Harper has paid plenty of attention to Mississauga since the campaign started, which makes logical sense, as I and others have written before, the GTA suburbs, particularly the Western GTA suburbs, are an area the Conservatives will need to make gains in in order to win a majority. The last quote of the article is interesting:
"This is quite an impressive crowd," Harper said. "And they used to say there were no Conservatives in the GTA."
The suburbs of the GTA have plenty of conservatives, just not so many Conservatives. The provincial PC's used to dominate Mississauga, but lost power when small-c conservative voters switched to the provincial Liberals. The last provincial election was evidence of that, when the PC's failed to even be competitive in the former true-blue stronghold of Mississauga South, as Charles Sousa, who while being socially liberal, could uncontroversially be called a moderate fiscal conservative, held on to the small c-conservative vote.
Given that Harper has such a focus on Mississauga, lets take a look at each seat in the city. I'll try to keep my partisan bias a bit more in check then usual.
The Tories most likely prospect for a pick-up in the city, and probably one of the top 10-15 targets for them in the country. Liberal support in the South is traditionally concentrated in "wings" of the riding (lakefront areas like Port Credit and Lakeview, and the areas near Winston Churchill along the city border with Oakville) as it has more younger families moving out of Toronto, and bringing small-l liberal social values with them, and a higher concentration of Liberal friendly ethnic communities. Tory support is located in the interior of the riding, in the more affluent and WASP'y areas like Lorne Park. For this reason, Mississauga South will be a bell weather in terms of the success of the Tories attempts to win ethnic votes across the country. Paul Szabo has the advantage of incumbency, relatively high visibility from chairing the Ethics Committee, and being a social conservative, which gives him a bit of a personal vote that might otherwise go Tory. I've written plenty about the Conservative candidate, the Flahertyite Hugh Arrison (4 of the top 10 entries for him on Google are blog posts by yours truly) who while not being the star candidate the party was clearly hoping for (HQ was clearly rooting for Ted Opitz, while I'm still convinced that their were failed efforts to recruit Effie Triantafilopoulos) Arrison is hoping that his made-in-Alberta conservative credentials will be enough to unite the fractured Mississauga South conservative movement behind him. The Green candidate Richard Laushway could potentially be a spoiler here for both major parties, with the potential to take votes from both, and a solid chance to finish ahead of the NDP in the riding.
Two time loser Bob Dechert is running for the Conservatives (his party insider status got him the green-light to go for a third run, unlike the South's Phil Green, whose environmental credentials scared HQ) against Omar Alghabra, who has held the riding against Dechert in 2006, when the Tories were slightly favoured (I believe democraticspace predicted his victory). Like Szabo, however, Alghabra has benefitted from an increased profile since the last election, acting as critic for immigration and citizenship in a riding where the Liberal base is largely ethnic. The Tories will be gunning hard for this one, having only lost by 5%, but Omar is a good MP with a strong local profile, so I don't expect the race to be as tight as last time.
The Tories went to all the trouble of subverting the democratic process to appoint ex-Liberal Melissa Bhagat, at the cost of much of the riding association loyalists, in a riding that should stay safely Liberal. Former cabinet minister Albina Guarnieri hasn't faced a serious challenge since winning that riding in 1988, and even if the Tories hadn't pulled a Tim Peterson, Guarnieri would be able to on comfortably.
The Tories ran a decentish candidate in former MPP Raminder Gill in the last election, and could only muster 33% of the vote. Given the not exactly warm reception Mississauga South voters gave the floor-crossing Tim Peterson, combined with Liberal candidate Bonnie Crombie running a very active campaign, and Liberal HQ pouring resources into this riding, I don't expect Khan to be able to retain his special status as the only ethnic urban representative the Tories have east of Alberta.
A very heavily ethnic riding, the Tories would need not just a shift, but a landslide change in the voting habits of the people of this riding in order to even be competitive. Gurbax has a good local profile, and a good campaign team. A write off.
The safest Liberal seat in Peel, even if Navdeep Bains wasn't a good MP whose star is rising.
So broadly speaking, B-G-M, M-BS, and ME-C are probably off table for the Conservatives. Mississauga Streetsville might normally be competitive this time around for the Conservatives, but they won't win with a floor crosser, despite the resources they are pouring into it. This leaves Mississauga South and Mississauga Erindale as target seats for the Conservatives, although they face up-hill struggles in both, due to Arrison's links to the locally unpopular Jim Flaherty, and Omar Alghabra's increased local presence and profile.