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FEATURE The riding of Oshawa

How time flies by.

It seems like only yesterday residents of Oshawa were readying themselves for a historic provincial election that saw the end of a 15-year reign of power by the Ontario Liberal Party.

A few short months later, the public hit the polls again for the 2018 municipal election which saw a new regional chair, a new mayor and seven new city councillors in Oshawa.

As the calendar has flipped over to May, we are now only six months away from perhaps one of the most anticipated federal elections in Canada’s history.

Voters of all political stripes have the date Oct. 21, 2019 marked on their calendar, as that is the day Canada’s 43rd federal election is scheduled, although it could conceivably happen before that.

The road to the election is just beginning, as Conservative MP Colin Carrie is the only official candidate in the Oshawa riding, as of publication.

In the Durham riding, which encompasses parts of north Oshawa, incumbent Conservative MP Erin O’Toole has formally announced his intentions to reclaim his seat in Parliament, while Evan Price has been nominated for the Green Party. William Spotton also recently announced his intentions to seek the Liberal candidacy in the Durham riding.

While October may seem a ways away, it will be sooner than later before political ads start popping up, and those familiar signs begin to span across the city.



Throughout the years, the Oshawa riding has seen a number of changes.

First established in 1966 out of the former Ontario riding, it initially included the City of Oshawa, Town of Whitby, and parts of the Township of Whitby, which included the communities of Brooklyn, Ashburn and Myrtle.

The name of the riding was changed to Oshawa-Whitby in 1967.

In 1976, the Oshawa-Whitby riding was abolished and the boundaries changed again, consisting of the City of Oshawa.

Further changes were made over the years – in 1996, portions of the city were once again incorporated into a riding that included parts of Oshawa and Whitby.

In 2012, the riding was updated again, gaining portions of the city from the Whitby-Oshawa riding, and losing some to the Durham riding.



For the first quarter century the riding existed, it was a stronghold for the federal New Democratic Party under Ed Broadbent. However, the first two terms under Broadbent were far from dominant victories.

In 1968, the Oshawa-Whitby riding saw one of the closest races in Canadian political history, as Broadbent defeated incumbent Conservative MP Michael Starr by a mere 15 votes.

As noted in a previous edition of the Fourth Estate, Starr was said to have taken this loss with much difficulty.

Amazingly, Liberal Desmond G. Newman finished only 325 votes behind Broadbent as well.

Only four years later, Broadbent and Starr went to battle again.

While not as tight as 1968, it was once again a close race with Broadbent winning by 824 votes.

Broadbent would handily win the next three elections in 1974, 1979 and 1980, never finishing with less than 48.7 per cent of the vote.

The long-time federal NDP leader was able to hold onto his seat in 1984 as Brian Mulroney and the Conservatives won the largest landslide majority in the history of Canada.

However, PC candidate Alex Sosna gained 38.8 per cent of the vote, the party’s best performance in the riding since Starr in 1972.

Broadbent would win again in 1988, but would resign just over a year later on Jan. 2, 1990.

The federal NDP would replicate the success it enjoyed under Broadbent until Jack Layton became leader in 2003.

Michael Breaugh would take over the seat in a byelection on Aug. 13, 1990, winning with 47.6 per cent of the vote over Cathy O’Flynn (34.4 per cent).

This byelection is notable as Progressive Conservative candidate Bill Longworth gained only 6.4 per cent of the vote, the lowest ever for the party, and just 1.2 per cent higher than Christian Heritage candidate Gerry Van Schepen.

Breaugh would serve for just over three years before losing his seat to Liberal Ivan Grose in 1993.

Earning 14.9 per cent of the votes in the riding, Breaugh’s performance represented the end of the NDP’s dominance of federal politics in Oshawa.


The winds of change

As Jean Chrétien and his Liberal Party ended the decade-long dominance of the Mulroney Conservatives in the 1993 election, the 65-year-old Grose became a Member of Parliament in his first kick at the political can, the first Liberal federal representative in 47 years.

He won the seat with 38.3 per cent of the vote, finishing ahead of Reform candidate Andrew Davies (28.9 per cent), Progressive Conservative Linda Dionne (15.1 per cent) and incumbent Breaugh, who’s support plummeted by nearly 33 per cent.

Grose would successfully reclaim his seat in both the 1997 and 2000 elections, with 37.7 per cent and 42.9 per cent of the votes respectively.

Behind the scenes, the Liberal Party was rocked by infighting between supporters of both   Chrétien and Paul Martin.

When Martin became party leader in 2003, it was eventually announced the incumbent Members of Parliament were not guaranteed nominations in their ridings.

This was true for Grose as well as he was challenged by Louise Parkes, a city councillor and deputy mayor at the time.

Parkes would win the nomination.


A “right” turn

The 2004 election is rivaled only by 1968 as the closest race in the history of the riding.

Former director of the Oshawa Progressive Conservative Party Association, Colin Carrie took the seat over NDP candidate and former Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan by a mere 463 votes, and third place runner Parkes by 1,305 per cent.

After a no confidence motion passed by the House of Commons in November 2005, Carrie, Ryan and Parkes went through another tight race in the 2006 election, with Carrie emerging victorious again with 38.6 per cent of the vote, besting Ryan, who gained 33.46 per cent, by 2,752 votes.

Parkes, while fairing as strongly as 2004, still finished with 23.98 per cent of the vote.

As Canadians went to the polls for the third time in four years in 2008, Carrie won his third straight election with 41.36 per cent of the vote, beating NDP candidate Mike Shields by 2,301 votes.

Liberal candidate Sean Godfrey finished with 16.04 per cent of the vote, the worst showing for the party in Oshawa in two decades – in 2011.

That election was historically bad for the Liberal Party, with candidate James Morton gaining a mere 6.97 per cent of the vote.

Carrie on the other hand enjoyed his best election performance of his political career, earning 51.3 per cent of the vote.

Despite Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party sweeping into a majority government with 184 seats, Carrie continued his stronghold on the Oshawa riding, taking 38.17 per cent of the vote, topping NDP candidate Mary Fowler (31.87 per cent) and Liberal candidate (now city and regional councillor) Tito-Dante Marimpietri (27.33 per cent).



Outside of the three major federal parties (Conservative, Liberal and NDP), the riding has also seen candidates as numerous “fringe” parties and independents.

In 2008, Green candidate Pat Gostlin earned 3,374 votes, representing 6.99 per cent of the total vote, the best performance for that party.

The candidate who has received the least votes is Marxist-Leninist Steve Rutchinski, who had only 29 X’s put beside his name in the 1980 election.


The campaign trail

In an online survey of 1,522 respondents conducted between April 18 and April 22 by Leger, 40 per cent of those surveyed said they would be voting for the Conservative Party, 13 points ahead of the governing Liberal Party.

Twelve per cent of respondents supported the NDP, only one per cent ahead of the Green Party.

Although polls should always been taken with a grain of salt, it appears there may be change across the country, but Carrie appears to be a near lock to win his sixth straight term of office.