Liberal Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty expressed greetings to mark the celebration of Ramadan at the International Muslims Organization of Toronto, August 3, 2012.
Credits: Stan Behal/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- Critical by-election races are heating up to replace two veteran MPPs who've quit recently.
Former Liberal finance minister Greg Sorbara resigned his Vaughan seat two weeks ago, and in a bombshell announcement in April, long-time Tory stalwart Elizabeth
Witmer left to become head of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
The fortunes of two leaders are tied to the votes.
If PC leader Tim Hudak can't hold on to Kitchener-Waterloo, there'll be pressure within the party for him to move on.
For Dalton McGuinty, either a riding loss or gain will mean he can finally call it quits and move on -- making way for a leadership contest that couldn't happen in the present minority situation.
In a majority situation, voters often use byelections as a way to register disapproval with the government -- without changing the status quo.
In a minority situation, however, the voters of Vaughan and K-W have an opportunity to make a seismic shift in the political landscape when they go to the polls on Sept. 6.
McGuinty's "major minority" could blossom into a minor majority. Or, if the Tories sweep the two ridings, his government could evaporate entirely.
Add to the volatile mix a high-profile candidate the NDP has attracted to run in K-W.
Catherine Fife, 43, is chair of the Waterloo Regional School Board, and resigned as head of the Ontario Public School Boards Association and the Canadian School Boards Association to run.
She first ran in 2007, and while this isn't a traditional NDP riding, she could pick up support from the "pox on both their houses" voters.
"This election has a different feel to it," she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The $190 million the Libs spent to cancel a power plant during last year's election and the Ornge Air Ambulance scandal are creating waves.
"The anger at the door is visceral. You're dealing with very frustrated voters," she said.
"People ... want answers, and they didn't get the answers through the Ornge process. There were more questions at the end of that inquiry than there were answers," she said.
In a riding where troubled Research In Motion is a major employer, the economy dominates, Fife says.
Carrying the Tory banner is businesswoman Tracey Weiler, 38.
"People have really started to understand that with McGuinty we've had nine years now of failed economic and fiscal policies and are relating that now to where we are today, the fiscal mess that the province is in," she said.
Voters are finding Hudak's plan to freeze civil service pay and balance the budget "refreshing," she said.
Lawyer Eric Davis, 33, is running for the Liberals.
He says voters approve of the government's support for health care and education.
"We're the only party with a plan to protect the gains we've made in health care and education while making sure our budget is balanced by 2017-2018," he said.
As for the current showdown with teachers' unions, Davis says the government is on the right track.
"Tim Hudak would destabilize our educational system, whereas the NDP is running to the hills on the issue and not willing to address the fiscal realities that we are currently facing."
Liberals showed in the last two elections they'll stop at nothing to win: Cancel a power plant? Boom, it's gone. You want a new holiday? Take Family Day off.
You can bet they'll start rolling out the expensive goodies sometime soon.
They don't call it a "buy"-election for nothing.
This time, though, I'm not sure voters are in the mood to be bought.