Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Better List of 20 Ridings to Watch

Because I find the National Post's list of 20 ridings to watch in this election missing quite a few biggies, I decided that, hey, I seem to know about as much as these guys, why not make my own list? And here we are today.

There's no specific critera for this list, aside from my own cherry picking - but they're all close ridings, or ridings with historical tendencies to drift one way or another, depending upon the situation. And not all of the National Post's ridings were bad, so there will be overlap - but I'll put the ones they didn't mention up first (in reach respective region, which by the way, goes west-east):

1. Saanich--Gulf Islands, BC
How this riding didn't make it in I don't know. This riding was relatively close last election, with Con MP Gary Lunn pulling in 43.4%, compared to Liberal Briony Penn's 39.4% - but this was only because the NDP candidate, Julian West, had to drop out due to some serious allegations. Usually, the Cons get mid-30's, while the NDP and Liberals battle it out for second in the mid 20's, and the Greens get a modest 10-1%. But this riding is important because it is the riding where Green Party leader Lizzy May will be running. Given her tendency to boost popular support in ridings she runs in, she will put this riding in play - though vote splitting is a serious issue.

2. Surrey North, BC
Surrey North is famous for being the riding that Independent MP Chuck Cadman represented, but after his unfortunate death, the NDP poured a lot of resources into the riding, winning it in 2006 with then-MP Penny Priddy. In 2008, Priddy didn't run for re-election, and the Conservatives ran Cadman's wife, Dona Cadman, in a closely-fought battle, with Cadman winning the riding with 39.4% of the vote, compared to the NDP's 36.2%. The NDP seem prepared to through the kitchen sink at the Cons in the riding again, running candidate Jasbir Sandhu, a local jack-of-all-trades, and Cadman of course renominated. This will be a straight test of the power of party machines in the province, so keep an eye on it.

3. Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca, BC
As the NP mentioned, Esquimalt is a perennially-close riding ever since MP Keith Martin started running as a Liberal in 2004. In 2008, Martin won the riding in a real squeaker, with 34.18% of the vote, against Conservative candidate Troy DeSouza's 34.07% - less than 100 votes difference. Martin isn't running again, with local councillor Lillian Szpak carrying the Liberal banner instead. She'll be facing both DeSouza and NDP candidate Randall Garrison, who fought Martin for the riding in 2004 and 2006 and lost in relatively close battles. It's a literal battle royale, and I wouldn't hedge my bets on anyone.

4. Vancouver--Kingsway, BC
While the NP pointed out both Burnaby-Douglas and Vancouver South for good reason, they should have noted that Vancouver-Kingsway will be another interesting fight. The riding is famous for turncoat David Emerson, who in 2006 jumped ship from the Liberals to the Conservatives. He didn't run again in 2008, for good reason. Instead, the NDP picked up the seat, with now-MP Don Davies picking up 35.2%, Liberal Wendy Yuan with 29%, and Con Salomon Rayek with 27.4% - essentially a three-way race with advantage NDP. Yuan is back for another fight, along with new Con candidate Trang Nguyen, and of course, Don Davies. This is another battle of party machines, along with an interesting case of how well the Conservative's ethnic strategy will work, given its high immigrant population.

5. Edmonton--Sherwood Park, AB
Forget Edmonton-Strathcona - that fight may be tame compared to its eastern neighbor, Edmonton-Sherwood Park. It flew under a lot of radars, but this riding was super close last election, with now-Con MP Tim Uppal barely winning against Independent candidate James Ford, essentially a fucked-over Conservative who felt the nomination was rigged. Uppal won with only 35.9%, while Ford came close with 32.3%. In a fun twist, Uppal essentially won all of Edmonton, while Ford won all of Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan, making it something of a mini-regional battle. Now, Ford will be running again, and it'll make this riding one to watch. Intra-conservative battles? Yes please.

