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Federal by-elections: Toronto Centre contest a two-horse race, experts say

TORONTO – Though there are four candidates in the closely-watched Toronto Centre by-election, it has become a two-horse race, political experts say.

Toronto Centre — one of four federal by-elections Monday — is Bob Rae’s former riding and a longtime Liberal stronghold.

The race is focused on Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland and NDP candidate Linda McQuaig.

Dennis Pilon, an associate political science professor at York University, says he thinks this is an important race.

“Not so much for the government but for the opposition and who is going to be the key opposition party that can challenge the government in the next election and I think it’s up for grabs,” he said.

And that is despite the fact the Liberals won last time.

“It’s been tipping New Democrats quite some time. Let’s not forget that Bob Rae himself was a former New Democrat so he was the kind of Liberal that could win the seat,” Pilon said.

The Toronto Centre riding has been Liberal for a decade.

“By-elections typically are are no longer barometers of national opinion but I think this is an important by-election and it’s one worth watching closely,” said Peter Loewen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

He says Justin Trudeau’s handpicked candidate Freeland is expected by many to beat McQuaig.

“If [McQuaig] is able to beat her, it says a lot about [Trudeau’s] lasting electoral appeal.”

“It also says quite a bit about the strength of the NDP.”