With it being annouced that the Liberals will both contest the by-election, and that is may be held fairly soon (in time for Tory to be in House, so before late March) we as Liberals have to realize that the circumstances are right to hand Tory if not an out and out defeat, an embarrasing result that will hinder Tory's effectiveness as a leader, and the PC's as an opposition party. Lets look at the numbers.
Based on both the most election results, the Tories have roughly a base of about 50% of the vote, the Liberals 30%, with the NDP and Greens splitting the rest. The NDP is going through a leadership race for much of the campaign, and since the riding is a no-hoper for the NDP anyway, the NDP vote, which would normally be in the low teens, can perhaps be subtracted a few points. This possible 3-4% of the vote are ripe for the taking if the Liberals run a good campaign. The Greens could be a potential spoiler for everyone, considering they pulled a good number of votes from the PC's last election province-wide, and if GPO leader Frank De Jong contests the by-election, things could get even more unpredictable, so the Greens in this one could have a vote range from as high as 15% to as low as 5%, making it hard to predict where they would either take votes from, or give votes to.
The main event, however, should be the Liberal vs. PC numbers. With a 20% gap between the starting block numbers, the Liberals will certainly be playing catch-up. While perhaps some votes could be taken from the NDP/Greens, the Liberals should focus on taking PC votes. While a 10% direct movement from the PC's to the Liberals might seem unrealistic, it should be a target. The Liberal math for a strategic or tactical victory in H-KL-B should go something perhaps like this:
Starting block numbers, roughly:
If the Liberals can swing say, 6-7% directly from the Tories, that gives us:
Now lets say we can grab 2-3% from a disorganized NDP, and 2% from Greens voting strategically:
While this alone is not a "victory", it would humble Tory, and demonstrate his inability to make any seat safe for the PC's, and if on e-day we can pull our vote, will supress the PC vote, it is very possible we could even take the seat. In terms of tactics and rhetoric, I think we could borrow from the experience of Mississauga South, which summed up the failure of Tory as a leader and a campaigner.
1. Don't let up on faith-based funding.
Yes, he has reversed his stance. Yes, he has moved past it. But it is still a wildly unpopular idea, and it would be foolish to surrender the potential explosiveness it could still provide as ammo, as it demonstrated Tory's lack of judgement. If the PC's and Tory try to turn the tables, and try to say the Liberals are fighting old fights, and focus on the economy, take a page out of Harper's playbook and tie in an unpopular idea with the economy. Argue that Tory failed to understand the educational and social system of the province, and cannot be trusted with its economy, and that he was willing to de-fund public schools at a time of economic change, in which modern training and learning will be crucial.
2. Use Tory's unpopularity with his own voters against him.
The federal Conservatives managed to suppress the Liberal vote in the election by making Liberal voters stay at home, and we have to demonstrate our ability to show the Tories that Liberalism can use every tool in the trade to promote itself and battle those who would stem the flow of progress. Point out at every occassion that Tory has never won an election beyond PC leader, and that almost a full third of the party was prepared to ditch him a year ago. In more basic terms, John Tory is not a leader, an ironic turnaround considering that his provincial campaign in 07 was based around the concept of "Leadership Matters."
3. All politics is local
Tim Peterson failed because he was seen as a John Tory imposed outsider on PC voters, John Tory must be made to fail because he is another John Tory imposed outsider. Point out at every chance that Tory has zero commitment to the riding, and that Tory is a repeat offender in this sense, after his use it and lose it attitude towards Central Ontario, rural ridings. Run a good local campaign, with a good local candidate, with minimal outside influence in the form of physical visits to the riding by cabinet ministers, but toss out a goodie of some sort to demonstrate that unlike John Tory, the Liberals have a commitment to the riding. Turn a time-tested attack on Liberals against Tory, and paint him as a Toronto-centric elitist. Make hay out of the allegations that Tory "leaned heavily" on the local name Scott to give the seat up for a failed Torontonian, and that a Liberal candidate would be H-KL-B's man or woman in Queen's Park, not Queen's Park's man in H-KL-B.