Close races, new games and no starters: why these are the must-see local races | CBC News

Ontario voters head to the polls Thursday in provincial elections, and the results of some contests are being watched more closely than others.

Leaders of all four major parties made stops in the Waterloo region last week, including NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Green leader Mike Schreiner on Wednesday. Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford held a rally in Kitchener last Friday and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca made campaign stops Monday.

Below are the local races to watch on Thursday night.

your own riding

The most important journey for individual voters is their own because the winner will be the person who represents their views in Queen’s Park.

They will be the person you go to when you have a provincial concern. During the pandemic, local MPPs were the ones business owners turned to for help obtaining provincial funding.

2 cavalcades without holder

There are two cavalcades in this area with no headlines. That’s important because incumbents are generally seen as having name recognition and it gives them a slight edge over the other candidates.

In Kitchener South-Hespeler, progressive conservative Amy Fee opted not to seek re-election. Horse riding is relatively new, having been created in 2018, and something PCs would very much like to hold on to, says Éric Grenier, poll analyst, writer for The Writ website and who does the CBC Poll Tracker.

There are six people in the Kitchener South-Hespeler race, including PC Jess Dixon, a provincial and federal Crown attorney, Liberal Ismail Mohamed, who is a community worker, school board trustee Joanne Weston for the NDP and former police officer David Weber, who has run for the Green Party before.

In Perth-Wellington, veteran Progressive Conservative Randy Pettapiece also announced that he would not seek re-election.

There are seven people vying for the seat, including Matthew Rae, a young Progressive Conservative candidate with experience working in political office; Ashley Fox, a nurse running for the Liberals; Stratford City Councilor Jo-Dee Burbach is running for the NDP and Laura Bisutti, a school board member, is running for the Greens.


Cambridge is an interesting race because it has an incumbent, Belinda Karahalios, but she’s running for a different party than she did in 2018.

Karahalios was removed from the PC caucus in 2021 for voting against her own government’s motion. She and her husband, Jim, formed the New Blue Party.

Anna Esselment, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, has said it is difficult for new parties to break into politics, particularly in their first election.

“A lot of the new parties coming onto the scene have a little bit of support across the province, but the way our simple majority electoral system works in terms of winning a seat, it’s rarely efficient voting. I mean, it’s rare that he has a lot of supporters for that new party in one trip that could then make sure he wins the ballot first and wins the seat,” he said.

Esselment noted that there could be plenty of support for Karahalios in the race, but he may end up splitting the vote, which could lead to a Liberal or NDP victory.

The parties are definitely focused on Cambridge. In the last two weeks before the campaign, Cambridge saw the leaders of three major parties make a campaign stop: PC Leader Doug Ford on May 21, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca on May 30, and the NDP leader Andrea Horwath on Wednesday, the day before voting day.

There are five people vying for the Cambridge seat. They include Karahalios; PC candidate Brian Riddell, a local businessman and instructor at Conestoga College; liberal Sureka Shenoy, known for her volunteer work; community worker Marjorie Knight, who has run for the NDP before, and teacher Carla Johnson for the Green Party.


This race has been listed as a race to watch because it was a close race in 2018: PC Mike Harris Jr. won with less than 700 votes over NDP candidate Kelly Dick.

This riding has also seen close contests in federal elections (see our stories on the 2021, 2019 and 2015 races).

Harris is the incumbent in this riding, giving her name recognition, but she’s also up against two school board members: Melanie Van Alphen for the Liberals and Karen Meissner for the NDP.

This riding also has New Blue Party leader Jim Karahalios in the running and Ontario Party candidate Elizabeth Perrin Snyder. Given the close race in 2018, Grenier says it will be interesting to see if the rise of these two conservative-based parties takes votes away from Harris.

Grenier says of the routes in the uncertain Waterloo region (Cambridge, Kitchener South-Hespeler, and Kitchener-Conestoga), the PCs may lose one, but “can’t afford to lose all three.”

That, Grenier says, “would probably be a bad night for Doug Ford. So I’d keep an eye on those three seats in particular in the Waterloo region.”

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