Thursday, May 5, 2011

The 2011 Colours of the Ridings: Toronto

So in the lead-up to the election, I played with an idea of looking at election returns in primarily tripartisan Conservative-Liberal-NDP ridings and, by converting voting percentages to hexadecimal RGB values, come up with a unique 'colour' for each riding. RGB means 'red, green and blue', and since the Liberals and the Conservatives happen to use those very colours, I had to rebrand the NDP green in colour, and then we're off.

A riding, then, that voted very strongly for one party would find its 'colour' very close to that party's colour, while a party that split pretty evenly between, say, the Liberals and the Conservatives would be a deep purple. A three-way race, by comparison, would be a grey colour.

Colourwise, here's what Toronto looks like as of May 2. A click will make this bigger.

The first thing one notices is how 'green' (i.e. orange) downtown Toronto suddenly is. This is not only because seven of the eight NDP ridings in Toronto are side-by-side in the heart of the city (save the ex-NDP Bob Rae's Toronto Centre) but also because those ridings tended to have more decisive victories: of 23 Toronto ridings, only three returned their MPs with over 50% of the vote, and all three were NDP (Davenport's Andrew Cash is the only Toronto MP elected with a majority not to be moving into Stornoway, unless Jack and Olivia are letting him bunk). Outside of the NDP, the Liberal elected with the strongest mandate was York West's Judy Sgro with 47.0% of the vote, and the Conservative with the strongest mandate was her neighbouring riding of York Centre, where Mark Adler upset Ken Dryden with 48.5% of the vote.

Other than that, there's a lot of wishy-washiness here. The three neighbouring ridings of Scarborough Centre, Scarborough Southwest and Scarborough-Guildwood all look the very same colour, and indeed in none of the three was the difference in percent between the winner and the third-place finisher greater than ten percent. Yet all three returned an MP from a different party - a wonderfully accidental example of proportional representation.

While Scarborough and 'Old Toronto'are different shades than they used to be, Etobicoke and North York are still reliably the purple of classic Toronto Liberal-Conservative contests, whichever of the two came out on top. In fact, the rumours of the death of the Liberal party in Toronto are greatly exaggerated: even if they lost 15 of the 21 seats they used to hold in the 416, the third-place finishing Liberals came third in only two ridings in the city - the two NDP seats in Scarborough. Otherwise, all nine Conservative ridings featured Liberals in second and NDP in third, while all six Old Toronto NDP ridings featured the Conservatives in (a sometimes-distant) third. Among the six Liberal victories, four featured the Conservatives in second and two featured the NDP in second.

Indeed, this situation reveals a curiosity: while the NDP's strongest performance (60.5% in Jack Layton's Toronto-Danforth) was much higher than the other two parties', their lowest was lower as well - a sad 11.6 in Eglinton-Lawrence, even less than the NDP's paper candidate in Don Valley West. The Liberals and the Conservatives bottomed out, by comparison, at 17.7 and 14.4 respectively - both in Jack Layton's Toronto-Danforth (the most vividly green dot in the city).

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