz said she called on the minister who oversees the portfolio to halt all sales of federal lands. While it doesn’t appear the federal government actually stopped the disposal of the property prior to parliament dissolving, she said she believes if the Liberals are re-elected that they will “take this issue very seriously.”
Like Bravo, Dzerowicz said housing is at a crisis level and that it is something she continues to push for action on — especially spaces for artists and creative workers.
“Not only the federal government, but I think the provincial and municipal governments, we all three have not done enough to address housing affordability in this country,” she said.
Other issues she said she’s heard from voters on are COVID-19 recovery, economic growth and jobs, and Indigenous issues — something she conceded the federal government needs to move faster on.
When it came to Dzerowicz’s record, she highlighted legislation she introduced that would see a guaranteed basic income for Canadians. However, that bill would need to be reintroduced due to the dissolution of parliament. She also touted the investments in transit, active transportation infrastructure, flooding mitigation measures and climate change measures.
Adrian Currie, a cycling advocate and a long-time Green Party of Canada volunteer, was nominated to represent the party in Davenport.
He said a “just” COVID-19 recovery as well as the environment and climate change are top priorities for him and took aim at all of the other major political parties for not doing enough to respond, especially in light of recent devastating forest fires across the country and stifling temperatures.
“The main thing is to focus on the environment, focus on social justice issues depending on where you live and choose a party who has the best plan to deal with that and as far as I’m concerned that’s the Green Party,” he told Global News ahead of Sunday’s election call while addressing recent party infighting involving leader Annamie Paul, calling it a “distraction” that’s done on purpose.
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“If you’re worried about the environment, if you’re worried about leaving a planet for your children and your grandchildren to inhabit, vote Green Party — it’s a no-brainer.”
He went on to cite examples of how the Green Party would end new pipeline projects, oil subsidies, retraining initiatives for workers in the industry, and push for a national electricity corridor.
Currie also echoed comments made by Bravo and Dzerowicz about the need for the federal government to do more on responding to issues facing Indigenous communities, affordable housing and transit.
Meanwhile, Tara Dos Remedios was nominated to serve as the candidate for the People’s Party of Canada in the riding. At the time of publication, the Conservative Party of Canada didn’t have a candidate nominated to run in Davenport.
Election day is set for Sept. 20.
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