Politics on the Ground in Don Valley West

Prime Minister Harper just added the Toronto riding of Don Valley West to the three others which will hold by-elections on September 22. I live in Don Valley West, so I will be blogging about what I see and hear.

Let’s start with the big strategic picture. Three of the four ridings (Don Valley West, Guelph, and Westmount) were held by the Liberals and one, Saint-Lambert, by the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservatives will be testing their strategy of attacking Stephane Dion, particularly on his green shift. One or more wins would put the Liberals in check: unwilling to force an election, portrayed as Harper’s reluctant supporters, and in internal disarray. At the other end of the spectrum, the rivalry between the Greens and the NDP for third place will be spirited.

I had a quick look at the candidate websites. Conservative John Carmichael’s and the Green Party’s Georgina Wilcock’s are the most highly developed. Carmichael’s site has an opening video, lots of endorsements, a list of the government’s achievements, positions on key issues incorporating critiques of the opposition, and translation into eight languages, which makes sense in this ethnically diverse constituency. Georgina Wilcock’s site has very nicely integrated biographical information about her and details of local events with the Green Party’s site, with its emphasis on environmental policy.

Liberal Rob Oliphant’s site contains a detailed bio, information about Stephane Dion’s visit later this week, but little about policy. NDP candidate David Sparrow’s site has a personal message about why he’s running, a link to the NDP home page, and little else.

Two of the candidates already have an online presence in their professional lives. David Sparrow is an actor-writer, and his professional home page is more detailed than his political home page. Georgina Wilcock is a doctor, and Google lists her entry on www.ratemds.com before her candidacy. She has four highly complimentary ratings, which average out to 5, the top of the scale. While being a good doctor is not the same thing as a good politician, low ratings as a doctor would not have inspired confidence, and would have been circulated by her opponents.
Here are two other tidbits from the early days of the campaign.

Conservative John Carmichael has already gone negative, running radio ads attacking the Liberals, along the lines of “Stephane Dion wants to increase gasoline prices even more. Is he crazy?”
A walk in the neighbourhood revealed a street with eight Green Party signs and no others. Lawn signs are a notoriously misleading predictor of election outcomes, but this at least shows that the Greens have hit the ground running.

I’ll be away next week, but back to the by-election after Labour Day.


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