Bright Lights, Big Stakes

Big City Jack Layton was out talking up mass transit funding this morning, his podium set up hard by the streetcar track at Bathurst Street station in Toronto, the lights of Honest Ed’s beloved urban-kitsch sign twinkling just down the block.

The day before, at a rally east along the Bloor-Danforth subway line (you had to get off at Broadview and take a pleasant stroll north, past Mountain Lion Taxidermy and Serendipity Stained Glass, to the Estonian Hall), Layton went so far as to suggest that Toronto is a sort of beacon to Canadians.

You don’t hear that every day on the hustings.

Of course, Toronto is the old city-hall pol’s home turf, although Layton also takes every opportunity—with a few Montreal ridings arguably in play for his NDP—to mention that he’s Quebec born and bred.

That urban flavour means everything to Layton in this campaign. Shorthand for federal politics in recent years has been: big-city Liberals; smaller-city, small-town, rural Conservatives. But check out this interpretive paragraph from Harris/Decima, based on the firm’s poll released on Sept. 27:

“The gains for the NDP appear to be coming largely at the expense of the Green Party and the Liberals. The growing strength of the NDP is most noteworthy among urban voters, where they now trail the Liberals by only 3 points of second place. Among urban women, the gap between the parties is only one point, essentially a tie.”

This read of where city ridings might be trending is more telling in the case of the NDP than the national numbers (latest Harris/Decima has Conservatives 36 per cent, Liberals 25 per cent, the New Democrats 19 per cent, Greens and Bloc both 9 per cent), since it’s targeted urban seats where the NDP is most likely to gain at the Liberals’ expense.

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