Rarely does so much ride on one seat. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But each of Ontario's three major parties have something to prove, and something to lose, when voters in the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo go to the polls later this fall.
On the one hand, the Liberals are one seat away from a majority. With it, Premier Dalton McGuinty buys himself three years of not having to negotiate with the opposition, Tim Hudak's Conservatives keep a seat currently sitting in their column and stick it to McGuinty as the heir apparent, and Andrea Horwath's NDP gets to add fuel to that orange crush that's sweeping the nation. But what do the odds look like for any of these contenders?
The Liberals, for one, seem to be taking a rather relaxed approach. What makes me say that? They're not even choosing their candidate for another week. The three nominees are lawyer Eric Davis, Waterloo Region Police Officer Raj Sharma, and Waterloo City Councillor Karen Scian. Any of these three would be very safe choices for the post, none are likely to rock the boat too much. There is some speculation that the Liberals might parachute someone in with a little more star-power, but party strategists might be hesitant lest their chances aren't as good as they hope.
For the Conservatives there's Tracey Weiler, a business consultant and MBA instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University. Weiler's credentials sell the party line of putting money matters ahead of all other considerations, and that the Tories are superior economic stewards to all others. Like the Liberal nominees, Weiler is a safe choice for PCs and she has plenty of cache with both the business world and the greater community of K-W.
The NDP have also chosen safety first with Catherine Fife, chair of the Waterloo Region School Board and president of the Ontario Public School Board Association. With a potential showdown brewing between teachers and McGuinty, Fife could be a potent voice for the former considering the spotlight that will surely be cast on K-W once the writ is actually dropped.
As for who holds the most cards going into the election, it depends on the answer to this simple question: were the people of the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo dedicated Elizabeth Witmer supporters for all these years, or dedicated PC supporters? Considering that the people of this riding, both provincially and federally, have shown deference to candidates of both Liberal and Conservative parties, it may come down to the mood of the people.
Two polls from this past May, a Forum poll and a Nanos poll, suggest a pretty close race. In the Forum poll, the PCs lead with 34 per cent, followed by the NDP with 31 per cent and the Liberals trailing in third with 28 per cent. For Nanos, the whole thing was flipped with the Liberals leading by 35 per cent, followed by the Tories at 32 and the NDP at 27. The Nanos poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent, so it's literally and statistically a three-way tie. Anyone's race.
It's also worth remembering that the writ hasn't even officially dropped for Kitchener-Waterloo yet. McGuinty has till the first week of October, but if I were a betting man, he will probably announce sometime after Labour Day.
Another reason to get political this fall.