Not One Seat announces first wave of Unity candidates
Today, Not One Seat takes the next step in our campaign to #UniteTheVote behind candidates in key Toronto ridings who are best positioned to defeat Ford's PCs.
With two weeks left in the campaign, a lot can still happen. That's why we're taking a phased approach to our endorsements. We've categorized ridings into three types:
Ridings where our model predicts a vanishingly low chance of a PC win, we have categorized as "low risk". In these ridings, we will not be making an official endorsement. For those who still want to play it safe, you are likely best served by voting for your incumbent in those ridings - but regardless of your choice, we feel that your ridings are extremely unlikely to see a PC win. We will be identifying our low risk ridings in another post shortly.
Ridings where our model predicts a very clear two-way race between the PCs and one other candidate are categorized as priority endorsements. These are ridings where, looking at historical trends, past election results, ongoing polling data, and local campaign strength, we feel confident that regardless of how the rest of the race shapes up, our strategic endorsement is clear right now. These endorsements have been made today and will be posted below.
Ridings where our model predicts a tight three way race, or where dynamics are still very much in flux, are in a category of their own. In these ridings, we are doing our best to wait until we have sufficient data to feel confident making a prediction. Crucially, that does NOT just mean polling data - we know that polling aggregators use a variety of models to extrapolate their riding-level predictions and that means there's a wide margin of error on those local predictions. That's why our model incorporates more qualitative information as well. A lot can happen in the last two weeks, and we will hold off as long as necessary to make a call in these ridings. We know there's a tradeoff here - the sooner we endorse, the sooner we can start supporting a candidate, and we are trying to endorse as quickly as possible. But we also don't want to make a call too early and get caught flat-footed by late-breaking campaign changes.
Our model takes into consideration past election results and trends; current polling aggregates and, where available, local riding polling; candidate resume and connection to the riding; campaign strength as measured through fundraising, volunteers, data, and reach; and our own data, gathered through our organizing efforts.
We've been clear from the start that there are real differences between the opposition parties, and those voters for whom those differences are the top priority should continue to vote for the party of their choice.
But our campaign has always been geared towards those who agree with our assessment: that the fierce urgency of this moment, and the tremendous risk to our collective future posed by an incompetent and ideologically rigid PC government, make stopping Ford the top priority in our vote consideration.
With that in mind: we are proud to introduce our first round of Unity candidates!
Eglinton-Lawrence: Arlena Hebert (Liberal)
Eglinton-Lawrence is a long-time Liberal stronghold. Even with the collapsed Liberal vote in 2018, the Liberals were still the clear second-place contender and came just 1.5% short of defeating the PC. Current polling data shows a tight race between the PC and the Liberal in this riding, making this a key riding to deny Ford one of the seats he needs. And we are impressed with Hebert's experience and connection to the riding where she has made her home for 25 years.
Scarborough Southwest: Doly Begum (NDP)
Ford's PCs won four seats in Scarborough in 2018, a cornerstone of his majority. But in Scarborough Southwest, they fell well short - thanks largely to the energetic campaigning of Doly Begum, who has strong connections to the community and takes a movement-building approach to her work. She's spent the last four years building her profile in the riding and forging deep roots. Current polling shows a challenging three-way race in this riding - but part of the strength of our model is the incorporation of harder to measure, riding-specific data that province-wide poll extrapolations will never capture. Simply put, Doly Begum is running one of the most impressive field operations in the province, mobilizing a tremendous grassroots surge to turn out votes for her. It was this remarkable campaign strength, built in part on the back of a strong four year incumbency, that decided us for Doly, who is not only experienced as an MPP but also has long been a fierce and effective advocate for public ownership and people-centered politics.
Willowdale: Paul Saguil (Liberal)
Willowdale has historically been a safe Liberal seat. Taken by the PCs in 2018 thanks to an almost 50/50 split of the opposition vote, recent polling has shown a strong reversion to the mean, and we are now seeing a very tight race between the Liberal and PC candidates, with the PC in a narrow lead. This is the kind of riding where even a few hundred strategic vote flips can make a difference - and a significant percentage of our Unity pledge signers have indicated that they are New Democrat leaners who are willing to make that flip. It wouldn't take much for us to make up that difference, and that's why we're uniting the vote in Willowdale behind Paul Saguil, a fighter for equality and human rights with deep roots to his community through his volunteer work with the Equity Advisory Group, the 519, the Ontario Bar Association, and Start Proud.
Don Valley North: Jonathan Tsao (Liberal)
In 2018, Don Valley North went PC, with the Liberal candidate coming in second. Since then, all polling has shown a very tight race between the PC and Liberal candidates - and Jonathan, a former City Councillor for the region, is equipped to take the race over the finish line. This one is going to be a very tight race, and may be decided by just a handful of votes - making it an ideal location to unite the vote. Our pledge signers in this riding run the gamut of partisan preferences, but all are ready to unite behind Jonathan to take one more seat away from Ford.
