NDPers in the west-end Davenport riding figure they have the winning conditions to do what they've tried but failed to do for nearly 30 years - whip eccentric Liberal Tony Ruprecht.
They certainly have the strongest candidate they've fielded in many an election. Peter Ferreira is a Portuguese son in an area where that's the largest single ethnic group.
On top of that, he has a notable profile as past prez of the Portuguese Canadian National Congress, where he fought the deportation of the undocumented workers who have built the roofs under which the GTA sleeps.
And it doesn't hurt that Davenport is surrounded by NDP ridings, including next-door Trinity-Spadina, where Rosario Marchese's campaign is so confident of victory that some workers have decamped to help Ferreira.
In fact, so many volunteers fill the office on Bloor near Dufferin early on Sunday afternoon, there doesn't seem to be enough room. Some work the phones, others wait to canvass with Ferreira and Councillor Gord Perks, who represents the southerly part of the provincial riding and a sliver of its west side.
The Ferreira people are relying on Perks's list from the 2006 municipal election, which has been transferred to a map at the back of the office. Yes, he cleaned up in espresso-sipping southern areas like Dovercourt and Argyle, whose hip residents are known as "progressives" in NDP terminology.
But in the northwest corner near the Junction Triangle and environs, Perks did not do well at all, as shown by the sea of olive green marking polls where he scored fewer than 60 votes. "The valley of death," Perks says, surveying the map.
That's where Ferreira comes in. Sitting amid stacks of campaign signs at the side of the building, he says he can relate to constituents who have to work two or three jobs, because that's exactly what his family did.
Davenport is still a hardscrabble riding: 27 per cent work in what Statistics Canada refers to as "sales and service," which in these parts often means McDonald's. Average household income is $23,958, one of the lowest in Ontario.
The campaign has a list of 10,000 households in which Portuguese is spoken. "The last thing I want people to think is that I'm a Portuguese candidate," says Ferreira, who has a big personality and loves to talk assets for a politician, though canvassers report that it's hard to keep him moving during door-knocking. "But I can relate to the demographics of this riding."
However, he no longer lives here, having moved farther north to Dufferin-Peel, where he was chair of the separate school board until he refused to make budget cuts ordered by the McGuinty government. The Libs then installed a supervisor to carry out its instructions.
But Ferreira was a card-carrying Liberal longer than he's been a New Democrat. Indeed, he only became an NDPer this past April, about the time he was approached to be a candidate.
He insists he's comfortable in his new political home, though, and that NDP values are closer to his own.
Like Liberals, Ferreira takes a casual approach to policy. When I ask him if it's time to think of a unified school system rather than the current one, he readily agrees that a referendum on the issue might be appropriate. He sends his own kids to Catholic school, but only, he says, because it's closer to home.
The campaign manager sitting with us squirms at this swerve into political unorthodoxy.
Unformed as he might be as an NDPer, Ferreira is the big orange hope in Davenport. There are only two obstacles between him and victory. One is named Frank de Jong, Green leader, a most refreshing non-spinning pol. Though de Jong tells me his party figures its best hopes are in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, he has a few dozen workers at his campaign office at Dundas and Dufferin. In a tight race, the votes they pull in could be decisive.
But this showdown is really between Ferreira and Ruprecht, the only MPP to support Dalton McGuinty for the Liberal leadership but who received nothing for it no cabinet seat, not even a committee chair.
Lately Ruprecht's been taking credit for authoring the provincial bill that makes it easier for foreign-trained professionals to be accredited in Canada.
But it's mostly for his kitschiness that Ruprecht will be remembered-- for his Canada pins and Mother's Day cards, and not for community advocacy campaigsn.
As he strides into his Bloor campaign office, where workers are stoking their energy with sandwiches and pizza, I note to myself that he's considerably thinner than I remember him. He's had a tough time lately, not least because of an exposé in the Toronto Sun last year about his frequent trips to a seaside town in Cuba when the legislature was in session and there was work to be done at home.
While Ferreira workers say the article is frequently referred to on the doorstep, Ruprecht says he's only fielded one question about it.
Besides, he asks during a tête-á-tête in his van, which he illegally parks so we can enjoy some shade, what's wrong with going to Cuba to learn Spanish?
Now he has to campaign against Ferreira, a man he knows well so well, Ruprecht says, that in the past he tried to get him Liberal nominations. (For the record, Ferreira categorically denies either asking for or receiving any Ruprecht help.)
Will Tony Ruprecht?s frequent trips to Cuba to ?learn Spanish? finally be his undoing?
Yes, it's a tough campaign, Ruprecht agrees. "It's always hard against the NDP," he sighs. It's the NDP he blames for a NOW story during the last election that detailed donations he received from Bloor-Lansdowne strip clubs at the same time he was condemning the clubs in public.
This may or may not be Ruprecht's last stand. If it is, he won't go down without a fight, of whatever sort it takes.