OTTAWA — The federal election is always a good time to gauge the mood of the country, especially in ridings that have flipped from one party to another.
Below are seven ridings to watch on Oct. 21, including four Eastern Ontario ridings that have been battlegrounds for both the Conservatives and Liberals. We included two rural Quebec ridings: The homes of People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier and Liberal Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau.
Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes
Gord Brown first won this seat from the Liberals in 2004 and held on to it until he died of a heart attack in May, 2018. Former municipal councillor Michael Barrett, who is in his mid-30s, won a byelection late last year to keep the seat Conservative, defeating Mary Jean McFall, whose family owns Burnbrae Farms, one of Canada’s largest egg producers. This time around, Augusta Township’s Josh Bennett, 43, an associate vice-president with Ipsos Reid polling company, will represent the Liberals. He defeated McFall in the nomination vote. The NDP had just 3 per cent of the vote in the by-election, and 8.4 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.
Hastings-Lennox and Addington
With new boundaries drawn, this became a new riding in the 2015 election and it was the closest call in Eastern Ontario. Liberal Mike Bossio defeated long-time Conservative MP Daryl Kramp by only 225 votes (0.5 per cent of all votes cast). This was a shocker as Kramp had easily won the previous four elections. Kramp is now an MPP in provincial politics. Bossio, a former councillor who also ran a recruitment business for telecommunications firms, is seeking re-election. Lawyer Derek Sloan is the Conservative candidate. The NDP had 12.8 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.
This was a Liberal stronghold for 44 years. Liberal Don Boudria held the riding for 22 years until he retired in 2006. That’s when Conservative candidate Pierre Lemieux barely flipped the riding that same year (final vote count was 22,990 for the Conservatives and 22,787 for the Liberals). Lemieux held on until 2015 when Liberal Francis Drouin handily defeated Lemieux (34,189 votes to 23,367) in a time when Conservative party leader and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper was unpopular. Now Lemieux is back to take on Drouin but this time it’s Drouin’s leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is unpopular. The NDP had 7.9 per cent of the vote last time around.
Conservative MP Guy Lauzon has held this rural riding since 2004, when he won it from the Liberals. But he has retired. Running for the Conservatives is 31-year-old farm boy Eric Duncan, who was elected as a North Dundas councillor as an 18-year-old in 2006 and then became its mayor in 2010 at the age of 22. He faces Liberal candidate and former teacher Heather Megill, who came under fire in mid-September for a 2016 Facebook post praising Cuba’s Communist dictator Fidel Castro, crediting him for kicking out the mob and installing a “superior education system and health care system,” before finishing with “Love live the Revolution.” The NDP had 8.2 per cent of the vote in the last federal election.
This was the closest riding in all of Canada in 2015. Rookie Conservative candidate Alex Nuttall won the riding with 21,091 votes to Liberal Brian Tamblyn’s 21,005, a difference of 86. Neither Nuttall nor Tamblyn is running this time around. Barrie city Coun. Doug Shipley is picking up the banner for the Conservatives, while dental surgeon Brian Kalliecharan will run for the Liberals. The NDP took 10.3 per cent of the vote in the 2015 election.
This rural Quebec riding east of Montreal is held by Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, who has no farming background. Bibeau spent her working career with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and was posted to Morocco and Benin. She left CIDA to operate a camping business.
This rural Quebec riding south of Quebec City is the home riding of the People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who left the Conservative Party in a huff two years ago when party members (driven mainly by Quebec dairy farmers) elected Andrew Scheer as leader. Bernier lost the leadership bid because of his stand to dismantle supply management. Also running is a Rhinoceros party candidate whose name is, get this, Maxime Bernier. His slogan is: “Don’t take any chances – vote for both.”