6. Palliser, SK
Unlike it's cousin below, Palliser isn't as closely fought a riding, but it's still a target for the NDP. Conservative MP Ray Boughen won in 2008 with just under 44%, while NDP candidate Don Mitchell came second with 33.8%. Palliser is also the third best riding for the Liberals in Saskatchewan, with their candidate Cal Johnston coming in third with 17.1%. This go around, Boughen will face off against a popular local councillor with the NDP, Noah Evanchuk, who is much touted, and has been in place for awhile. I suspect that this riding may become interesting because of these two, and depending what role Liberal candidate Russell Colicott may play as a spoiler candidate, it could be a drama during E-day night.

7. Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, SK
This riding is probably the best chance the NDP have of getting a seat in Saskatchewan after being shut out since the 2004 election. It was super close last election, with rookie Con MP Kelly Block beating out Dipper candidate Nettie Wiebe, 45.4% to 44.5%, or 262 votes. Wiebe is running again, and it's likely to be a straight fight between these two; both the Greens and the Liberals are nothing in the riding. Not much else to say, except that in the interest of laughing at the NDP, I'm calling it for Block.

8. Saint Boniface, MN
I really don't get why the NP didn't put this one up - though I suspect it has something to do with the riding's MP, Sarah Palin - er, Shelly Glover. Saint Boniface was one of the sad upsets in 2008, with Glover winning with 46.3% of the vote, compared to then-Lib MP Raymond Simard's 35.1%. It was a real rout, but it hasn't put off Simard, who is running again. But the riding is important beyond the two star candidates; Shelly Glover is such a pain in the ass that I can see the Liberals moving a lot of resources into this riding in an attempt to kick her out. With the slight Liberal upswing in the prairies and specifically Winnipeg, I would suspect that we have a shot too.

9. Winnipeg North, MN
The NDP will certainly want this riding back after Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux stole it from them. He won it in the recent by-elections, 46.3% to 41.2% for NDP candidate Kevin Chief, who stepped up to the plate after longtime MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis stepped down to lose the Winnipeg mayor's race. Lamoureux, who is still one of my favourite politicians for his awesome win, will face against Rebecca Blaikie in the general election, who is the daughter of former NDP big-wig Bill Blaikie. And while I don't mean to be offensive, she looks like she's 12. I think Kevin will have an easy time, but it will be an interesting fight.

10. Sudbury, ON
Sudbury is an important riding, because not only has it been Liberal forever, it was a close loss for us in 2008, and it's a three-way race, and it could be a bellweather seat for who controls Northern Ontario's precious, precious ridings. Won by NDP MP Glenn Thibeault with 35.1% in 2008, he knocked off then-MP Diane Marleau, who fell to just 30.3%, with Conservative candidate Gerry Labelle close by with 25.8%, all this during the orange tide that swept the northern ridings, save for Kenora. Thibeault will face off against new Lib candidate Carol Hartman, a local councillor, and new Con candidate Fred Slade, who has a nice van, and is clearly Con-crazy. It will be interesting to see who grabs this riding this go around.

11. Hamilton Mountain, ON
Hamilton Mountain is one that I think the NP should have really added, especially if they add something like Lac-Saint-Louis in QC. The riding was won by NDP MP Chris Charlton in 2008 with 43.7% of the vote, compared to 30.7% for the Con candidate, and 20.2% for the Liberals. This time around, however, the Liberals snagged a biggie of a candidate in Marie Bountrogianni, a former McGuinty cabinet minister who held he riding provincially for two terms. Bountrogianni can definitely put this riding into play, which may make the riding a three-way contest if returning Conservative candidate Terry Anderson holds on to his share of the vote, entirely possible.

12. Mississauga--Erindale, ON
Mississauga-Erindale is a slimly-held Conservative riding, the only one in the city itself. Bob Dechert, current MP and from what I've heard a horrible one, won the riding against former Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, 42.58% to 42.15%. Alghabra is coming back for another shot, and I say definitely deserves re-election, especially after this doozy of a video. He's a young, smart, charismatic guy who has a bright future ahead of him in the Liberal Party. Definitely a better prospect than this dude. But because of how close this riding is, it'll be an important fight - especially because if the Conservatives can't hold it, I doubt they'll make the inroads they want in the GTA.

