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Sorbara cruising to the finish line

The Greg Sorbara juggernaut is steaming toward the Oct. 10 provincial election with such momentum that only a divinely poked stick through the spokes of the Liberal incumbent’s machine could cause a derailment.

In other words — those of political observers, to be specific — Sorbara has nothing to worry about as Vaughan voters head to the polls to mark their ballots in favour of one of the riding’s five contenders: PC candidate Gayani Weerasinghe, the NDP’s Rick Morelli, Green candidate Russell Korus, independent Savino Quatela or the front-running Sorbara.

“I cannot imagine anybody who could slay the dragon, Sorbara,” says Patrice Dutil, associate professor of politics at Ryerson University. “It would take St. George.

“I don’t think anybody could beat him in Vaughan.”

That view remains unchanged from the early days of the campaign when Dutil and other observers predicted an easy win for the province’s finance minister, in a safe Liberal riding with no high-profile competition.

Looking back over the first three weeks of the campaign, Ward 1 councillor Peter Meffe says the race in Vaughan has “ultimately been pretty quiet” — with one notable exception.

“I was absolutely astonished that the leader of the NDP said that the subway should stop at York,” he said. “For an individual who is labour supportive, I think he’s entirely lost his understanding of what public transportation’s about.

“It’s not a matter of simply bringing students to school. It’s also for the tens of thousands of people in Toronto who work in Vaughan that need public transportation to get to their jobs.”

Despite the subway row, Dutil described the Vaughan race as offering up “no surprises” so far, and “barring some flagrant personal scandal” he doesn’t foresee any in the remaining few days.

“No big mistakes have been made by any candidate,” Dutil said. “It’s steady as she goes (and) Sorbara’s going to win hands down.

“It would take a major event for this not to happen as expected.”

Not ready to proclaim Sorbara the winner, Meffe said he doesn’t think any election is “a cakewalk”, adding that elections tend to “play out in the last five days”.

Deborah Bonk, chief executive officer of the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce, said this week she sees nothing at this point of the campaign that could change what most see as the inevitable.

It is that perception of a Sorbara landslide victory that has Meffe worried about a smaller voter turnout than what would likely be the case in a more hotly contested race.

“I expect that there will probably be a slightly smaller voter turnout,” he said. “But I think it’s more to do with Ontario’s (economic) success as opposed to any political factor, such as the local candidate having a walk-through.”

Dutil said voter turnout will be “critical” in Vaughan and added that an apathetic base of support could lead to an “unpredictable” result.

“In the last 10 days, you’ve got to make sure your machinery is out there to get the people to vote and to make sure your supporters are motivated, that nothing is taken for granted,” he said. “And that goes for Mr. Sorbara and anybody else.

“You don’t rest on you laurels in the last week. I would expect to see Mr. Sorbara on the streets, … on street corners, knocking on doors a lot more.”

As the Vaughan race rounds the final corner and heads into the home stretch with heavy favourite Sorbara way out front, observers have backed away a little from the certainty of their predictions and hedged their bets.

“I don’t think it’s over just yet,” Meffe said.

Dutil agreed, saying that the future is not written in stone.

“You never know,” he said. “Things happen.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, but suddenly it’s getting a little more fun to watch.”

Vaughan Today
Friday, October 5, 2007
Page: 10
Byline: Philip Alves