Kitch­en­erCon­estoga now a tight race be­tween Tories and NDP

Rid­ing too close to call prior to June 7 elec­tion

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - STEVE KANNON

THE SAFEST BET FOR a Tory seat in the re­gion is no longer so safe, as the lat­est poll num­bers have the race in Kitch­en­erCon­estoga too close to call. The dif­fer­ence be­tween PC can­di­date Mike Har­ris and the NDP’s Kelly Dick is less than three per­cent­age points.

That’s sim­i­lar to the tight race in the Kitch­ener South and Cam­bridge rid­ings. The NDP lead in Kitch­ener Cen­tre and are ex­pected to re­tain their cur­rent seat in Water­loo, ac­cord­ing to analy­ses done by the Lau­rier In­sti­tute for the Study of Pub­lic Opinion and Pol­icy (LISPOP).

The up­surge in NDP sup­port is in­dica­tive of a prov­ince-wide trend that has seen the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives start to wane, says Barry Kay, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Wil­frid Lau­rier Uni­ver­sity.

Well ahead in the polls for months, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives have been los­ing ground in the wake of Pa­trick Brown be­ing forced out as leader and re­placed by a di­vi­sive Doug Ford. NDP leader An­drea Hor­wath has been the re­cip­i­ent of much of the op­po­si­tion vote against the mas­sively un­pop­u­lar Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Had the Tories gone with Chris­tine El­liott as the choice of new leader, the party

would be on its way to a ma­jor­ity, Kay pre­dicted.

“If El­liott was the leader, they would be home safe,” he said, not­ing the PCs were on track for a win as re­cently as a cou­ple of weeks ago.

The shift in Con­ser­va­tive for­tunes is mir­rored in the tight races in Water­loo Re­gion, where even Kitch­ener-Con­estoga is in play for the NDP, which has tra­di­tion­ally fin­ished a very dis­tant third. The num­bers here this time around may re­flect some lo­cal is­sues with the way pop­u­lar MPP Michael Har­ris was ousted from cau­cus and the son of former premier Mike Har­ris parachuted into the rid­ing, Kay sug­gested.

That doesn’t bode well for the Ford-led party.

“If Con­estoga is close, then the PCs aren’t safe any­where in the re­gion,” said Kay.

Kath­leen Wynne, mean­while, is in Kim Camp­bell ter­ri­tory, with some polls hav­ing the Lib­er­als re­duced to just a few seats, the party’s pop­u­lar­ity plum­met­ing to the depths of the Mul­roney-era fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives.

“In our last fore­cast, we had them at 12 seats. I sus­pect new poll num­bers will have them in sin­gle dig­its, per­haps very low sin­gle dig­its,” he said this week.

In fact, LISPOP’s lat­est fore­cast has the Lib­er­als tak­ing just seven seats, with pop­u­lar sup­port of 20 per cent. At 38 per cent, the NDP leads, three points ahead of the Con­ser­va­tives at 35. But it’s the Tories who have the lead in terms of po­ten­tial seats, 63 to 54.

“Although re­cent opinion polls show a clear trend to­ward the NDP and away from the PCs, most of the re­sults are close. Con­ceiv­ably, the NDP could win the pop­u­lar vote, yet fin­ish be­hind the Tories in seats. That’s largely be­cause party sup­port is un­evenly dis­trib­uted across the prov­ince,” writes Ge­of­frey Stevens on the LISPOP blog track­ing shifts in the elec­torate’s mood.

That’s not good news for Lib­eral can­di­date Joe Gow­ing, who is trail­ing Har­ris and Dick. Three other hope­fuls are part of the race: Daniel Benoy (Lib­er­tar­ian), Dan Holt (Con­sen­sus On­tario) and Bob Jonkman (Green).

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