13. Ajax--Pickering, ON
I hesitated putting this riding here, mostly because I think Chris Alexander is overrated as a candidate. The riding was won by Liberal MP and awesome representative Mark Holland with 44.3%, compared to Conservative candidate Rick Johnson's 37.9%. Holland is definitely a constituency politician, but he's been the unfortunate face of many Liberal measures, including the long-gun registry efforts, making him a big target. The Conservative candidate, Chris Alexander, is a former ambassador to Afghanistan and an interesting choice for the Conservatives, who are clearly not advocates of "Pearsonian" ideology. But he's cool and charismatic, so they plopped him here. Holland has the advantage, but we could be staying up late for this one.

14. Kingston and the Islands, ON
Kingston and the Islands is currently held by the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken. He won the riding in 2008 in a relatively close battle, winning with 39.1% compared to the Conservative's 32.5%. It's also something of a strong riding in the area for both the NDP (17.5%) and Greens (11%), who don't poll that high in neighboring ridings. Milliken is now stepping down, and the Liberals have lined up a local non-profit head, Ted Hsu, to take on new Conservative candidate Alicia Gordon. The riding has something of a tendency to switch after so many years with one MP, so it could go Conservative no matter what happens (or in spite of it). That being said, an interesting riding to watch, as it's difficult to tell whether Milliken's star power kept him afloat, or the Liberal brand itself is strong enough to survive in this eastern Ontario riding.

15. Glengarry--Prescott--Russell, ON
Outside of Ottawa and Kingston, GPR is the strongest Liberal riding in eastern Ontario. Held by former and cabinet member Don Boudria, it was taken when Boudria stepped down in 2006 by Conservative Pierre Lemieux, who won in a close battle against then-Liberal candidate Rene Berthiaume, 41.4% to 41.2%. In 2008, it was less close, with Boudria's son Dan running against Lemieux, but losing 47.3% to 36.9%. This time around, Julie Bourgeois will carry the Liberal banner, and from what I've seen, she's a strong candidate. To me, however, this riding will depend a lot on swings in both the region and the province at large, so if the Liberals are up in the province, keep an eye on it.

16. Pontiac, QC
Again, how the NP misses this I don't know. Pontiac is the riding of Lawrence "Loose" Cannon, Canada's Foreign Affairs minister. However, his riding is an extremely weak one for someone with as high a profile as Cannon, who won it with only 32.6%, compared to Liberal candidate Cindy Duncan-MacMillan's  24.2%, and the Bloc's 22.2%. Because of the vote split, Cannon has an easy time, but because his vote is so low, if opposition members line up behind one candidate, he may be overtaken. If they do, an interesting study case for strategic voting is sure to be had, in addition to a big blow to the Harper regime.

17. Louis-Hébert, QC
What is Louis-Hébert, you ask? It's a small riding in Quebec City that not many take notice of, but I think could be an upset and an important indicator of the strength of the three main parties in the province of Quebec. I include it because, rather than Haute-Gaspésie or Lac-Saint-Louis, its not a fight between star candidates, nor a riding many pick out of a line-up. In 2008, current Bloc MP Pascal-Pierre Paillé won the riding with 36.2%, with then-Con MP Luc Harvey coming in second with only 28.3%, and Liberal candidate Jean Beaupré with 23.6%. Why this riding may be important, is because its one of the strong ridings outside of Montreal for the Liberals; if we rise in Quebec, we will see that rise here, just as we saw the fall. It's something of a bellweather for the province, rising with the fortunes of whoever seems the most ascendant or at least the ones with the most momentum ever since it's creation. Who will win it this election? We'll have to wait and see.

18. Outremont, QC
Of course Outremont is a riding to watch - that was always obvious. A former Liberal stronghold that fell on hard times since 2004 (Jean Lapierre was not a good candidate), and flipped in 2007 with NDP MP Thomas Mulcair winning over a poorly chosen Liberal candidate in a big way, 47.5% to 29%. That being said, in 2008,  Mulcair saw a dramatic narrowing of the race, with then Liberal candidate Sebastien Dhavernas jumping up to 33.1%, and Mulcair dropping down to 39.5%. This time, former MP and Chretien cabinet heavyweight Martin Cauchon is running in the riding, facing down Mulcair in what will truly be one of the most interesting ridings to watch all night.

