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Decision 2008: Ridings to Watch

13-Oct-08 11:27 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Well election day is almost here – just over 16 hours to go as of the time I’m writing this article.  It’s going to be a close one again too!  Although polls seem to favour a Conservative victory (minority government again), according to Harris-Decima’s rolling poll – the Liberals are within the margin of error to lead the seat count in Ontario.

But outside of the main election, what ridings will I be watching?  Well myself, I’ve got my eye obviously on the riding I’m voting in: Ottawa-Vanier.  And two others are of personal interest; Papineau in downtown Montreal, and my former home riding of Winnipeg South.  All for different reasons.

Party

Candidate

Total Votes

% of total

Delta

LIB

Bélanger, Mauril (X)

23,567

42.04%

-6.74%

CPC

Benoit, Paul

15,970

28.49%

+4.49%

NDP

Dagenais,  Ric

12,145

21.67%

+3.27%

GRN

Raphaël Thierrin

3,675

6.56%

-0.26%

Other Parties

338

0.60%

-0.61%

Unspoiled / Unrejected Sub-Total

55,695

99.36%

+0.15%

Rejected Ballots

358

0.64%

-0.15%

Total Ballots Cast

56,053

100.00%

 

 
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Canadian Election Historical Charts

Riding Results: 2004 & 2006

The image carousels above are photo albums linked to additional data concerning the ridings discussed in this article.  All supporting data has been collected from Elections Canada’s website.

In Ottawa-Vanier, we’re looking at what’s thought to be a safe Liberal seat, which sounds like it might be a bit of a rare thing these days.  The inset, right, shows the vote share last time around in 2006 and, as you can see, Liberal incumbent Maruil Bélanger had little trouble staving off the Conservative challenger Paul Benoit despite slipping Liberal support, thanks to the sponsorship scandal.

What’s to watch here then?  Well, mostly whether Bélnager loses support.  If we look at the historical data collected from previous elections, Bélanger has found his support gradually declining and although he won by a very comfortably margin in 2006, he could suffer the same fate as one of his former colleagues – Reg Alcock who, by most accounts, made the mistake of spending too much time outside of his home riding in the 2006 election, losing it unexpectedly.

In particular, the NDP has been increasingly active in Ottawa-Vanier, trying very hard to capture an additional Ottawa seat to join Paul Dewar (NDP) who defeated a Liberal "star candidate" in Ottawa-Centre in the last general election.

(A quick note about Paul Dewar: his mother died during the course of the election which must have been terribly stressful.  Speaking as someone who lost his mother at an enormously inopportune moment in my life – during final year university exams – I can certainly appreciate how difficult such a situation would be for him.  Condolences to Mr. Dewar and here’s hoping his campaign doesn’t suffer too much dealing with such personal adversity.)

Next, we’re looking at Papineau riding in downtown Montreal.  The history of Papineau since 2000 is largely a legacy of Liberal politics – being the riding formerly held by Pierre Pettigrew.  Pettigrew was in both the Chrétien & Martin cabinets carrying a number of junior and senior portfolios.  But he was defeated by the Bloc candidate in the Martin defeat of 2006, which of course sets the stage for this year’s election.  (Papineau is highlighted in the Elections Canada riding map of the Montreal area below – is would be the same light blue colour without the highlighting as it’s currently held by the Bloc Québecois.)

Pierre Pettigrew (LIB), MP for Papineau 1996-2006

Vivan Barbot (BQ), MP for Papineau 2006- Present

Justin Trudeau (LIB), Candidate for Papineau 2008 General Election

Enter none other than the eldest son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau – Justin Trudeau.  The elder Trudeau was recently voted "Greatest Canadian" on a CBC Television program devoted to the topic of picking the greatest Canadian figures from history, so there’s a certain amount of popularity that comes to Justin automatically.  Even so, by all accounts, Papineau has been far from a sure thing.  Dion was said to be opposed to parachuting him into a safe riding, though Justin Trudeau himself was opposed to it in any event.  One such contest might have been having him run in his father’s old riding, Mount Royal where some pundits added it would have given the Liberal party a fair bit more political mileage by allowing Trudeau to campaign in other regions of the country.

But it wasn’t to be and he’s fought a tough fight against the fairly popular incumbent Vivian Barbot.  Regardless, the latest poll of the riding taken for La Presse by Harriss-Decima on October 8th shows Trudeau is leading by 4 points.  Of course, that’s within the margin of error – so no matter who wins, this one’s gonna be a squaker in all likelihood.

Finally, we turn our attention to my old home riding of Winnipeg-South.  The story of this riding is, until a little under 2 years ago, that of Reg Alcock who was elected as the Liberal candidate shortly prior to my graduating with my B.A. from the University of Manitoba, and starting work as a web developer with a small Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the riding.  Indeed, the story includes me because, in addition to volunteering for Alcock’s campaign while at university, I would shortly thereafter be employed by Alcock to build the very first website for a sitting Member of Parliament anywhere in Canada.  I also was contracted to transpose the first Liberal Party Red Book from its printed form into an early HTML layout and help make it available on the web, through Alcock’s web site.

Reg Alcock, former MP for Winnipeg-South

Alcock’s political career was cut short, however, in 2006 when a Conservative candidate making a second run at the traditionally swing seat was able to defeat Alcock by just over 100 votes!  It was a huge upset since Alcock at the time was serving as President of the Treasury Board – moving up the ranks of cabinet with a promising career ahead.  Alcock left politics after his defeat and, so far, hasn’t seen fit to re-enter politics – obviously a little shaken by it (quite understandably). 

The Liberals are running John Loewen in the riding this time around, but he’s thought to be facing tough competition from incumbent Conservative Rob Bruinooge.  Loewen has a fairly lengthy political career both in Manitoba provincial and federal politics, having been elected as a Manitoba Progressive Conservative previously, but has been with the Liberals federally.  Loewen lost the contest for the Winnipeg riding of Charleswood – St. James – Assiniboia in 2006 to Conservative Steven Fletcher, whom is well-known as being the only MP confined to a wheelchair ever elected to the House of Commons.

By contrast, Loewen’s opponent in Winnipeg-South may be an incumbent, but Bruinooge is an incumbent with no prior political experience before running for the Conservatives in the riding.  Loewen is an experienced politician and has stronger ties to the riding than the other riding he contested in 2006.  Add to this Winnipeg-South’s legacy as a swing riding prior to Alcock’s arrival, and it could well go Liberal again if the momentum Dion has built recently has gained traction in Manitoba.

Tonight, I’ve heard the media commenting that this election isn’t going to be too exciting – but I can’t imagine why.  The stories of the ridings described here has to hold some interest, even for those not into politics too often.  Beyond that, this election is going to be close!  And it’s precisely in tight elections when the vote cast by an individual matters most.  So a friendly reminder to everyone visiting my site tonight and tomorrow: GET OUT AND VOTE!

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Terry Glavin

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