Two City Councillors Vie for Victory in Etobicoke-Lakeshore's By-election
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Two City Councillors Vie for Victory in Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s By-election

On August 1, the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore will gain a new Member of Provincial Parliament, and Toronto will probably lose a councillor.

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Doug Holyday and Tim Hudak. Photo from Holyday’s Facebook page.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore is arguably the most interesting of the five provincial by-elections happening on August 1, with current city councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) running for the Liberals and fellow councillor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) flying the blue flag for Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives.

Milczyn and Holyday have much in common. Apart from the fact that each already represents Etobicoke at the municipal level (though Holyday’s ward is outside the boundaries of Etobicoke-Lakeshore), both are members of Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee, and both are considered right-wing councillors and allies of the mayor. Both are well-versed in the culture of the inner suburbs, a short SUV ride but a long philosophical trek from the latte-drenched Bixi-bikers of the core.

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Peter Milczyn and Charles Sousa. Photo from Milczyn’s Facebook page.

For the purposes of this election, however, there are key differences. At first glance, Milczyn looks to have the edge. Etobicoke-Lakeshore has—along with most other Toronto ridings—been relatively impervious to Tory encroachment in recent years. Liberal MPP Laurel Broten, whose recent resignation triggered the byelection, held the seat for a decade, winning a convincing 51 per cent of the vote back in 2010.

Milczyn is also a known quantity in the area, having first been elected to council in 2000 (he also served on Etobicoke city council for three years prior to amalgamation). And a recent poll gives him a slight 45 to 39 per cent edge over Holyday.

But the Grits chose such a strong candidate for a reason. This time around, Etobicoke-Lakeshore is no Liberal safe zone, where the party can acclaim some grinning mediocrity as a reward for years of tedious door-knocking. Nope, Etobicoke-Lakeshore is shaping up to be a genuine contest.

Doug Holyday has some key things going for him. As Deputy Mayor, he boasts a higher public profile than Milczyn’s. He’s also close to the Fords. If Mayor Rob Ford is the tantrum-prone id, and Doug Ford the ego trying to beat and bulldoze Rob’s whims into reality, Holyday may be the superego, working to civilize the impulses of the others and apply a veneer of critical thought to the process. Both brothers came out to support Holyday’s campaign earlier this week, a meaningful advantage in a part of the city where the mayor and his family remain popular.

The Etobicoke electorate likes Holyday, too. In 2010, he took his ward with a handy 71 per cent of the vote, while Milczyn barely squeaked into his seat, beating challenger Justin Di Ciano by just 109 votes.

Milczyn must also deal with the diminished credibility of the Ontario Liberals, their reputation tarnished by scandal and financial mismanagement, from eHealth, to Ornge, to the expensive and politically opportunistic cancellations of GTA power plants. And while former Premier Dalton McGuinty committed political seppuku last fall, it’s uncertain whether voters will be inclined to give his successor Kathleen Wynne the benefit of the doubt.

Will Etobicoke-Lakeshore stay red, or will the PCs get a much-coveted toehold in the GTA? With less than three weeks until the vote, victory may come down to which party organization is more successful at dragging their summer-addled supporters away from cottages and barbecues to mark an X on a ballot.