Etobicoke Centre: Noel Semple (Liberal)
Etobicoke Centre is another riding that has traditionally been a Liberal stronghold. In 2018, the riding fell to the PCs, with the Liberals not too far behind in second. All our current data show this as an extremely tight race between the PCs and Liberals, where the margin may well come down to just a few hundred votes. Given the history of the riding, the fact that even in the Liberal collapse of 2018 they still retained most of their vote share here, and the strength of the Grits campaign operation here, we've selected Noel Semple, an award winning instructor and author who serves his community on the board of the South Etobicoke Legal Services clinic and through his research on improving access to justice.
We know that up until know, we've been able to find a lot of unity by keeping focused on Ford's failures and the need to defeat him - and that now that we're making our endorsements, we're going to start to upset some people. So we want to address a few things we expect we'll hear over the next two weeks.
There are plenty of people who will tell you that strategic voting sucks and you should vote for who you want to win. We agree: strategic voting sucks. We wish we didn't have to run this campaign at all. Every volunteer with Not One Seat has their own partisan and policy preferences that we'd all rather be supporting directly. But the fact is, our "first past the post" electoral system distorts our political options. When you have one party that is so out of touch, led by someone so incompetent, in the middle of multiple intersecting crises, a campaign like this starts to feel necessary. That is a failing of our current system, and we hope that our next government addresses it once and for all through electoral reform. Until then, it is perfectly reasonable to prioritize defeating the party of climate deniers, incompetent grifters, public service dismantlers, and far-right anti-abortion zealots.
Partisans whose candidates are not endorsed are sure to be upset at our decisions. We understand that, and we don't blame them. Politics is built on tough decisions. We want candidates who do not get our endorsement to know that we appreciate all of the non-PC campaigns, and feel they all have valuable messages. We wish that the parties could find some way to work together collaboratively, as there is so much more that unites us than divides us. Please do keep campaigning and please do keep sharing your message; it matters. In addition, please remember that Not One Seat is 100% volunteer-led. When you engage with our volunteers on social media, out canvassing, at events, or anywhere else, you're talking to human beings just like you. We do not collect big campaign pay cheques, we do not have professional training as political operatives. Your anger is valid, but please direct it where it belongs: a flawed voting system, and the Conservative party leveraging it for their advantage. Do not take it out on our volunteers.
People may have different ways of analyzing campaigns and ridings to come up with their own assessment, and we expect some folks to tell us we made the wrong calls. In addition, both the Liberals and New Democrats have made their own versions of strategic voting arguments - so we know there are lots of ways to assess this problem! We've always been clear that we know we aren't perfect; we may indeed get it wrong. As the saying goes, predictions are hard - especially about the future. That's why we have done everything we can to be fully transparent about our model, to incorporate as much data as we can, as objectively as we can, to make the best call that we can. And because a lot can happen in two weeks, we've taken a graduated approach that allows us to make late-breaking calls in ridings where things are too in flux for an early call.
We've already heard it before, and we're sure to hear it again, so let's be clear: no, we are not secret Liberals, and no, we are not secret New Democrats, and no, we are not secret Conservatives trying to cause confusion. We are exactly who we've always said we are: everyday Ontarians deeply concerned about Ford's incompetent and ideologically rigid government, organizing to overcome the challenges of our flawed voting system. We can't control whether you believe us, of course - but we can share our methods and our reasoning and be as transparent as possible in our approach so you can judge for yourself.
Finally, we get asked a lot about resources to help people make similar decisions in ridings outside Toronto. We have been pointing people towards StopTheSplit, which uses data from 338Canada.com to make assessments, or VoteWell.ca, which uses Calculated Politics data to make its calls. The Toronto Star also provides something called "The Signal", which aggregates polls and models riding level predictions as well. Not One Seat is not involved in the creation of these websites and is not responsible for the accuracy of their predictions.
Our next step will be to notify our unity pledge voters in endorsed ridings so they know how to cast their ballots, and to continue mobilizing in our other at-risk ridings to keep growing our Unity pledge signers. We'll also begin high-engagement outreach regarding our endorsed candidates to voters in their ridings.
We'll be watching the campaigns unfold over the next two weeks and make final calls in the remaining target ridings.
Every time you see a headline about Doug Ford's "strong lead" and "majority government", remember that these are being generated with barely more than a third of the electorate supporting his PCs. The problem is not that Ford is wildly popular; the problem is that our electoral system pits three parties against each other who are chasing the left-leaning vote of the vast majority of Ontario's population, sharing not only policy priorities but even, in many cases, policy prescriptions. Our efforts to Unite The Vote are, for now, one attempt to solve that problem and spare us from four more years of backsliding on climate, faltering denialism around COVID care, bumbling chaotic policy lurch, and outright grift. A Ford majority is not inevitable. We can hold him to a minority and deliver the change Ontario deserves. Stay strong, keep organizing, and remember: there is so much more that unites us than divides us.