NEWS April 5th, 2008

By Claudia Cautillo

One will make trip to Ottawa

Residents of Willowdale will soon be going to the polls, but political pundits are wondering if it will be for a byelection or a general election.

Constituents are scheduled to vote on March 17 for federal MP Jim Peterson’s replacement, as he stepped down in July.

But a general election is being predicted for as early as April depending on the actions of the Opposition parties in Ottawa.

“I have a feeling that the Liberals — if they’re going to bring the government down — would rather do it on the budget than they would on Afghanistan,” Arthur Ross, a political science professor at Ryerson University, said. “Either way, I suspect by early March there could well be a vote of confidence and a call for an election.”

Whether the election takes place as scheduled in March, or as part of a general election in the spring, pundits are expecting an easy victory for Liberal candidate Martha Hall Findlay.

“It is unlikely that Dion would have assigned such a high profile candidate to a riding that he did not expect her to carry handsomely,” University of Toronto political professor Akaash Maharaj said.

Hall Findlay, who was the only woman who ran in the 2006 Liberal leadership race, is running against Maureen Harquail of the Conservatives, Rini Ghosh of the New Democratic Party and the Green Party’s Lou Carcasole.

Political scientists watching the race say voters are concerned about Canada’s role in Afghanistan, climate change, the economy, the budget, the proposed crime bill and particularly Ottawa’s relationship with Toronto.

“Stephen Harper has ignored Toronto for the most part,” Ross said. “He has basically said that municipal issues are not his responsibility, and that I suspect will make it very difficult for a Conservative candidate to claim that she can be an effective representative.”

Willowdale councillor David Shiner is throwing his support behind Harquail, calling her dedicated and hard working, while Councillor John Filion is backing Findlay, saying she is an “up and coming national leader.”

Both councillors hope the election will highlight the need for federal funding for municipalities.

“Toronto has to get out of this financial bind we’re in,” Filion said. “We have to be properly funded so that we can provide proper services to the public without looking at new taxes all the time.”