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Federal Liberals projected to hold onto Toronto Centre in byelection

The federal Liberals will hold onto the riding of Toronto Centre in Monday's byelection, CBC News projects.

Liberal candidate Marci Ien, a journalist, is projected to win the seat, according to the CBC News Decision Desk. Annamie Paul, Green Party candidate and leader, will be defeated.

Toronto Centre became vacant when former finance minister Bill Morneau resigned in August.

Voters in Toronto also went to the polls on Monday to choose a new MP in York Centre, but that race is too close to call.

Both ridings are considered Liberal strongholds. The Liberals captured more than 50 per cent of the vote in both ridings in last fall's general election.

Ien was most recently co-host of the daytime talk show The Social on CTV. She was also a co-host of the network's former morning talk show Canada AM.

People wait in line outside a polling station in Regent Park in the riding of Toronto Centre less than an hour before polls closed on Monday. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the byelections for Toronto Centre and York Centre in September. 

York Centre became vacant when Liberal MP Michael Levitt resigned on Sept. 1 to become CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

Safety precautions

Elections Canada took steps to ensure voter safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, said spokesperson Natasha Gauthier.

Poll workers took the names and numbers of voters and noted their time of entry, in case contact need to be traced. Poll workers were required to wear masks and had face shields and rubber gloves available. Voters were encouraged to wear masks and to keep two metres apart. All polling places had hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. 

Voters were allowed to bring pencils to mark ballots or use disposable pencils provided by Elections Canada.

"These two byelections are the first federal election events we've been able to deliver under these pandemic conditions. Obviously, we'll be taking notes, going back to the drawing board, if needed, trying to see what worked well and if there are any areas that could use improvement," Gauthier said.

A voter wears a face shield as she votes at a polling station in Toronto Centre on Monday. (CBC)

An estimated 14,266 voters cast ballots over four days of advance polls in the byelections, Elections Canada said. . 

In Toronto Centre, an estimated 7,960 people voted in advance polls, down from 13,140 in last federal election. In York Centre, some 6,306 people voted in advance, down from 9,881.

Andrew McDougall, an assistant political science professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, said byelections are a kind of referendum on the current government.

A voter heads to a polling station in Toronto Centre on Monday. (CBC)

"Fairly or not, byelections are commonly interpreted as a statement on how a government is doing at the moment they are held. A win for the governing party is portrayed as a vindication of their agenda, while a loss is seen as an indictment of their program," McDougall said in an email on Monday.

"If they win, the Liberals will portray it as an endorsement of their policies. Losing them would be a big deal, however. It would be seen as a significant embarrassment for the Liberals," he said.

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