In every election, most of the media coverage focuses on the party leaders and national (and sometimes provincial) issues. And this makes sense: leaders and big issues are important to everyone or at least to large numbers of people. Much of H+K’s analysis of the campaign will focus on these big-picture dynamics.
But in our electoral system, governments are formed from the riding level up. Only the people in Calgary Southwest get to vote for Stephen Harper; only the people in Outremont can vote for Thomas Mulcair. Everyone else votes for a local candidate that represents one of the parties.
We looked at the 338 ridings and selected 11 interesting ones to watch. As evidence of how truly wide-open this election is, the races cover every region and every combination of the major parties. Some are classic swing ridings, others feature prominent local candidates and a third group are legacy ridings where one party—or even family—has been elected for a long time.

Ridings won by a small margin in the last election or has traditionally gone the way of the governing party.

Ridings that feature candidates that stand out due to a particular background or long political history.

Ridings that have a history of being held by a particular party. A victory or loss of this seat will be of greater significance than just the seat itself.

Check out our first edition below:

The face-off between NDP incumbent Ryan Cleary and Liberal candidate Seamus O’Regan in South St. John’s-Mount Pearl is occupying a lot of talk on the rock. O’Regan spent 10 years as the host of CTV’s Canada AM and knows how to attract media and community interest. Cleary, also a former media personality, defeated Liberal incumbent and prominent Newfoundland businessperson Siobhan Coady by 19 per cent in 2011.

This riding in the northwestern part of downtown Toronto was a Liberal stronghold for more than 30 years until Hon. Joe Oliver, current minister of finance won the seat in the 2011 election. Roland de Corneille and Joe Volpe—who were both Liberals—held this seat with substantial victories with the heyday being in 1993 when Volpe won by more than 70 per cent of the vote. In 2011 Mr. Oliver won only by eight percentage points—so this is expected to be a tight race. Mr. Oliver is as high-profile as they come so be sure he will do everything he can to protect that seat from Marco Mendicino of the Liberals and the NDP star candidate Andrew Thomson, former Saskatchewan finance minister.

The North Vancouver riding has been held by MP Andrew Saxton of the Conservative party since 2008. In 2012 the boundaries of this riding were redistributed which means the eastern portion of the riding has been lost. In a recent poll, The Vancouver Sun had the riding in a three-way race with the Liberals at 25 per cent, the Conservatives at 24 and the NDP at 19—which means Jonathan Wilkinson (Liberal) and Carleen Thomas (NDP) are doing everything they can to win the seat. If the Conservatives fail to hold onto the seat, it could spell trouble for maintaining an upper hand in vote-rich B.C.

Central Nova has deep blue Conservative roots with the likes of former cabinet minister Elmer MacKay, former prime minister Brian Mulroney and former PC party leader and longtime cabinet minister under the Harper Government Peter MacKay, having represented this riding since 1968. The only period it wasn’t held by a Conservative was from 1993-97, when Roseanne Skoke represented this seat for the Liberals. Fred Delorey, a major player in Harper’s inner circle, is facing Sean Fraser (Liberal) and Ross Landry (NDP). Delorey will do his best to keep the conservative flag flying in this riding.

Conservative Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander is running against former Liberal MP Mark Holland. The two candidates had an extremely close race in 2011, which was decided by 5.7 percentage points. Alexander entered the race as a star candidate and as a former ambassador to Afghanistan. Holland is an effective campaigner and is expected to be relentless as he attempts to bring a win in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for the Liberals.

Conservative Greg Rickford, the current minister of natural resources has served in Cabinet since 2010 and represented Kenora since the 2008 election. Even though Rickford won the last election with 47 per cent of the vote, there is a long history of the riding being Liberal—the Kenora riding was represented for 16 years by former Liberal minister Bob Nault. To add further experience to the race, Howard Hampton, former Ontario NDP leader has joined the fray. The NDP is hoping to win the riding for the first time in more than 30 years.

NDP candidate Olivia Chow will be looking to regain her federal seat after a failed mayoral bid in Toronto. Chow is facing another popular former municipal face in Liberal candidate Adam Vaughan. This is almost a two-incumbent race with Vaughan as the sitting MP and Chow having served in the Trinity-Spadina now Spadina-Fort York riding from 2006 to 2014. Both candidates cruised to victory in each of their last elections in the area, but expect a tough fight this time as the riding was redistributed in 2012—both parties are expected to pour resources into this key downtown Toronto riding.

The Liberals and NDP have their heart set on picking up additional seats in Alberta. The shift at the provincial level to the NDP has given the parties a renewed sense of purpose. Joan Crockatt is a relatively new MP having won her seat in a by-election in 2012. She won with 36.87 per cent of the vote but the Liberals were a close second with 32.68 per cent. Crockatt is facing Kent Hehr (Liberal) and Thana Boonlert (Green)—with the NDP yet to nominate a candidate.

The jury is out on whether Quebec is open to seeing the Bloc Québécois rise from their two-seat standing. That said, Gilles Duceppe is a political campaigner known for his ability to dominate debates, make a media splash and has been popular with QC voters in years past (last election excluded). Helene Laverdière has gained some profile through her roles in the NDP caucus as Official Opposition critic for International Cooperation and Deputy Critic for Foreign Affairs.

The 2011 federal election was extremely close in this riding. Joyce Bateman won with 38.82 per cent of the votes but the Liberal candidate Anita Neville came a close second with 37.02 per cent. In the two elections before 2011, the Liberals had won the riding but only by close margins each time (2008: Liberals 42.27 per cent – Conservatives 36.26 per cent; and 2006: Liberals 39.25 per cent – Conservatives 31.49 per cent). For close to a quarter of a decade, the riding was held by the Liberals until Joyce Bateman won the seat.

With Hon. James Moore, current minister of industry, not running in this election, we believe this riding could be up for grabs considering the tight race between the Conservatives and the NDP. Mr. Moore who has held this area since 2004 was an A-list candidate, politician and part of Harper’s inner circle—he won by more than 25 per cent of the vote in the last election. Without Mr. Moore running and new riding boundaries, which occurred in 2012, there could be big changes in voter turnout. The NDP hopes to make big gains in B.C. and is aggressively focusing on this riding.