Vandana Pawar smiled politely outside her home as the Progressive Conservative candidate in her Brampton-Springdale riding pitched her party platform to secure the family’s votes just two days before the provincial election.
After her husband promised their support for Pam Hundal, Ms. Pawar waited for the candidate to leave before expressing her disagreement with party leader Tim Hudak’s platform, saying: “I’m not going to vote PC.”
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Their household isn’t the only place in Ontario where the Liberals and PCs are in a dead heat.
Brampton-Springdale, Liberal since 2003, is a microcosm of the race playing out across the province: In this riding, support for the Liberals is in jeopardy, with the Progressive Conservatives missing their chance to take the seat by 3,000 votes in 2011. The New Democrats received only about 15 per cent of the votes that year.
Candidates from each of the three major parties are working nearly 12-hour days, targeting homes and businesses to gather as much support as possible.
“We’re going to knock on every door on election day that we’ve IDed as our supporter and we’re going to make sure they get out and vote,” Ms. Hundal said.
NDP candidate Gurpreet Dhillon feels this time will be different for his party.
“We feel like we have a lot of momentum going on,” he said. “People are sick of corruption and the failures of the Liberals.”
The tall business analyst and father of two, sporting a pink turban and running shoes, jogged from house to house in a quiet neighbourhood as volunteers knocked on doors, checking who’s home to speak to the candidate.
Mrs. Pawar said it’s worth giving the NDP a chance at improving auto insurance rates and dropping emergency-room waiting times in Brampton.
“I was not really happy with the Liberals, with what they did with the gas plants,” she said. “NDP, I have heard good and bad things, but they haven’t [won] in our area so we don’t know how good it will do. I’m willing to try it out.”
But the union representing Canadian health-care workers is urging members to vote for the Liberals. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare opposes Mr. Hudak’s platform to downsize government, fearing job cuts and decreased wages affecting its members.
The union has endorsed candidates in each riding who are most likely to beat PC candidates, based on polls of its own members.
In Brampton-Springdale, where SEIU says it has a lot of members, about half a dozen joined Liberal candidate Harinder Malhi as she went door to door collecting support.
“Gurpreet is a great ally as well,” union president Sharleen Stewart said, “but it’s about stopping a big attack and a big threat.”
Ms. Stewart said she’s concerned NDP supporters will pull votes away from the Liberals, handing the riding to the PCs, something Ms. Malhi refused to address.
“We have been focused on our own campaign the whole time,” she said. “We’re going to continue to rally our supporters. We have the support in this riding.”
About 19 per cent of Brampton-Sprindale’s population is made up of Indian immigrants, and candidates for each of the three major parties are of South Asian descent, switching effortlessly from English to Punjabi to sell themselves to voters at the door.
But the riding had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the province in 2011, 41 per cent, making it a challenge to translate support at the door into action come election day.
Ms. Hundal, for her part, chatted for a long time in Punjabi with Amarjit Bola, trying to persuade the Brampton resident to cast her vote.
Ms. Bola said she wasn’t keeping up with the election but seriously considered voting for Ms. Hundal simply because the candidate had shown up at her door, and she would feel comfortable approaching her again for help once she was in office.
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