When Conservative candidate Andrew Keyes knocks on doors in Toronto-Danforth, he usually gets one of two reactions: residents are generally either open-minded and receptive to his message, or largely unwelcoming.
“I do get the occasional enthusiastic dissenter, but in general it’s been respectful … A lot of people have suggested I’m brave for going around in this riding,” he said.
It’s not terribly surprising in a riding with a markedly progressive history. Late NDP leader Jack Layton held the federal riding for eight years, and prior to that, it was a Liberal stronghold for 16 years. A Conservative candidate has never been elected in Toronto-Danforth.
But Keyes said he’s not discouraged by the riding’s history. He believes the Conservative Party of Canada’s platform is shaped to appeal to all Canadians.
“Our message is fairly simple. We want to build on a strong economic foundation so that our future generations have the services they need and we’re able to support them,” Keyes said. “Those are basic values that basically every Canadian can relate to and I don’t see why they wouldn’t resonate here in Toronto-Danforth as well.”
He said in his time canvassing the riding, it would appear that residents from all political stripes are concerned about their financial situation.
“Primarily what we’re hearing at the door are economic issues,” Keyes said. “People are concerned about their jobs, when I speak to young people that are recent graduates perhaps, they’re looking at ensuring there’s adequate employment for them.
“Even when I talk to new immigrants, often it’s about either them or their children, that they’ll be able to get decent jobs,” he added.
One roadblock Keyes has faced is a hesitation from residents who support him to accept his lawn signs because they fear a backlash from neighbours.
“Getting people to accept lawn signs has been a little bit difficult,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of getting the word out and getting people to realize that there are a lot of other Conservatives here as well.”
When asked how he feels about the NDP buying subway platform ads and the Liberal party purchasing billboards in the riding featuring a prominent Bob Rae, he noted that while his competitors may have more on-the-ground support, they also have a lot more to lose.
“I think both parties have a fair amount riding on this one,” he said. “Without sounding defeatist, I feel quite comfortable that we really don’t have much to lose here.”
He said the federal party does not see him as a lame duck candidate and has offered their full support.
“We’ve been basically told that we can have what we need if we need it,” he said. “We’re trying to run this campaign as efficiently as possible.”
He said in addition to financial support, the party has provided training to him and his team.
While Keyes currently lives outside the riding, he has deep roots in Toronto-Danforth. He was born at Toronto East General Hospital and his son and daughter attended nearby R.H. McGregor Elementary School.
He currently has a condo being built in Leslieville and says he intends on living in the riding.
Keyes unsuccessfully tried to secure the candidacy for the Conservative party in Oak Ridges-Markham in 2007.
He graduated from the Film and Photography program at Ryerson University in 1984. He works as a communications consultant. His company, Armantus Inc., has developed websites for several organizations including the Government of Ontario, Grocery Gateway and Pattison Outdoor Advertising.
He said he’s excited to deliver a fresh message to the residents of Toronto-Danforth and hopes they’ll send him to Ottawa as their representative.
“There’s no question that Jack (Layton) was a popular figure here, and his name does come up from time to time, but people are really looking at moving on, “ he said. “It’s time to decide on a new representative.”