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Holyday and Milczyn neck and neck in Etobicoke by-election

Liberal candidate Peter Milczyn knocks on doors with campaign workers in Etobicoke, Ontario Thursday, July 25, 2013. Milczyn is competing with Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday in an Etobicoke by-election. Polls opened on August 1, 2013.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Polls are open today in five Ontario by-elections that will potentially bring new faces from all three major parties to Queen's Park.

One riding in particular – Etobicoke-Lakeshore – has created a tense intersection between municipal and provincial politics as two Toronto city councillors, including the deputy mayor, lead the race.

Deputy mayor Doug Holyday, the candidate for the Progressive Conservatives, and councillor Peter Milczyn, the Liberal pick, are neck and neck in the race for the traditionally-Liberal riding. But after the race is over, if either of these frontrunners wins the seat, Toronto city council will have a hole to fill.

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Both Mr. Holyday and Mr. Milczyn represent Etobicoke wards at city council. Once the provincial seat is filled, a municipal by-election will need to be called to replace the candidate who has resigned. In the meantime, both councillors have taken a leave of absence from their city jobs, returning their pay cheques for the month of July -- though they both chose to attend city council meetings that month.

Their absence would also create an empty seat on Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee, on which both candidates sit.

Along with a new ward representative, a win by Mr. Milczyn would require a search for a new chair of the planning and growth committee.

Mayor Ford has thrown his support behind longtime family friend Mr. Holyday, despite the fact that a win would task the mayor with having to appoint a new deputy. Although he would gain a new ally at Queen's Park, the mayor will be losing one of his most loyal colleagues: Mr. Holyday was among the few councillors who stood alongside the mayor as he faced allegations of drug use earlier this summer.

Either way, the council is likely to benefit from having one of the two long-serving members at Queen's Park, according to fellow executive committee member Denzil Minnan-Wong.

"It's likely someone from Toronto council will be going to Queen's Park," he said. "Hopefully they will bring their knowledge and experience with council to represent our interests to the province."

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