Close races to watch in the home stretch of the Ontario election campaign


With three full days left before the June 2 general election, Ontario’s political parties are campaigning hard to build support in key ridings.

The Progressive Conservatives have always been the favourites, according to the CBC News Ontario Poll Trackerwith another majority in sight.

The New Democrats are on track to win the second most seats, but potentially with a smaller share of the popular vote than the Liberals. The Ontario Greens could clinch a second seat at Queen’s Park.

While not an exhaustive list, here are eight races CBC News will be watching closely this week and on election night.

Brampton North

Almost all of Brampton is a major battleground in this election, with razor-thin margins of victory in three of its five ridings in 2018.

The New Democrats won Brampton North by just 497 votes over their closest rivals, the Conservatives. That MP, Kevin Yarde, lost the party’s nomination in April for this election and represented the constituency as an independent for less than two weeks before the start of the campaign.

The NDP, Conservatives and Liberals have all made Brampton North a campaign priority. NDP candidate Sandeep Singh was joined by federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at the official opening of his campaign office in May.

Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford made his first campaign stop in Brampton North, alongside Conservative candidate Graham McGregor. At least one publicly available poll has PCs in the lead here.

Meanwhile, Liberal candidate Harinder Malhi previously represented the region before the constituency boundaries were redrawn.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Graham McGregor
  • NDP: Sandeep Singh
  • Liberal: Harinder Malhi
  • Green: Aneep Dhade
  • New Blue: Jerry Fussek
  • Ontario Party: Julia Bauman

Essex

This riding in the far southwest of Ontario could be one to watch on election night, with a close battle expected between the New Democrats, who won Essex in 2018, and the Conservatives, who were just ahead. Together, the two parties won more than 90% of the vote in the constituency.

Interestingly, none of the candidates who ran for these two parties are back on the ballot this time around. New Democrat Taras Natyshak, who has held the seat since 2011, is not running. Conservative candidate Chris Lewis, who lost by just 2,711 votes, was later elected MP for the riding’s federal counterpart.

Both parties have made it clear they believe they can win in Essex, but one potentially complicating factor for PCs is the popularity of smaller centre-right parties in southwestern Ontario. The New Blue and the Ontario Party collectively garner about 8% in the region, which is higher than anywhere else in Ontario, according to Poll Tracker. That support could bite into the Conservatives’ vote share on election night.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Anthony Leardi
  • NDP: Ron LeClair
  • Liberal: Manpreet Brar
  • Green: Nicolas Wendler
  • New Blue: Danielle Sylvester
  • Ontario Party: Frank Causarano
  • None of the above: Kevin Linfield

Ottawa West–Nepean

If 2018 was any indication, the race in Ottawa West–Nepean could prove interesting.

PC incumbent Jeremy Roberts won by just 175 votes last time out, narrowly defeating NDP candidate Chandra Pasma and ending the Liberals’ 15-year stranglehold on the riding. The NDP had never won more than 16% of the vote in this riding before, but it doubled in 2018.

Pasma is on the ballot again, and the NDP and Liberals seem to think the seat can be overturned. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca each visited the riding multiple times in the final two weeks of the campaign.

There are also questions about local resentment towards incumbent CPs after a deadly storm devastated parts of the Ottawa area on May 21. Ford has not been to Ottawa since the start of the campaign, although he is expected to visit the city on Monday.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Jeremy Roberts
  • NDP: Chandra Pasma
  • Liberal: Sam Bhalesar
  • Green: Steven Warren
  • Ontario Party: Vilteau Delvas

Parry Sound–Muskoka

The Green Party is pinning a lot of hope on expanding its caucus at Queen’s Park in that riding, a longtime Progressive Conservative stronghold. Former PC MLA Norm Miller held the seat for nearly two decades but announced he would retire from politics last year. PCs have tapped Graydon Smith, the mayor of Bracebridge for 12 years, to replace Miller on the ballot.

But the Greens believe their candidate, Matt Richter, can claim victory. This is Richter’s fifth time running for the seat. A teacher at a local school in the area, Richter won just over 20% of the vote in 2018. The Greens campaigned hard in the constituency, with leader Mike Schreiner personally turning out more than half a dozen of times.

The Greens may be helped by the fact that the Liberals have no one on the ballot. The party was forced to drop its local candidate after it was revealed he had published a book detailing scientifically baseless views on homosexuality.

