Election Results: The 20% Solution.

With no word from Alan Tonks about his stunning defeat, regular folks and political insiders are buzzing about Mike Sullivan’s upset victory in York South-Weston.  Sometimes statistics can provide an insight into what happened.

The voter turnout this time was 51% which is well below the average of around 61% for the country. In 2008 it was 50.4%. Why is our voter turnout so low? Who knows; maybe non-voters feel disconnected from the process or perhaps they feel that it doesn’t matter who wins. Either way, democracy is not well served when half of eligible voters decide that it is a waste of time to vote. The winning candidate won by a comfortable margin yet received 14,119 votes –  that’s only 20.4% of the riding’s 68,978 eligible voters. Think about it; 20% of voters decided the result.

Here are the vote counts and electorate percentages:

  • Mike Sullivan 14,119 …..20.4%
  • Alan Tonks 11,481 ……..16.7%
  • Jilian Saweczko 8530 …..12.4%
  • Sonny Day 1045 ………….1.5%

In municipal elections, voter turnout is even lower – only 40% bothered to vote in Ward 11 last time.

A determined candidate needed to marshal less than 20% of the vote this time—Mike Sullivan was that candidate. Without taking away from Mike Sullivan’s message and excellent campaign, this should be a warning to all politicians who feel that they own a safe seat. The fact is that where voter turnout is traditionally low, a candidate with credibility and determination can overcome even the most comfortable of incumbents.

Mike Sullivan wins upset victory

Mike Sullivan has won the York South–Weston riding.

Sullivan’s victory is a tremendous upset. His nearest opponent was the Liberal incumbent, Alan Tonks. In the 2008 election, Tonks bested Sullivan by almost 20%, and several analysts had thought Tonks would win again.

The buoyant NDP must have helped Mike Sullivan, but he fought a hard campaign starting long before the election was called. He has been an active and visible community member for several years, as the chair of the Clean Train Coalition and as an engaged citizen.

As of 11 pm, Sullivan has 41% of the vote; Tonks has 32%. Jilian Saweczko, Conservative, has 24%. Sonny Day, who ran for the Greens, pulled in only 3%.

Our Election Pick

On Monday, May 2, democracy is calling. Voters have a realistic choice between incumbent Alan Tonks (Liberal) and longtime resident Mike Sullivan (NDP).

Conservative candidate Jilian Saweczko has played a peek-a-boo campaign – if anyone has seen her please would you let us know?

The Green’s Sonny Day struck us as a true gentleman but is very inexperienced and will need some time to learn the ways of politics.

Let’s look at the two front runners:

Career politician Alan Tonks, has been the Liberal member for York South-Weston since 2000: half of that time as a government MP and half in opposition. In all that time, there has been no great achievement on which he can stake a claim. In fact, since 2000, York South-Weston has continued its steady decline. While his style is congenial and he is by all accounts well-liked in Ottawa, as has been pointed out in WestonWeb, Mr Tonks is the Liberal who voted with the Tories more than all but one of his colleagues. Tellingly, Mr Tonks no longer resides in his own riding.

Mike Sullivan has worked hard to bring improvements to Weston and was the NDP candidate in the 2008 election. For the past seven years he has worked to bring some transparency and accountability to the Air Rail Link project and has battled to make it an asset to Weston rather than a source of noise and disruption. As head of the grassroots Clean Train Coalition, he applied pressure (with some success) to electrify and/or cover the line so that Weston residents would not be subjected to the noise and pollution of diesel locomotives. It was through such activism that the Air Rail Link was pressured into stopping in Weston rather than barreling straight through. We need continued advocacy to ensure electrification now, not at some future date as well as minimizing disruption to residents. He is also working to bring jobs to the empty Kodak site.

Sullivan is intelligent, articulate and well-informed. As a Weston resident of two decades’ standing, he knows the issues.

We need a strong, knowledgeable, well-spoken advocate for Weston with a proven record of getting things done. Alan Tonks’ would be a great MP for Rosedale where everything is going swimmingly, but Weston is in dire straits and we need someone who can advocate with knowledge, passion, intelligence and forcefulness. The fact that Mike Sullivan is a long-time resident is another plus.

WestonWeb’s endorsement therefore goes to Mike Sullivan.

(Some) Candidates answer questions

InsideToronto has had more luck than WestonWeb in getting answers to questions from this ridings’ candidates. We sent a questionnaire to all the contenders for the federal election; only Mike Sullivan responded. InsideToronto was also able to get responses from Sonny Day (Greens) and Alan Tonks (Liberal).

Not even they could get a word out of Jilian Saweczko, the Conservative candidate, however.

Insidetoronto.com’s Q and A of the riding’s top contenders

York South—Weston riding up for grabs?

Brad Lavigne, a senior official for the NDP, told the Globe and Mail that the NDP might just take the York South—Weston riding.

YSW has been a Liberal stronghold for 30 years, except for a vanishingly small time when it elected John Nunziata, who ran as an independent, having been turfed from the Liberal caucus. In the last federal election, Alan Tonks won by a large margin.

This time, according to Lavigne, may be different. The Globe says,

He said [Michael Ignatieff’s poor attendance] is helping NDP fortunes in Toronto ridings, including York South–Weston, which has been represented by Liberal Alan Tonks since 2000.

Other, smaller, media disagree. MyTownCrier.ca says that Tonks is still a shoe-in.

Tory candidate can’t pinpoint ‘miscommunication’ that led to skipped debate

Jilian’s campaign office has looked into the reasons she missed the all-candidates debate. She had tweeted the correct location and time—but didn’t show up. She later claimed that she had been told it was cancelled or postponed.

I asked Saweczko’s office whether she had been the victim of dirty tricks, whether she was ducking the debates on orders from up high, or whether it was an honest mistake. I received the following reply from Cheryl Rankin, who works for Saweczko’s campaign:

I have asked around Jilian Saweczko’s office and I can not confirm who called in with the messages on the debate day or if it was two messages from the same debate (the one rescheduled) or what.

All I can say is that is was miscommunication somewhere along the line.

Thank you for your concern we all appreciate that,


Fool me once…

Google the phrase ‘Conservative candidates missing from debates 2011’ and you will find a veritable treasure trove of Tory candidates skipping out on debates. Here in York South Weston, Conservative candidate Jilian Saweczko, running against Sonny Day, Mike Sullivan and Alan Tonks has missed the two held so far. Either this is a brazen contempt for voters or an attempt to hide an embarrassing ineptitude at public speaking – neither of which is the hallmark of a suitable candidate.

Perhaps Conservative candidates are taking a page from the playbook of Julian Fantino who, despite a similar absence from all debates, managed to squeak into first place in a by-election held in Vaughan last year. This year, he continues to absent himself hoping to repeat his good fortune.

These two are not alone. All over the country, a disturbing number of Conservative candidates are unwilling to face the people and answer questions. In the end, it is up to voters to judge the meaning of all this but as the old saying goes; Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.