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Tories ousted from 8 Toronto ridings

From Friday's Globe and Mail

Toronto — The Progressive Conservatives lost all eight of their ridings in Toronto, as the Liberals easily swept up almost every seat available here last night.

And for the first time since 1995, the country's largest city is set to have significant political clout in caucus — and possibly cabinet — at Queen's Park.

Toronto is home to 22 ridings or about one-quarter of the 103 provincial seats. The New Democratic Party kept all three of the seats they held in the city before the election.

"I'm still kind of feeling numb," said Mary Anne Chambers, who defeated Conservative incumbent Steve Gilchrist in the riding of Scarborough East.

"I kept hearing this would happen when I was at the doors, but I never took anything for granted . . . I still can't believe this is happening," the political newcomer and former senior-vice president of Scotiabank said as she headed to her victory party at a Scarborough restaurant.

One of the strongest Tory incumbents to fall was Municipal Affairs Minister David Young in the north Toronto riding of Willowdale. Mr. Young, who had been touted as a possible future party leader, was defeated by David Zimmer, chairman of the Toronto Community Housing Corp., in a tight race that was dubbed The Battle of the Davids.

Two former Toronto school board trustees, Donna Cansfield and Kathleen Wynne, also won new ridings for the Liberal Party.

Ms. Cansfield handily captured Etobicoke Centre, which was formerly a Tory stronghold. However, when Chris Stockwell resigned this summer after an expense scandal surfaced, the riding became a wide open race.

Many local politicians, including the leading mayoral candidates, are hoping the Liberal sweep in Toronto will usher in a new era of better relations between the country's largest city and Queen's Park.

Since the Tories took power in 1995, relations have been acrimonious as the city bitterly complained the province was downloading too many services and responsibilities on them.

Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman didn't win the city any favours by saying that everything former premier Mike Harris touched turned to "crap."

During the election campaign, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty promised to forge a new relationship with municipalities and also dedicate two cents of the existing provincial gasoline tax to transit if he won the election.

Mr. McGuinty also said he'd establish a Greater Toronto transit authority to integrate the city's transit system with those in outlining areas.

"Hopefully, those newly elected members of provincial parliament understand the city's needs and are willing to fight for and put the city's agenda on their agenda," Toronto's deputy mayor, Case Ootes, said last night. "I'm sure the new government recognizes that this city is the economic engine of the province."

He said the Liberals' promise to give the city a portion of the gas tax is an "olive branch" and a "good start" but the city will require significant investments, especially for its cash-strapped transit system, which has crumbled under Tory government.

Two of the new Liberal MPPs, Brad Duguid and Lorenzo Berardinetti, are also former city councillors, which excites many municipal politicians who expect an urban agenda to be high on the Liberals' priority list.

And not only will an almost full slate of Liberal Toronto MPPS be sitting in the legislature, it is widely believed at least six of them could be given cabinet positions.

Many political observers expect George Smitherman, Gerard Kennedy, David Caplan, Mike Colle, Michael Bryant and Gerry Phillips to be brought into the Liberals' new inner political circle.

Ms. Chambers is rumoured to be tapped for a junior cabinet post.

"I will be happy to serve in any way possible," she said.

While the NDP managed to hang on to all three of the ridings they held in Toronto before the election, Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina) was given a real challenge by former school trustee, Nellie Pedro.

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