PCs and Greens insist they are confident they will eventually win the seat, although the few constituency-level polls released for Parry Sound–Muskoka have no consensus on who is in the lead. .

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Graydon Smith
  • NDP: Erin Horvath
  • Liberal: None
  • Green: Matt Richter
  • New Blue: Doug Maynard
  • Ontario Party: Andrew John Cocks
  • Populist Ontario: Brad Waddell
  • Independent: Daniel Predie Jr.

Sault Ste. Married

PC incumbent Ross Romano won that Northern Ontario seat in 2018 by a margin of 414 votes over NDP candidate Michele McCleave-Kennedy, who is also running again. Together, the pair accounted for almost 83% of the total vote share.

Ford visited Sault Ste. Marie often Prime Minister, and made a point of stopping in town during the campaign.

Horwath was supposed to be there on Saturday as part of a last-minute whirlwind tour of the north that had been postponed earlier after she tested positive for COVID-19. Problems with the plane the campaign was supposed to take meant that his appearance had to be via the livestream.

The first Liberal candidate from Sault Ste. Marie was dropped after inappropriate comments he made on an online gambling forum surfaced in the media. The party was able to replace him with a new candidate, Liam Hancock, before the Elections Ontario deadline.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Ross Romano
  • NDP: Michele McCleave-Kennedy
  • Liberal: Liam Hancock
  • Green: Keagan Gilfillan
  • New Blue: Shane Pankhurst
  • Independent: Naomi Sayers

Thunder Bay–Atikokan

This northwestern Ontario riding was the scene of one of the tightest races in 2018.

NDP candidate Judith Monteith-Farrell edged outgoing Liberal Bill Mauro for four terms by just 81 votes, or 0.3% of the vote. It was the first time since 1985 that the Liberals did not hold at least part of the territory that is now encompassed by the boundaries of the riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan.

June 2 is expected to be another showdown between New Democrats and Liberals. Monteith-Farrell is running again, while Robert Barrett is on the ballot for the Liberals.

Del Duca traveled to Thunder Bay on May 22 to campaign alongside Barrett. This is another constituency that Horwath had intended to visit over the final weekend of the campaign, but his in-person appearance was scrapped due to mechanical problems with the plane the campaign had chartered.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Kevin Holland
  • NDP: Judith Monteith-Farrell
  • Liberal: Robert Barrett
  • Green: Eric Arner
  • New Blue: David Tommasini
  • Ontario Party: Dan Criger
  • Northern Ontario: Kenneth Jones

Vaughan–Woodbridge

The stakes are high in this riding for Del Duca.

Del Duca served as MPP for Vaughan-Woodbridge for almost six years before being routed by current PC incumbent Michael Tibollo in 2018. He lost by nearly 8,000 votes after serving in several positions within of the government of former Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne.

Throughout the campaign, Del Duca and his camp maintained stoic confidence that he would resume the siege on June 2. PCs, however, said their own internal polls showed Tibollo firmly in the lead. Tibollo served as cabinet minister throughout the PC government’s four-year term, but was twice demoted to less publicized posts.

If Del Duca fails to win the seat, there will be serious questions about whether he can stay on as leader of the Liberal Party.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Michel Tibollo
  • NDP: Will McCarty
  • Liberal: Steven Del Duca
  • Green: Philip James Piluris
  • New Blue: Luca Mele
  • Ontario Party: Gerrard Fortin
  • Populist Ontario: Mario Greco
  • Ontario Moderate Party: Walid Omrani

York South-Weston

Incumbent NDP candidate Faisal Hassan won that west-end Toronto seat by 1,165 votes in 2018, with only about 3% and 8% of the vote separating him from the Conservatives and Liberals, respectively.

All three parties believe they have a chance to secure the constituency on June 2. The wildcard could be the name recognition of the PC candidate, namely Michael Ford – the PC leader’s nephew and a Toronto city councillor.

The Ford political brand carries significant weight in this city party, and large parts of York South-Weston share similar demographics with Etobicoke North, where Doug Ford won with more than 50% of the vote in 2018.

2022 candidates:

  • PC: Michael Ford
  • NDP: Faisal Hassan
  • Liberal: Nadia Guerrera
  • Green: Ignacio Mongrell Gonzalez
  • New Blue: Tom Hipsz
  • Ontario Party: Ana Gabriela Ortiz
  • Independent: James Michael Fields