Party vs. candidate: When it comes to Toronto, does it matter who knocks at your door?

The federal election campaign may be in full swing, but voters in several   Toronto-area ridings still don't know who all of their candidates will be — and while that may not matter much right now, it could make the sliver of the difference needed for a win on Oct. 21.  As of this week, the Liberals had yet to finalize candidates in   31 ridings across the country, finally nominating former Liberal MPP Han Dong in the coveted Don Valley North seat on Thursday. The New Democrats were in rougher shape with   more than 90 candidates left to nominate nationally. Meanwhile, the Conservatives had announced their full slate of candidates across the country before the election officially kicked off, having named hopefuls even in ridings they haven't traditionally held in Toronto.The Greens were slightly further along than the NDP, while the People's Party of Canada had 17 candidates left to name across the board, with a full slate named in Ontario.Parties technically have until the end of the month to nominate their candidates. But as long as they're preoccupied with choosing who will run under their banners, voters have less of an opportunity to engage with the person and platform up for consideration, says a senior research associate for the Samara Centre for Democracy. "There's been a lot of interest over the years as to whether local candidates matter and the evidence comes back again and again that they do," Paul Thomas told CBC News. > You could even quite easily have one party winning government or not based on that kind of margin.- Paul Thomas, Samara Centre for DemocracyThomas points to research published last year showing local candidates were decisive in the voting decisions of about four per cent of voters in the 2015 election.That may not sound like a lot. But Thomas says it meant that one-in-10 constituencies were decided based on the local candidate, and that there were enough close races in which the local candidate made a noticeable difference. The urban/rural divide"Every little bit helps. And you could even quite easily have one party winning government or not based on that kind of margin," Thomas said. How much local candidates matter to voters also appears to come down to how urban or rural their ridings happen to be."People in urban constituencies, generally speaking, have a lower level of expectation to meet their MP and they're less likely to reach out to contact their MP," Thomas said. "In less populated areas, there's a greater desire for a sort of relationship or at least the chance to meet someone in person." That might mean that in cities like Toronto, the party could matter more than the candidate, with voters more concerned with the government they'd like to see in power than with the specific people running. John Beebe of the Democratic Engagement Centre at Ryerson University says that's often the case for first-time voters, whether they're new Canadians or they've just turned 18. Figuring out how the electoral system works and where parties stand can be enough of a challenge for such voters that specific candidates may not be their first point of reference, he says. 1/3 new voters also new citizens"I think it's still the case that the political parties are still the mo ...Read more

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