19. Darmouth--Cole Harbour, NS
Again, dunno how this was skipped over, especially with their chose of the relatively safe Halifax seat. Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is currently held by Liberal MP Michael Savage, who won in 2008 with 39.5% against NDP candidate Brad Pye's 31.6%. This time around, though, Savage will be facing a big star candidate, former provincial NDP leader Robert Chisholm, who will try and enter the federal scene. Dartmouth is also heavy NDP territory provincially, and Chisholm is from the area. It will set up a big fight against a Liberal incumbent with relative popularity, versus the NDP candidate with lots of it.

20. St. John's South--Mount Pearl, NL
St. John's South will be another interesting fight. A former Conserbative stronghold, the current Liberal MP Siobhan Coady attempted several times to get the riding from Loyola Hearn before winning in 2008's anti-Con tide in the province, though fought hard against NDP candidate Ryan Cleary, winning 43.4% to 40.3%. With the expected rebound of Conservatives in Newfoundland, they've snagged a good candidate in former provincial minister Loyola Sullivan, which could threaten Coady. On top of that, despite the initial expectations, Ryan Cleary is returning as the NDP candidate, and will likely split even more of the vote. Coady now well known in the riding and popular, so she'll fight too. The outcome I could try not even guess at.

Take that, National Post.


  1. 21. Western Arctic
    The NDP’s Dennis Bevington currently holds this seat (the only seat in the Territory) and won with 41% of the vote last election beating out Conservative Brenden Bell by 4.42% despite Bell spending twice as much in expeditures. The Liberal candidate (Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott) collected only 13.70% of the vote but prior to Bevington Liberal Ethal Blondin held the riding from 1988 until 2006. This election the prospects for the Liberal Party are much brighter. The Liberal Party candidate is Joseph Handley (premier of the NWT between 2003 and 2007) as such he brings instant name recognition over the whole of the riding and already knows how to campaign. The improved Liberal Candidate, the NDP's incumbancy, and Conservative willingness to spend this riding will be an interesting contest.

  2. Damnit JF, you're right. I completely forgot about that riding. It'll have to be an honourable mention, thanks though!

  3. It is MB as in Manitoba; NOT MN as in Minnesota.

  4. Same geographical location, more or less. People know what I mean.

  5. I’d like to throw out another ‘honourable mention’ contender that probably won’t be included on anyone’s list, but is should be:

    22. Kitchener-Conestoga, ON
    This riding only came into existence in 2003 after the last round of re-districting, when the southern part of the City of Kitchener was merged with the townships which surround the metro Kit-Wloo area; Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich. To make things even more messed up, the northern tip of the City of Cambridge also lies within this riding’s borders. The result is a very odd shaped riding, with a unique blend of urban and rural voters. So why should everyone be watching Kitchener-Conestoga? Well that urban/rural merger seems to have created a very reliable bellweather, not just for federal elections but provincial ones as well. Lib MP Lynn Myers won this riding narrowly in 2004 just as the Grits won a minority. Likewise CPC MP Harold Albrecht took this riding in 2006 with 41.2% to Myers 38.5% (just over 1000 votes) when Canada changed governments. And Albrecht significantly extended his lead in 2008 over then Lib candidate Orlando Da Silva. Will Kitchener-Conestoga continue to mirror the nation in 2011? Stay tuned on election night.

  6. Dona (not Donna) Cadman in Surrey North is actually Chuck Cadman's wife - not daughter. :D

  7. Right you are, RDS - I'll change that immediately. And thanks for the addition, KW.

  8. Hey, don't forget Durham. With the Oda "NOT" affair, Durham is officially back in play. We hear it everywhere.

    And Durham Liberals have a really strong candidate in Grant Humes.

    Check these campaign videos out for a closer look: