After a swift campaign period of 37 days, voters in Toronto Centre and York Centre headed to the polls for the 2020 federal by-elections. No seats will be changing parties as both Toronto Centre and York Centre have elected Liberals Marci Ien and Ya’ara Saks, respectively. But the short campaign was anything but boring including a nail-bitting election night for York Centre. Here are the highlights:
- Liberal Quebec MP Greg Fergus shared a tweet on Oct. 16 of Julius Tiangson, the Conservative’s candidate for York Centre, questioning the “blackness” of Kamala Harris;
- A few hours after MP Fergus’ post, the Conservatives responded with a 2011 tweet by Liberal Toronto Centre candidate Marci Ien where Ien promoted a 9/11 conspiracy film produced by American far-right radio show host Alex Jones;
- Former Conservative cabinet minister and Leader of the Peoples’ Party of Canada joined the race in York Centre on October 8; and
- In the middle of the by-election period, the candidate for the Green Party in Toronto Centre, Annamie Paul, was elected as leader of the party.
- Conservative Party of Canada (CPC): Ben Sharma
- Green Party of Canada (GPC): Annamie Paul
- Liberal Party of Canada (LPC): Marci Ien (elected)
- New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP): Brian Chang
- Peoples’ Party of Canada (PPC): Baljit Bawa
In the 2019 federal election, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau was elected with over 57% of votes, followed by New Democrat Brian Chang with 22% of the vote.
The Liberals have held nearly 60% of the vote share in the past two elections with a surge in support for the NDP. Although the riding has only ever been held by a Conservative or Liberal, there has been a decline in support for the CPC over the past decades. Provincially, the Ontario Liberal Party has held the electoral district, including Ontario’s longest-serving Health Minister, George Smitherman, former Mayor of Winnipeg and candidate for the GPC leadership, Glen Murray. The riding is currently represented provincially by Suze Morrison of the Ontario NDP.
During the campaign, Annamie Paul was chosen to the lead the GPC. One of the party’s top fundraisers, Paul gained media coverage and attention as a strong voice for the party and became the first Black woman and Jewish woman to lead a federal political party in Canada. She was projected to double the GPC’s share of the popular vote from 2019.
- Conservative Party of Canada (CPC): Julius Tiangson
- Green Party of Canada (GPC): Sasha Zavarella
- Liberal Party of Canada (LPC): Ya’ara Saks (elected)
- New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP): Andrea Vásquez Jiménez
- Peoples’ Party of Canada (PPC): Maxime Bernier
The York Centre election gained media traction once it was confirmed Maxime Bernier, Leader of the Peoples’ Party of Canada, would be running in the federal by-election.
In the 2019 federal election, former MP Michael Levitt was elected with over 50% of votes, followed by Rachel Willson of the CPC with over 36% of the vote.
York Centre holds the largest population of Filipino, Russian, and Jewish residents of ethnic origin in the City of Toronto. The riding is known as one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, however, there has been a rise in popularity for the CPC over the past decade, including with an electoral win for the CPC in 2011 for MP Mark Adler. Provincially, the riding was held for nearly two decades by Monte Kwinter, a former cabinet minister to Premiers Peterson and McGuinty, who was also the oldest person to ever be a sitting Ontario MPP at 81 years of age. In 2018, lawyer Roman Baber was elected in York Centre for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.